Last week I was struck down with a nasty virus – not the kind Norton’s could fix – the real ‘cough-cough-splutter’ virus that knocks you round and leaves you feeling uninspired and flat. I’d come back from an amazing weekend, full of visions of rolling hills and thoughts of inspirational game development, and within a few days my thoughts were as foggy as a morning in Lord Of The Rings‘ Barrow Downs.
In short, I’d lost a bit of passion for not only the game, but game development in general. To be an indie game developer, you need equal measures vision, confidence and unfailling belief in yourself and your product. When you don’t feel well, you can easily lose a bit of that fire. I started thinking of the woeful state of the mobile games industry , full of games where the insufferable Kim Kardashian tells seven year old girls they have to buy their way into acceptance and self worth, and Clash of Clans sets the precedent for game design so insidious, it’s made billions of dollars already and has spawned innumerable clones. Games like this dominate the headlines, dominate the charts and get all the press in the world.
So those ugly titans remain at the top of the charts, and the vast 99% of the rest of us fight for the scraps. The game industry is oversaturated with quality, free or almost free games. It can be very hard to stay motivated when you know there’s a very real possibility your game will disappear into the abyss to be played by Cthulhu in an obscure sea cave miles below the ocean’s surface. I read once that statistically you could make more money collecting cans for recycling every day then you would pursuing a game development career.
So, with all that doom and gloom , “Why bother?” I hear you exclaim? And I thought the same thing myself – until I realised why I was building the game in the first place. I believe in this game. I don’t think there’s anything quite like it on the market – a combination of addictive turn based combat and hilarious game-show elements. I think I can make a game that will resonate with people, a game that will have that just-one-more-turn feel, that will have long term replayability and a competitive element that will keep players coming back. If, and this is a big if, I can get the balance just right, and can make a bit of a splash with marketing and promotion, I feel like this is a game that will organically grown and get people enjoying it.
The moral of this is, is, remember why you’re doing what you’re doing. Don’t sweat the competition – you’re not competing with Clash of Clans, you’re (hopefully) creating something totally new and unique and hoping to carve out your own niche in the space. There’s always room for another, if it’s done right and it fills a gap.
This week, I’ve been building the character creation screens. I’ve used a bunch of my sketches as roughly coloured placeholder art – I find it’s a great way to visualise how your game is going to look, long before you get the final art. Here you can see some sketches of the 6 available character classes.
They’re all garbed in blue – you have five character slots in your party available. The first character you select will always wear blue, the second green, the third red and so on. I figured many players may want to go with, for example, three knights, a rogue and a mage. The knights can then be wearing different coloured outfits so as to differentiate themselves from each other – as I’m not using an avatar system for this game.
Creating UI screens is one of the most tedious parts of any application development – but it’s a necessary evil. I decided to tackle it very early so I could save the more fun ‘game engine’ development until later. Many developers do the reverse, and with good reason, they want to test out a prototype of the game engine as early as possible. I’m pretty confident the game engine will be fun – I’ve done a lot of turn based combat games in the past, so I know what to do (and conversely what to avoid!) . Secondarily, I needed the actual characters for the battle, so why not build those screens as early as possible.
In the screenshot below, you can see what I’ve done so far. There’s a stage for the wizard ‘game show host’, and a bunch of animated spotlights that change colour as they perform different tasks. For example, you click on the ‘randomize’ spinning wheel, all the lights will turn white and focus on that wheel. The spinning wheel option itself is for players wanting to get a party built as quickly as possible. You simply tap the wheel, it spins, and five ready made heroes run out on stage, and you’re ready to go.
Selecting the chessboard, on the other hand, takes you into a slightly more detailed character creation screen. However, in the interests of simplicity, this screen will not have a huge level of customization either – I’m not building Skyrim, after all. You simply need to select a class and, if you desire, a name for your character, and you’re good to go. The sooner your player can get going in the game, the better. Once you have established heroes in the game, you can actually load them up too – I’m toying with the idea of allowing Facebook friends into the game to use as characters. You could, for instance, choose your brother to be a barbarian, or your old high school friend to play a mage. Just having their portraits in your game might add a great deal of personalization and attachment to your game.
Once you’ve selected a character, he of course runs out on stage – once you’ve made them all, you’re good to go – the whole process could take as little as 5 seconds or as long as you desire. These heroes will form the party you take with you through the game. They’ll head through the door at the back of the stage and then appear in a lift, going up. What they don’t ( or do, but won’t admit to themselves) realise is that only one of them will survive. They’ll fight a myriad of nasty monsters, deal with deadly traps, solve puzzles and in the end, the last standing will either become a hero for the player to employ again, or will return as a villain to be fought against in a future episode.
Anyway, that’s it for today’s game development diary. The exciting stuff comes next – we’re about to start building the actual game engine!
Cheers, happy journeys.