Sunday, July 8, 2012

Sometimes Murdering Children Gets to Me...

Humans suck at quite a few things. They can eat food okay, standing is not too much of an issue for them, and their defecation can come along quite naturally. But when asked to design and then simulate a complex game structure in their minds, they will usually forget a variable here and there. Complete visions of what a finished product might be are great, but they should not be indivisible wholes. The vision of what a game is going to be must be malleable so that new discoveries in science and play testing can inform and improve upon the original concept. Sometimes these improvements are minor; usually, though, they are complete conceptual refurbishments.

The current game I am developing has recently undergone this phase. The systems are magically transformed from theory into software and I get to see every wrong guess on my behalf in regards to how the game plays. For instance, I originally envisioned a rather straightforward narrative commenting on the philosophical notions of hedonism. After all, its a fan game about Pac-Man, one of many selfish video game protagonists; the dude eats up pills and fruit and that is about it. But once I started to actualize the game's AI, I began to realize that the relationship between Pac-Man and the ghosts was far more important and interesting than his relationship with a bunch of poorly sprited dots (hey guys, the joke is that it is impossible to poorly sprite dots; well, kind of).

And with that realization, I decided to change the plot. But ultimately, at least for this title, because it is after all just a stupid fan game, this is a rather minor change. It means I need to redo the opening and closing and perhaps make the writing a tad bit less insufferably self-serious (because one can not take fan games seriously and still expect to be accepted by society). However, I did have to decide to make one big cut to the game, and unfortunately, that cut is going to hurt because not only was the concept one of the reasons I decided to make the game in the first place, but all of the content I am throwing out probably took about 40 hours to create.

I murdered the world map. Its blood stains my casual outer wear. It does make me look a little bit suspicious. Maybe I shouldn't go outside for a while. Or better yet I could put on a fresh set of clothing. No, but really, it is dead. That glorious icon I was going to use to venerate the famous world map from Super Mario World has become just another victim of iconoclasm. Why did I kill it? Well, first, it become quickly apparent to me that the multi-path layout of Super Mario World worked because the levels were large and explorable. It is pretty difficult to place hidden exits in stages that operate on a non-scrolling screen. Any other substitutes I could come up with to finding hidden exits (such as doing a bunch of esoteric rituals or beating the stage under a certain time) were just missing the point.

Second, certain ideas I had in place for different level themes would be impossible to link together on the same map without the result looking absolutely forced. This kept me away from using some of my better ideas and instead had me feeling as if I would have to settle for some really generic level themes. Maybe an actually artist could do it; I cannot.

Finally, I had made too much space for secret levels that would be devoid of meaningful content, would waste the players time, and most importantly, would waste even more of my own development time. I am an indie developer making crap that is put on the Internet for free; replay value is not my first priority. Everything I want the player to experience is to be discovered in the main set of stages, from beginning to end. Beating the game will not simply be a, "Yeah, the horribly written story is complete and you've only played 45% of the game, but it's all cool, if you want to leave now you can do so without feeling bad," moment, but a, "Sup, you beat this game. Seriously, wow, that was crazy impressive. You must be dead or something after that." The game's development should really start to come to close; I do not want to notice that it is December and I still have to create ten extra stages before I can start to wrap things up. A game is done when a game is done; most of the advice speaks against releasing too early, but in my case, I could potentially face the troubles of releasing too late. Look at Duke Nukem Forever. I don't want to be that.

Cutting out the current world map is cutting out content, but that content is fat, and a leaner game is almost always better. The replacement will actually be using most of the same code actually; instead of a large, Super Mario World-esque world map I have opted into creating a level selection system akin to the map from the Game Boy Color version of Super Mario Bros. I just realized I need to desperately stop taking inspiration from the Mario series (it's just too good).

So yeah, I killed a few of my kids. Huh.

No comments:

Post a Comment