Episode IV (No, make that One) – A Renewed Hope

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(That’s right – Episode One – any Star Wars films made after 1983 doesn’t count)

One month in to development, and I am already behind schedule. The harsh reality of developing this game myself, in my free time, has dawned upon me and I have been toying with canceling the project!

Cracking the Combination

Two weeks, reams of paper and many headaches later I finally finished writing my proposal. Generating ideas certainly wasn’t a problem – the beauty of video games is that anything flies (including shoe-wearing hedgehogs and jovial Italian plumbers) – but I found the biggest challenge was finding the right balance between player expectations and innovation.

For example, I loved the character creation and tutorial sections of Fallout 3. This was a unique approach to rolling an RPG protagonist that still gave the player the flexibility that they are used to the from the more traditional methods. It was a little gamble that may have risked estranging die-hard RPGers but instead, for me at least, it set a benchmark by which all other systems will be measured. I want to achieve this level of innovation while still remaining in the confines of a genre to avoid alienating potential players.

In order to find that winning combination, I started looking at games that I had played to understand where I would focus my creative efforts to improve them. I started with the games that made the biggest impact on me as I was growing up: Monkey Island, Day of the Tentacle, Sam & Max, Full Throttle and Flight of The Amazon Queen to name but a few gems from my misspent youth. This lead me to what was my final concept. A re-imagining of the point-and-click genre for the console generation with a grand cinematic feel.

Tools of the Trade

One may be forgiven for thinking that developing a game is an expensive affair, the truth is that this is not necessarily the case. Most of the software required for programming, artwork and animation are available for free: Microsoft’s AppHub is the place to start for programming; GIMP, Inkscape and Blender for artwork and animation.

I will also be using source control with Subversion for all game resources. Using a form of source control allows me to branch my repository so I can have a Main and Development branch and also allows me to revert back to a previous copy if I make a huge mistake!

2D or not 2D?

Idea in hand, I quickly started to break it down into a specification. What features would I need to code in order to make this game? Having written a list as long as my arm, I stumbled across a real conundrum. 2D or not 2D? Writing a 2D game would be quicker. Using 3D would fit the artistic direction better, but would be far more complicated to implement. I spent the next few days wearing out a pencil drawing scenes in 2D and 3D and comparing them side-by-side. No joy. Still undecided, I started to investigate how I could retain my artistic vision in 2D and what I would need to compromise. After another week of deliberation I finally decided on 2D with a twist.

A Renewed Hope

Having spent longer than desired writing my specification, encountering a string of public holidays and hitting busy period of work, I have started to fall behind schedule. In hindsight it was a very optimistic schedule with completion in time to be entered in to Microsoft’s Dream.Build.Play competition, but nevertheless it’s disheartening. The thought of canceling the project has crept in to my mind more than once and I have striven to keep it at bay.

At the depths of desperation I was seeking enlightenment. Then it arrived in a Jiffy Bag under the guise of Portal 2! Having been reacquainted with GladOS and wrapped my brain around a series of well designed logic puzzles, I was ready to get back to the task at hand- this time with a more fluid schedule.

With a sense of renewed hope I continue upon my quest…

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