Finally, things are as they should again. I'm back home and the celebration of Easter is over and done with, even though I miss the food. And I'm finally working again. Six days without game development... Crazy!
Apart from professional work, I spend my time with Iskall as usual and the thing I wanted to discuss was a problem I'm having.
I'm constantly being very influenced by other games and I have to say "No!", to myself.
A big part of Iskall is it's fighting mechanics and the core has been set since last year. Yet, as soon as I play a game with a good fighting mechanics I think "Wow, our game should work more like this!", and the. I have to have an internal struggle with myself, convincing me it's not a good idea because it's not according to the set key points.
Some of the key points about the fighting in Iskall are:
- Uncomplicated controls
- Puzzle elements into it
- Require a lot of moving about with the avatar
There are a few more, but those are the ones relevant for this example. Even though I have these points, when I recently played BlazBlue which is an extremly fast paced and tremendously hardcore fighting game which in no way fits my key points, I can't help but think that since the game's fighting is great, it'd be swell to incorporate some of it into Iskall.
This has happened while playing a bunch of games, and not only regarding the fighting.
I definately think it's great to look at other games to isolate what's good and what's not but even more important than a "design" is to have a "vision" and a "goal" of what you're trying to achieve, so you always have something to work against when getting new ideas.
"Wouldn't it be cool if you could throw puppies into a meat grinder?". It would, but it's not a good idea if you're making a children's game.
I think this is true not only for game design, but every kind of creative work that requires many decisions to be made: Game Design, Level Design, Art, Concepts, etc.
Btw, crunching the Farcry 2 editor at the moment for a mini-mini-project. I'd never used it before tonight but it's actually quite simple. At least the stuff I've been doing so far. Maybe I'll upload some pictures of the level in a couple of days.
Back to work along with my great friend, the energy drink!
Things been hectic for a while now and I'm going abroad for a short while in a few hours, so I'll make this super quick.
First of all, sorry for several downtimes that has lasted a couple of hours each. I've talked to my host and they're trouble shooting the machines to see what's causing it. Hopefully they're done and it won't happen again.
Secondly, Bob Came in Pieces, the well reviewed game in which I'm credited is now not only available on the developer Ludosity's site and Steam, but also on Gamersgate for both PC and Mac! If you haven't already; get it!
Thirdly, my spare time project Iskall has grown since it started and is now made by a team of 13 people, so my work as a project manager (in addition to the game/level design) is increasing. It's both good and bad. It's not as fun as designing, but I still enjoy it and it's a great opportunity for me to increase my management and administration skills.
That's it for now. I gotta get moving!
Off I go then, Tally-Ho!
At the moment, I'm working on some design for my spare time project I've been talking about earlier; Iskall.
The challenge I'm currently working on is to have the story, its events and the introduction of new gameplay elements to work together.
The game's overall story is set. There are a few scenarios in it, not dependent on being in a particular order to work. And all the themes for the levels are set. Right now, they're all listed in the order that makes most sense and creates the best narrative, experience and allows for some nice transitions between the levels. That is, if you only look at the story.
But here's the catch. Many of the events are directly intertwined with the introduction of new gameplay mechanics. For me, gameplay always comes first, but sometimes you have to compromise since a game is not only mechanics, it's an experience to be had by the player.
Let's draw a parallel to Super Mario Bros.. Nintendo could have introduced the Mushroom that turns Mario into Super Mario during the last levels, but it was better for the game to introduce it in the very first level. I can introduce some of Iskall's stuff very late, but it'll be better if it's early and vice versa.
And also, some events are directly tied to a specific level. Some events I can move freely between the levels, while some must be at specific theme.
Meaning, different story sections have different dependencies like theme, level and gameplay mechanic.
I have a chart showing in what order and when I want each new gameplay element to be introduced. Stuff like new enemies, new abilities, etc. But just cutting and pasting in the story to accomodate that chart doesn't result in a tight presentation context-wise. So what I'm doing right now is to find that balance.
I don't have a sure solution for this, and I don't know how it'll end since I'm not done yet. But the way I'm approaching it is to try and constantly look at the big picture and I'm trying to spread it out, so all the good stuff isn't too close together.
There will have to be some editing from both ends to make it feel just right.
Words are powerful things, they are. Sure, they can be really helpful, but sometimes, they can be a bitch...
You don't like it when people call you mean things, right?
I've been having some trouble with a part of the design for Iskall. Way back when, in the beginning of the project the game was supposed to have a simple system for... Let's call it special attacks. The problem is, because of the lack of a better word at the time, we called it "magic".
Because of that, the word magic got stuck in my head and refuses to leave. Whenever I think of and work on the system, I keep thinking about magic. Magics in other games. Spells. Mana. Elemental attacks, etc. The stuff that you think of when you put games and magic together. But it's not magic!
It is not Magic, but because that's the word we've been using for a while, it keeps restricting me!
Be really, really careful about what words and descriptions you use for stuff, because it sticks!
These are the best news ever for indies!
The really AWESOME game engine Unity3D, previously priced at (very) reasonable $200 for an Indie-licence is now FREE!
The project I've been posting about, "Iskall" is using Unity. I've been using Unity for some of my own projects. I personally recommend it.
I really think they're right with the following statement:
For the pros, the difference between a $2000 fee and a $0 fee is almost nothing, except that individual developers can just try it out for free and fall in love with it. We think it's really exciting. The [Unite] conference is already underway, and we already had a couple hundred people do classroom sessions.
- Unity People
Now, go get it at: http://unity3d.com/ (28/10/2009)
Right now I'm working on the game design on a personal project (Iskall) and the game isn't going to be very innovative or breaking grounds and thanks to that, I can look at many other games as reference. But what I'm focusing on at the moment isn't what's fun in those games or what makes them great; I'm looking at what's boring.
My goal is to design a not boring game. I know it kinda sounds weird, but I want to try and isolate the boring aspects of similar games and work on them. Now, of course I want the game to be fun. Everyone in the group wants that! (Well... Maybe the artists don't care. They just want it to look pretty.)
But instead of only looking at what makes a game good, I think it's important to look at its "flaws", even if they aren't huge. Even great games have them.
I'm spending some time writing design for Iskall (a spare time game project) and thought I'd share with you what I'm doing right now.
Basically, it's all still in early pre-production and not even the games features are all set now, so what I'm doing is that I'm writing down a million ideas, big and small. They can be anything from a description of majorly game effecting feature to the color of a shoelace. (Do you now know that the game will include shoelaces or did I just fool you into believing so?)
Anyway, the advice I wanted to give people is that even if you know that some ideas don't work with things that are already decided or implemented, keep them! There might be some way to make it work, or it might spawn a new idea that actually does fit. And either way, I think it's great to always keep all ideas so you can browse through them every now and then to be inspired by yourself. Even if the ideas are several years old and from some old project they can still be of great help to you.
That's all for now.
I'm currently using some of my spare time to work on the pre-production of a little game project together with other people. A couple of days ago a friend who's part of the small team kept nagging me about deciding on a project name. I said that I didn't care much about that at the moment since we're still so early in development and everything is still floating in the air. Anyhow, he disagreed and kept nagging and nagging untill we finally came to the decision of "Iskall".
The little man became full of joy and said that finally the "first step" was complete.
So I've been thinking. Maybe a project name is really important when working with people. Not only because of communications, as that's a given but because with a name the project all of a sudden got way more tangible. At once, there was something new to strive for, to work on "Iskall".
The name in itself acts as a hub for the team.
When you've set a project name, you've actually created something, perhaps making you and the team more motivated to "keep working".
It got me thinking...
By the way, Iskall is Swedish and means Ice cold.