Friday, June 8, 2012

What I'm Working On

So, here it is, the game I'm working on this summer. I'm proud to announce: nothing. What I mean is I'm not quite sure yet what it is I'm going to make. I've toyed with a few design ideas, but so far nothing is completely set in stone yet, and thus not something I'm going to talk about.

See, here's what happened, I did a bunch of research right before the summer trying to decide what platform/development environment I wanted to use for creating this game I had in mind. I chose Unity for it's ease of use, built in multiplatform support and because I wanted to try out a more visual editor for a change. I also used the 2DToolkit add-on in order to support sprites (it's awesome by the way). After quite a bit of learning, and some quick prototyping of an idea I had, I came to the conclusion that for what I was aiming to make (a simplistic 2d game), Unity was just too good. That is, it had many built in features that I would never use, and I just felt like I was wrestling with the program trying to make it abandon all it's built in physics and collisions so I could just write everything myself. Sure it is doable, and I definitely want to use Unity in the future, but for this simple 2d project it simply wasn't the right fit.

So now I'm using FlashDevelop and Flashpunk, coding everything in ActionScript 3. So far it's been really awesome, allowing me more easily accessed low-level freedom and due to my familiarity with this sort of framework it's really sped up my workflow.

Now, as to what I am actually making, I can't quite tell you, as I'm not entirely sure myself. Thematically, I know where I'm going, and I have a few basic gameplay interactions floating around in my head, but I don't have anything absolutely concrete yet. Now, I'm not just twiddling my thumbs, in fact, the reason I don't have a clear design right now is because I spent so much time prototyping another idea in Unity that failed miserably (it was thematically identical to what I'm doing now, so I won't talk about that part of it). Let's just say I could not get the underwater-based movement to feel anything but absolutely floaty and arbitrary (you controlled the player character based on increasing/decreasing his weight). As a firm believer that in most cases, moving the player around the world needs to be a fun action, I abandoned the idea for now (maybe one day I can try to understand fluid physics better).

Just to clarify, I'm a big proponent for games as a medium perfect for emotional expression, and that's what I'm trying to do here (but sadly I'm going to have to try with bad art). That's why when I say that thematically I know what I'm doing, I mean I know the style and emotion I'm trying to bring across, but it's integrating it into some sort of meaningful gameplay that is actually fun that is slowing me down. Oh well, I love this process.

So for now, I'm making a 2d tile based engine in flash so that I get something done while I keep refining my ideas. As of now I've completed the level-editor, which is way more comprehensive than any editor I've made before. It's really cool in that it allows levels to be made on the fly during gameplay (pausing time in order to do it) as well as dynamic saving and loading during run-time. This will allow me to quickly test different level design ideas very rapidly and is also just super cool. Right now the editor only supports placing static "blocks", but adding different entities as they get made is trivial as the whole thing is modular and easy to build upon. Also, the levels are saved as xml's because, well, I like xml's.

So here are some screenshots, and yes, that is the sprite from Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins (awesome game) and the blocks are from Metroid (both are obviously placeholder).

So here it is in "play" mode

And this is "edit" mode, toggled with escape

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