This past week, I focused my development efforts on the user interface (UI) of Archmage Rises. Proper software development methodology mandates that we should take on the highest priority, highest risk items first. We should do this to save enough time and energy to deal with the truly dangerous issues: the unknowns. Archmage Rises is a UI-heavy game, and the interface is core to the entire game experience. Fortunately, I’m working with the very talented UI artist Rick Grossenbacher.
Note: We’re only about a quarter of the way through the process, but I thought I’d share the approach and progress thus far. (more…)
Someone once told me, “When your hobby becomes your work, it’s time to find a new hobby.” This couldn’t be more right. And I couldn’t have been more wrong to ignore it.
I encounter many people who want to develop games but have not yet made the plunge for a variety of reasons. Sometimes they ask, “What is it like?” Usually, they ask for advice on how they can get started. Out of everything I could say, the concept of how making games fundamentally change someone’s enjoyment of themis the most difficult to express. It’s also the most difficult for them to hear – and the most important. The reason I am writing about this now is because I just had a fresh reminder playing Destiny, which launched worldwide this week.
This issue is not limited just to game developers. Game journalists, critics, and others face it as well. Here is the core question:
“Do you love games so much you are willing to sacrifice your enjoyment of them on the altar of Career?”
However, before I continue, I first need to define what a hobby actually is and why hobbies are so incredibly important to everyday life.
If you’ve been following these dev blogs, you’ll know that I have been living at my cottage for the last three and a half months. No, I wasn’t kicked out due to some indiscretion or ill-advised car purchase. I was living in the cottage so I could manage the little store I mentioned a couple weeks ago. After a job well done, it was time to come home.
So last week, my family arrived en masse to bring me back to civilization. Talk about an ironic reversal of what college students happen to be experiencing this week: I’m finally returning home, not leaving it. In fact, my week has been taken over by family matters and getting resituated. Although my wife is made of pure, delightful chaos, I am of the Spartan persuasion—and I happen to love order with a nice task list by my side. There were so many chores to do around the house once I was finally back. . . .
OK, it wasn’t this bad, but it felt that way.
Despite the upheaval, I can proudly announce two major developments for Archmage Rises:
I had a bizarre personal/family situation that totally consumed me from May to the end of July. Nothing much happened with Archmage during that time, which was like Chinese water torture for an indie dev.
It turns out that I had to take over a little store – from personnel to IT. I couldn’t choose not to do this. It was just something I had to do for the good of my family.
This is a fitting picture for an indie developer’s life
Sometimes a new solution is just an old idea in a new package.
Last time, I covered how re-reading the Dragonlance novels got me thinking about a new kind of RPG. One that is a realistic open world, procedurally-generated, and full of meaningful choices. The question is: How can I build it? Is it even possible?
Shark Tank is a TV show where prospective entrepreneurs (fish) pitch their business ideas to industry titans (sharks). After one of these pitches, Kevin (the grumpy Simon type billionaire on the show) asked, “Which is more important: The idea or the execution?”
Thinking for a minute, the entrepreneur nervously answered “Execution.”
“Right answer,” said Kevin. And he proceeded to invest in the idea.
I had a solid idea, but I wasn’t so sure about how to execute it. If I want to allow the player true choice, I have to address the cost of choice head on. I found the answer in two places: another TV show . . . and the early ‘90s.
Cost of Player Choice
There is one reason why the same characters die at the same time both in my playthrough and yourplaythrough of Watch Dogs: cost. Video game budgets now eclipse movies by a considerable margin—leading to less relevant choices.
How to Have a Good Idea
I am very interested in what drives creative inspiration. How to spark it, then harness it. I’ve read books on it. I’ve looked into what the artistic masters like Da Vinci, Michelangelo or Bach did. I’ll share the best advice I have assimilated on the topic:
I wrote my previous post because someone asked me to. I did not anticipate how well it would be received by the gamedev community. Thank you, everyone! Some favorite comments:
“I share a lot of similar background.”
“I wanted to contact you to let you know that I was incredibly inspired by your writing.”
“Thank you for this article. It may very well change my life.”
I enjoyed hearing thoughts from fellow developers on what I shared.
Some people wrote (in varying levels of harshness) that I’m going to fail again on PC just as I did in mobile. They stated that past performance is an indicator of future performance. If this were true, only people who have succeeded will succeed, and only people who have failed will fail. But life shows us something quite different: successful people failing and unsuccessful people succeeding. The real issue is not about past performance, but what has changed (the pivot, to use Lean Startup jargon) in the present. My article did not detail how I am applying all of the lessons learned to Archmage. That starts now!
I am fed up with the whole mobile/tablet gaming market. I’ve worked hard for three years and released two games to almost every mobile device you can think of. Never again. From now on I am focusing all my development resources on the PC. Frankly, I should have started there to begin with.
So how did I reach this conclusion? I am going to share my story with you. Openly and honestly. Some of it is gut-wrenchingly honest. Maybe this vulnerability won’t paint me in the best light, but I’ll take that risk in the hope you can learn from it. (I have changed some people’s names to protect their identity.)