Gauntlets of Recursion (+3)

Times, trials, and turbulence.

Bioshock’d.

if( developmentTime() < gameTime(GAME_BIOSHOCK) ) {

Purchased Bioshock today after confirming that it ran satisfactorily on my machine. I can run it with most of the goodies enabled, but only at 800×600. Certainly more than good enough. The game is gorgeous, and the atmosphere is absolutely stellar. I’m amazed at how much research and thought has gone into the levels, characters, environment, graphics and audio. Bioshock feels surreal. I’ve only managed to knock off two Big Daddies so far, but I’ll take down more as I get a better grip on the physics/controls. }

Next Game?

The whole physics fiasco with Gloom really left a bad taste in my mouth. But more importantly, it made me realize how inexperienced I am with physics programming. To me, one of the most important factors in writing a game is ensuring that the game is at the right difficulty level for me. If it’s too easy, I’ll quickly get bored and can it. If it’s too hard, I’ll get stuck frequently during development and get too frustrated to work on it.

The other factor is choosing a genre/theme that interests me in a long-term manner. By this, I refer to that fleeting sensation that we game developers get after playing a really awesome game for a day or two, and become very motivated to write a game similar to this. This is a mistake! I cannot stress that enough. For those of you with a bit of memory, my last project attempt after I finished Membrane Massacre was called RavenKeep, a roguelike hack/slash. I had just finished playing Diablo for several days with Dean, and so my motivation for it was *flying*. Of course, motivation like that is entirely short-term, which results in the game crashing+burning as interest wanes. Gloom got its motivational-boost from Deus Ex and Neuromancer, which kept me going for a while. However, like RavenKeep, it’s juice ran out too. The end result? No game project once again.

The most important things, one can then conclude, is that: a) the game idea is not too far above or below one’s abilities as a developer; and b) the game’s theme/genre must be one that the developer has had a long-term interest in, to ensure motivation does not dry up after a few weeks.

And that’s where I stand. I feel really crummy at junking another potentially awesome project, but I’d much rather take on something like how I took on Membrane Massacre: by using a basis that I’ve always enjoyed (free-floating Asteroids controls and a destructible environment), and then giving it my own original direction to take it in. I didn’t take any huge development risks either; I stuck to things that I knew (reasonably well) that I could implement. Same idea for my other completed games.

Thus, some serious pondering will take place, and I’ll try and get some groundwork done before I go announcing what I’m working on. Clear skies ahead! πŸ™‚

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7 responses to “Bioshock’d.

  1. LachlanL August 26, 2007 at 9:59 pm

    Sad to hear about yer project mate. I can definitely relate wrt the inspiration thing though. It’s sooo easy to get hyped up on a game idea when playing a good game and just decide to dive in.

  2. ravuya August 27, 2007 at 12:51 am

    That’s a shame, I was definitely looking forward to it, but I can understand the lack of motivation inside the ‘engine’ phase — I’ve wanted to give up on Novarunner at least once a week for the last six months.

    But now that I’ve stuck with it, it’s slowly becoming something better and my motivation has really returned.

  3. David "Trapper Zoid" August 27, 2007 at 4:12 am

    I’d say the majority of my game ideas got their original spark from another game. One of the ones I’ve got on my “to do” list was spawned from playing Membrane Massacre.

    I usually don’t consider any of my aborted game projects to be scrapped but rather shelved; I’ve got an expectation that eventually I’ll get around to completing them (even though it’s probably impossible now to have enough time to complete them all!). Maybe you can think of a bridge project that is somewhere between your vision for Gloom and your measure of your current ability?

  4. Stephen August 27, 2007 at 7:19 am

    @Lachlan: Aye. It seems to happen in ~5 month cycles for me, I’ve noticed. Given that, it should be just about time for me to get going on a project that’ll see completion. πŸ˜‰

    @Ravuya: What keeps you going so strongly? You’ve always been one to stick to your projects to the very end. Is there a trick, or do you just choose your projects carefully enough that there’s no risk of dropping the project?

    @David: I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having a to-do list of game projects spawned from games that inspired you, since if you’re still motivated to create the game after that much time, you’re probably safe from motivation drop-out. πŸ™‚

  5. ravuya August 27, 2007 at 9:25 am

    OK let me try to repost.

    As wrong as Spolsky is, his point about not starting over from scratch is one that I carry with myself often.

    Whenever I consider starting over from scratch, I realize that I would have to work at least the same amount of time to get where I am now, as well as the time that remains, so effectively I’ve doubled the time since my last release.

    That formula again:
    TimeToFinishGame + TimeToRefactorGameToBeGood < TimeToGetWhereIAmNow + TimeToFinishGame

    Of course, this doesn’t ensure that I keep motivated, just that I keep holding onto the same project past a given time investment. The problem with that, of course, is that I keep giving up on projects about a week in and starting something else (the four-month lag between Glow and the first ‘real’ implementation of Novarunner is a great example).

    I wish I chose my projects more carefully; Novarunner has been exceptionally poorly specced and it’s hurting my motivation not to have a clear to-do list to check off. Going back at the start of this month, taking stock of the development, and producing a list of tasks has really helped my motivation.

  6. Stephen August 27, 2007 at 1:59 pm

    @Ravuya: For argument’s sake, I first wanted to point out that I did not intend to rewrite Gloom from the ground up. Rather, I was arguing that my time would be better invested on a [different] project that would not suffer from motivation drop-out.

    Now, as for your post itself:

    So true. So very true. I enjoyed reading the article that you linked to, and the points that Spolsky made about “refactorTime < rewriteTime” and how rewriting is like literally throwing away all of the knowledge, bug fixes, and hard work that you spent on the first write. In addition, the ‘axiom’ of code being easier to read than to write, and his observations about programmers liking to build things “their way” from the ground up were all very thought-provoking. I had certainly never thought of my rewriting habits in more than a quasi-casual manner, but I’m definitely going to be giving it much more concrete thought and careful consideration from here on in.

    To be honest, I can’t think of a single rewrite-attempted project that I’ve had that was truly beyond being refactored. My impatience at debugging and slow-moving refactoring made the option of rewriting far more attractive than it should have, whereas all of the while if I had of just sat back and took some deep breaths (and maybe a small side project) I could have come back to the code in a few months and resumed progress on it. Heck, we’d all probably be playing Skirmish Online polished up by now if I had of. πŸ™‚

    Anyways, I’m not sure if that’s all-in-all what you intended for me to get from said article, but that’s certainly what I took from it — and I *like* it. I feel like peeling open some ancient half-written game from 2005 and seeing what I can refactor it into. Thanks! πŸ˜‰

    (Edit: I’m probably going to ‘refactor’ this comment into an entry on its own. Got to love epiphanies.)

  7. ravuya August 27, 2007 at 6:54 pm

    By ‘rewrite’ I meant it in the context of ‘starting over from scratch,’ as opposed to the verbatim ‘rewrite existing game’.

    But you can take it either way, I’m glad it helped out. Just please don’t read anything else Spolsky has to say πŸ˜‰

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