I don’t know what I’m doing: Part 2

Part 1, case you missed it.

So the other week I posted about my plans for later in the year. Honestly, I wish I could start right now, but this is tricky, and I don’t want to mess it up. I have a savings target that I predict I’ll hit within three months. In the meantime, I intend to plan my approach to this carefully, and to try and conceive and prototype a few suitable game ideas.

The very first considerations I need make, I think, are the new constraints that result from this decision. Judging by the kinda things I’ve been posting here, it’s probably pretty obvious what kinda project I’d go for, if I could. The classic 40 hour, epic, plot driven RPG (and I’ve got quite a few of those in mind). But I don’t think that’s a realistic goal. Or a very smart one.

My biggest constraint is time. I have six months (which suddenly doesn’t seem like very long at all), so I can’t work on anything that’ll likely take longer than that. That basically rules out any RPG project I have in mind.

This constraint implies another: content. If I’m going to work on a game that I can realistically finish in a couple of months, then I need to start thinking a lot smaller. It seems to me that the fundamental difference between a game that takes a long time to finish and a game that’s finished quickly is the amount of content in it. It’s why Darwinia took years, and Defcon took months, I suppose. (And yeah, I know that’s probably obvious, but then there are other ways to cut corners that I don’t really want to consider.)

But you know what? Thinking about it this week, I figured the transition from making any random thing to making a living as a game designer would involve a total change in perspective. But I’m wrong. The only real constraint here is time. Anything else is self-imposed.

I suppose someone might think about this and come to a different conclusion – after all, if I want to make a living out of this – if I want to still be able to do this in six months time, then don’t I need to think about making something that’s going to sell?

No!

All I need to focus on is making something that’s good. And I need to do it before I run out of money=time. And that’s it. I actually had myself really worked up with thoughts like “Oh, I can’t make that, I won’t sell a single copy” and “What can I do to make my game appeal to female gamers?” and “Making a murder simulator is a really bad idea, I hear they ban those now”. Sheesh. My head’s been totally in the wrong place.

What I need to do, I think, is continue like this changes nothing. In order words, to go on making games that are interesting and exciting to me, just bearing in mind that I’ve got a time limit. And anyway, I’m wrong again. Time is something I will have. Lots of. I won’t be doing anything else, after all.

Fuck, I hope I don’t get “writer’s” block again…

Does that make sense? Or nonsense? Hmm. A part three is needed, I think.

* 6 Comments

6 Comments so far

  1. Josiah Tobin on June 28th, 2007

    Six months does seem like an incredibly short time to develop a game, but it becomes a hell of a lot longer when development is, as you said, the only thing you’d really be working on. :p

    It all made sense to me, at any rate– I still think you can make this work relatively easily. 🙂

    ~Josiah

  2. Verious on June 28th, 2007

    Have you considered using randomly (and intelligently) generated content? Randomly generated content can greatly expedite the content development portion of the project while improving the depth and replay value of the game.

    For example checkout the following link for an example of randomly created dungeons:
    http://www.aarg.net/~minam/dungeon.cgi

    And the following link for an explanation:
    http://www.aarg.net/~minam/dungeon_design.html

  3. Peter on June 28th, 2007

    Why does the RPG have to be 40 hours long? I remember finishing ff3 for the snes in 23 hrs and a friend finished it in 19 hrs and to this day I still think it’s (along with chronno trigger) the greatest rpg ever. Of course, everything about it was great, but my point is, I prefer to buy and play a really good 15 hours rpg than an average 35 hr rpg. I’ve also read articles about games being shorter because people have less time to play. It might also depend on the price.

    Are you planning to develop your own game engine or will you use a developed one? Have you thought about making a puzzle game? It wouldn’t take too long and you might be able make more than one in the 6 months. I want to make games too, so these are questions I’m trying to answer myself.

  4. stephen on June 28th, 2007

    If you had any other reason I’d caution you against your actions.

  5. Terry on June 30th, 2007

    Have you considered using randomly (and intelligently) generated content? Randomly generated content can greatly expedite the content development portion of the project while improving the depth and replay value of the game.

    Actually, there’s one idea I have (which I’ll be writing about soon) where procedural content could work very well.

    It’s not a major worry though – I’m quite happy designing levels really, and I don’t think it’ll be all that time consuming – when I say content, I guess I really mean scripting, plot, and all that. That’s what is really going to hold me up, I think.

    Why does the RPG have to be 40 hours long? I remember finishing ff3 for the snes in 23 hrs and a friend finished it in 19 hrs and to this day I still think it’s (along with chronno trigger) the greatest rpg ever. Of course, everything about it was great, but my point is, I prefer to buy and play a really good 15 hours rpg than an average 35 hr rpg. I’ve also read articles about games being shorter because people have less time to play. It might also depend on the price.

    I guess I really mean “classic 40 hour, epic, plot driven RPG” as an expression rather than a plan, heh. (Actually, it’s probably been years since I last played a game that was longer than eight hours, and in general I think that’s a good thing).

    Are you planning to develop your own game engine or will you use a developed one?

    I’ll definitely use my own engine – as for whether I’ll develop an engine from scratch? Well, I’m still thinking about exactly what game I’m going to make. So I guess it depends. There is one game I’m thinking of that would definitely use it, but all my other ideas would require a new engine. Though chances are I can reuse a lot of code (the scripting engine, for example).

    Have you thought about making a puzzle game? It wouldn’t take too long and you might be able make more than one in the 6 months. I want to make games too, so these are questions I’m trying to answer myself.

    Actually I have – two, in fact 🙂 I’m not especially fond of puzzle games, though, and I really want to avoid that whole route of shareware development. I can’t imagine it’s much fun to make a living making games that aren’t really very interesting, even if it happens to be lucrative at the moment.

    By the way, best of luck if you decide to go down this route too!

    My next step is to start writing up a few game proposals in detail. As it happens, I have quite a few good ones, so I haven’t really decided which one I’m going for yet. The first one’s going to be one of those puzzle games I alluded to, so you’ll soon see what kinda games I have in mind 🙂

    Heh, anyway, you guys are great. Thanks for all the positive support, it really helps convince me that I’m not making a huge mistake! 😀

  6. distractionware » So now what? on September 11th, 2007

    […] as much as I’d like to insist otherwise, it does put a limitation on what I can work on. I can’t imagine there’s much of a market for […]

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