Back to Game Development

Bored of Fallout 3 – the ending really sucks the life out of it, and should be avoided at all costs. Though there’s a lot of good games out there right now, such as Fable 2 or Dead Space, I really can’t afford them.

Though I plan to dedicate a token effort towards it, I’m so discouraged over my lack of interest in Spanish that I’ve largely given up on my chances of pulling a C average this semester. If my fears prove correct (something we won’t know until the end of the year) this is my last semester at WSU pending a likely denial of financial aid appeal (I’m already under appeal, you see – Spanish was a bad call but I’d have had to have waited a year if I skipped it).

Good news for those waiting for me to Build My Own Net Dream again: this will involve a change of schedule towards being a game developer full time as I resume my hunt for work in an area with 10% unemployment.  To an extent, such a move may be a first step towards being gainfully self-employed, and (failing to find other free-thinkers) a free-thinker like me should get a drop on that sooner rather than later.

“Project Xenoverse” idea taken back to the drawing board

What I made was an extensive, if rather experimental, tile-based environment. Upon the foundation BYOND provided, I’ve dropped a good GUI (including a simple mini-game that the player can use to enhance performance) simulated aspects of mass, electricity, and even temperature. I provided the player with a tool that serves to change the game world as they see fit.

This was Project Xenoverse.  It was a good start, but I’ve now second thoughts.

Project Xenoverse Beta Shot

Project Xenoverse Beta Shot. Yes, that is Nintendo's R.O.B. there on the right - placeholder icon only.

The central problem I’m encountering is that the conflict seems unsatisfying. The idea was that the players are taking something from the planet – perhaps precious minerals or artifacts – and there’s hostile alien life on the planet that would attempt to force the player out. It wasn’t good enough because that was pretty much the whole game: collect resources so you could collect more resources. Blah! I’ve played games like that before, and it gets monotonous quick.  There needs to be a meaningful resolution to make a story.

A second problem was that I was having difficulty isolating a good means of player progression.  There were no statistics or skills.  Instead, players are immediately given a “portable materializer.”  It was sort of a terraforming Swiss army knife, you can sort of think of this as a Star Trek replicator, but installed on a space suit you’re walking around with.  The concept of advancement was perhaps a score is kept as to how well you’re doing and this grants more functionality the portable materializer.

The trouble with that approach is that it was too elemental. In giving them a single piece of all-in-one equipment, I sacrificed all the additional RPG character that would go instead into having a character possess skills to use unique pieces of equipment.  Instead of having a “laser pistol” or a “quadratic fusion bolt cannon” you have a portable materializer that can be set to “dice” and “mince.”  There was no need for skills in this push-button universe and, while that may be accurate of a futuristic backdrop where machines do all the work, it needlessly dropped a number of useful game pieces.

Where to?

Were these problems unresolvable?  Not really.  However, I’ve gone in the wrong direction enough that I think a far better product could be made by starting over again.  As I mentioned awhile back, perhaps I aught to stop reinventing the wheel.  To these ends, I’m thinking of implementing something closer to a traditional RPG mechanic with an inventory. However, I still plan to innovate on two key factors.

First, I still want to give the players more dynamic influence over the game world.  I’m not going to be afraid of the consequences of a dynamic world like so many developers did when early Ultima Online descended into chaos.  Instead, I’m going to take responsibility for it as a developer, and that means putting enough detail into it that the PCs are held responsible for their actions.

Second, I want to make sure the game is fun. Despite the fact I made Project Xenoverse sound like one, I’m not going to make a simulation for simulation’s sake. I’m developing a game first with virtual worldly aspects second.

So, there’s my focus. Now to turn 26 years of gaming experience towards working out every minute detail involved. My Net Dream concept, at the time of this writing, would probably resemble a late-1980s game by the name of Sentinel Wars: Future Magic. However, the project will change a bit between then and now, and it’s hard to say what I’ll end up with for certain.

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