Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The last 9 months

Welp. I haven't updated this for 9 months. I'm gonna be explaining why I was gone and what I was doing, for my massive community of 3 readers :P.

When I was last updated, I had been working on Deep Field for about half a year. Although I had made several good design decisions, the more I playtested, the more I felt there were deep structural flaws in the design of the game. When I started work on it, I originally wanted to make something similar to Oasis, a fantastic indie game released several years ago. But over time, it turned more and more into a complicated strategy game with a difficult to learn system of interactions. This is what I had wanted to avoid most of all: High optimization learning curve. When you played Deep Field, you weren't always sure whether you had done the right thing, and it really hurt the game. It was also slower than I had originally hoped my game would be, it had fewer options at any one time, and the code was an absolute mess. It was a good learning experience, but by the end I was just completely burnt out.

I decided to switch to something else, and try to make a fast arcade shooter. I came up with a cool story, and slowly but surely got sucked into adding more and more features: Randomly generated levels, experience, skills, perks, items, all kinds of stuff. Additionally, I ended up experimenting with shaders, a reasonably new technology for Flash (although a very old technology in game development in general). I put lighting into the game, which ended up limiting me in ways that I didn't realize would happen when I started. I also built out a GUI framework to use with the game. I finished the game about a month ago, and it's been up on FlashGameLicense.com since then, but sadly the fish aren't biting. I feel the game will do reasonably well whenever it's released, but I really would rather have a sponsor than not, so for now it's on the back burner.

This arcade shooter was my second actually complete game, after Polygonal Fury, which felt... lets say fantastic. I had worked a bit on Polygonal Fury 2 here and there since I released the first one, but I kept on jumping around as far as technologies go, making it difficult to keep any steady progress. Over the last month I've switched techs (again), but hopefully this time for good. I'm using Unity now, which has been an absolute blast: It's a fantastic platform. I'm hard at work on Polygonal Fury 2, which I hope to release over Steam or other digital distribution platforms. I also hope to have the game functional for mobile devices, although the power limitations and screen size limitations are pretty extreme. I'll know more about that as I get closer and closer to a finished state.

Deep Field was an interesting project, but when I went back to it after finishing my shooter, I remembered just how much of a mess the code base was. If I was to go back to it, I would almost certainly build it in Unity, taking with me many lessons and ideas I've learned/had over the past 9 months. I do hope I'll be able to one day, maybe even after I finish PF2. I have some ideas for how to simplify the gameplay in a way that will make it much much more fun.

For now I'll be posting up dev diaries for PF2 in the upcoming weeks. I'll try for one a week, explaining a problem, describing my solution, stating the lesson. I liked that format.

Peace out,
Johannes Pauw (DogInLake)

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