Refocussing After A Month

It’s about a month into this game-a-day project. It’s time to assess.

  • My sound and graphics skills are improving. That’ll continue. I’m happy with that.
  • Finishing a complete game in a day is not always possible (and is often VERY stressful)
  • I’m starting to hit a number of key (but significant) algorithms that I’ll be able to use a lot. However, they’re subtle enough they’re definitely going to take more than a day to get fully debugged. This includes path finding (any time any enemy is chasing you – Make A Maze), flocking (groups of enemies – Flock), even just seemingly basic stuff like sorting out reliable and intuitive collisions (Sugar Rush), and collision avoidance (the path finding again). Procedural terrain generation (Terrain) is probably not so useful, but the general concept of procedural content is VERY helpful (eg random dungeons). These are the kinds of core algorithms I’ll end up using all over the place. They’re worth taking a few days to get right.
  • Since the aim of this project is to create mobile games, I’m going to need to take some time simply focussing on the mobile side of things. I wouldn’t be surprised if that takes a week, across a few games.
  • If even a moderately good game is not going to be ignored on initial impressions, there’s a basic level of polish (splash screen, credits, links to online stores/reviews, feedback links etc) I’m going to need to figure out how to efficiently apply to every game I create. I’ve been patchy and inconsistent about this so far.
  • Taking a couple of days to polish a game to be significant fun and clean up around the edges (ie, an actual playable fun game) is time much better spent (and more fun for me) than leaving a trail of half-finished games behind me – which is what I have been doing, more often than I’d like.
  • I need to get more focused on the specific attributes that make a good mobile game (rather than just a good game).  Namely – immediate fun, easy to learn but hard to master, very simple interface, simple concept, low complexity (battery life), ideally language independent

To be fair, given my background in artificial intelligence and finance, I’m something of an algorithm geek. I love love LOVE tweaking and perfecting algorithms. So, I’ve been having fun with all these larger scale projects (flocking, path finding, swarm intelligence – and biomimetics in general.They’re useful, but I am getting a little off point. I need to refocus a little more.

However, these are generally useful algorithms, and most of them are near done, I reckon.

So, from here, my immediate path is:

  1. Get the flocking, path finding and ant algorithms working satisfactorily (and put them into the appropriate games so those are closer to done/fun/useful)
  2. Devise a consistent and decent structural polish for the games (opening screens etc) and retro inject them into all games (and my templates, of course).
  3. Finish up the specific games which are “almost done”, but which have decent potential – Relaxing Fishing (maybe), Bukowski (definitely), Sugar Rush, Space Inverders (maybe), Boring Tennis, Make A Maze.
  4. Start building for the mobile platform. I need to start skilling up in that area

I still believe I can get to the point of hammering out a decent game in a day. My skills are definitely speeding up. However, now is a good time to regroup, get some solid structure in place, and tighten up a lot of the core assets I’ll be using dozens or hundreds of times a year. It means a shorter term delay but getting these core elements optimised will speed things up immeasurably over time.

The trick now is to do it while wasting the least amount of time possible.