Monday, December 7, 2015

Unity3D At Home Project Day 13 - Pushing On!

So just have a bit of time this morning before work, but wanted to get some thoughts down. And mostly, those thoughts are around carrying on the fight, and deciding where to go next. Let's get to it shall we?

Games are Hard
Game development is hard. It is a fact. I've been doing it professionally for some 17 years now. I've made games completely by myself, I've made games with teams of four, and I've made games with teams of over a hundred. And the one thing they've all had in common is that getting it right is just plain hard. When it comes to design, there is no right answer. What is fun to you will be "grind" to the next person, and "fluff" to the person after that. When it comes to scheduling, you will never be right. You make guesses, estimates, and pour all of your knowledge, and still something will blow up that you didn't expect, or in the rare case, fall out unexpectedly easy.

If it seems I'm belaboring an obvious point, I am. And I'm doing so, because it is a mantra you will need to see you through the long nights if you take the road of a game developer. Whether you are working on your first cohort project at the Guild Hall, or slugging your way through your tenth AAA title, there are dark days in your path, and you will need some guidance to see you through them.

Moving to the Next Milestone
So yes game development is difficult regardless of your project size or your team size. But let's talk specifically now about the case for the independent developer. The one to three person team slugging it out over laptops at Starbucks, skyping each other daily updates, and hoping for the big break on Steam Greenlight or at the App store. Like any ambitious project, you will face those days where it's easies to just - put it off. Especially after you've reached an important milestone. You feel good about your accomplishment, you've worked hard to get the game to a certain point, and not only are you a bit hesitant to dig in and push on, you're not even sure in what direction you should go next. Do we polish the UI experience? Add a major system like multiplayer, that anecdotal evidence suggests we can't do without (or the reverse - what about a single player experience)? And for you, there is no one to lean on but yourself. You are the only strength from which you can pull to push on to the next part of this project. Whether it be a writing project, a personal exercise plan, or your indie game - the strength to go on must come from within. I don't know if it will help you. But those words have helped me on more occasions than I can recount.

So what about Giant Robots?
Which brings us to where we are on our game - the doesn't roll off the tongue "At Home Project", ie., Giant Fighting Robots. In truth, I don't have a clear goal for "how finished" I plan to make this game - and that is actually a problem I need to face. As I mentioned in the previous blog, I have, for all intents and purposes, satisfied my original goal. Two people can drive around in giant robots, and shoot at each other. It wasn't a terrible ambitous goal, but as we've seen, even the simplest of sounding things can take quite a bit of work. And I still don't know yet if this would be a game that I would finish all the way out to the point of it being "publishable" - because quite frankly that is a ton of work, much off it dull and tedious, (who really enjoys writing key-bind configuration screens - really) for something that will in all likelihood never bring me a dime. But on the other hand, I don't really feel like it's finished yet either. So the goal of "finished" for this game is still somewhat undefined, but I feel like it's somewhere between where it is now, and a game that you would actually pay money for.  So I've decided I will press on further, at least a bit, to see where we'll go next.

So What's Next?
There are a number of ways I could go next. I could start building new weapons and effects. There are at least a half dozen or more other weapons I would consider a minimum for mech game - missiles, obviously, beam weapons for sure, and maybe even a flame thrower or something fun like that. Lots of work to do there. And there are the mech themselves. I would want to have several classes of mechs, once we have more weapon variety, with light, medium, and heavy mechs available, as well as different weapon loadouts.

There's bug fixing and performance optimization to do already. In just the two man sortie I played with my wife, I saw several bugs and some hitches in performance. If they're there for two players, you know it'll be ten times worse for four or eight.  It would probably be wise to squash those things early.

But in truth I don't think I'm going to focus on either new content, or bug fixing, just yet. Instead, I think the next crucial point is the game itself - or more to the point, the life cycle of the game. That means a proper loading screen, a lobby in which you can form the game, then launching the game, and finishing it. With a single mech and weapon working, I have enough to see a single game through from beginning to end, so I think it's time we got a first pass of that infrastructure in.

Of Course, Not Yet
Okay, our path plotted, we should get started. Well, I will. But not I think, until after the holidays are through. With family,get-togethers, and a bevy of distraction between now and the year's end, I'll pick this up after the New Year. So while I'm enjoying some leisure time, playing some games, and maybe even posting a few more game blogs before the year's out, don't look for a new Game Development blog until January!

Until then, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

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