A Matter Of Process

In some ways, I’m a pretty experienced BYOND programmer. In other ways, as is made clear from time to time, I’m an incredible newbie.

After wracking my brains to produce something simple since Wednesday, I’ve decided that my trouble is actually this: I’ve been trying to experiment within the confines of BYOND and a text document. Why is that trouble? Because it’s an incredibly inefficient method that ultimately serves only to sap one’s motivation and kill the project.

While you can just dabble with BYOND and see what you come up with, and maybe be pleasantly surprised with the result, it’s better to look at programming as just explaining what you want to the computer. The reason why having a completed design first is necessary is because if you don’t know what you really want, you won’t know what you’re explaining to the computer.

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Creative Growing Pains

Now that I’ve no longer much of an MMORPG commitment — the marriage with Champions Online goes on, but the honeymoon is a faint and distant memory — game development has re-entered the picture.  In fact, it seems to be even a higher mental priority to me than my university classes, which is problematic if I plan to get out of here with any kind of accreditation.

Game development is, at least, very good mental exercise – which is rather important to get in order to preform well in said university classes.  It’s tough to appreciate when you’re actually playing the game, but somebody (or several somebodies) have gone about the mind-bending work of redefining reality in context of being an entertaining activity.

Being an original game creator looks easy, but it’s much in the same way an accomplished juggler could make it look easy to juggle 5 babies and a chainsaw.  Little wonder there’s so many clones in the world.

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Hardly Working

I’ve taken my largely unemployed status and focused my obsessive compulsive behavior in a positive direction: design and programming.  It’s been a long winding road, but I think my BYOND project is about half complete now.

What you see here is pathfinding debug mode, with a whole lot of extra clutter. Red targets denote closed nodes, green targets denote open nodes. Three paths are currently being displayed with a black on white mesh. Fields of up arrows indicate sources, fields of down arrows indicate destinations.

I could have just made a simple tile-based real time strategy game.  However, what I’m actually making is three games in one, featuring three factions which play differently.

“Natives” – These play like Dwarf Fortress with a bit of SimAnt thrown in.

“Terrans” – These play like Dune 2 with a bit of M.U.L.E. thrown in.

“Pirates / Independents” – These play like Firepower… I haven’t decided just how much Battletech-like attention to customization they’ll get.

Although I can compare parts of it to other games, you can find a comparison for any game.  That I’ve come up with this particular mix, well: ladies and gentlemen, here we have an original game (for once).

Because the BYOND platform is inherently a MUD, that’s basically what this is: online featuring many players at once.   Because I’ve AI driving all three of the factions with or without player intervention, it also plays well in offline mode.

As a newbie game designer, I’m pretty damn ambitious.  It’s probably because I’ve some 26ish years of game playing experience looking down on me, a passion to still play games within, but a general boredom of the current offerings out there that I’m looking for some way to channel it.  There’s tens of thousands of people working in game development right now, but how many people with that kind of backdrop?

Sometimes, fate is not so subtle: whether I make it big or not, game designer I  be.

That said, enough sitting around on my butt trying to find work when nobody is hiring.  I’m returning to school next week, full time.  Somehow, I don’t think this is going to stop me from working on games.  The game developers’ passion is so well ingrained that this is my free time now.  I’ve got Chrono Cross sitting ready to play every evening before I hit the sack – perhaps one of the best games ever made – but I’ve found myself so occupied by my project that I end up doing this instead.

To Simulate A Meaning In Life

Well, I think I figured it out: the reason why I keep halting my BYOND game-production half-way through is because I’m a fairly goal-oriented individual and I knew, at least subconsciously, that the goal of what I’m making sucks.

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Fallout Break: Star Command

By the end of the second day of Fallout 3, I was at level 18.  I had not been to The Pitt yet, and the main quest was just about to the one-quarter/one-third point of finding Dad.  I had been doing a lot of wandering, dusting off the old quests for advantages I wanted while taking in a bit of a sample of the new, and after a solid 13-hour binge yesterday, I had to face facts: I was burnt-out again.

I’m busy all day on Wednesday, so I’ll get back to justifying my $30 Fallout 3 expansion purchase on Thursday.  In the meanwhile, I needed something to do, and I decided that something to do would be research into better games of tomorrow by checking out some more games from an era where clones were not so dominant.

The game I ended up checking out was SSI’s Star Command (not to be confused with the 1996 game from GT Interactive).

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Approaches To Space Dragons

I like the idea of making a sci-fi game more than a fantasy game.  We’re all familiar with the trappings of fantasy, it’s like mainstream geek folklore.  However, Sci-Fi seems more progressive – magic and swordplay are behind us, lets talk laser beams.

As Yahtzee put in his EVE Online review, the reaches of space are fascinating because they are places mankind has not yet been where we may still find dragons, figuratively speaking.  The final frontier has a sort of infinite wonderment to it.

In that same review, he points out that EVE Online somehow failed to capture this feeling of space dragons.   It was a game of finding floating rocks, converting them into an elaborate spaceship component market, and then using said components to blow up other spaceship components.  Not only were there no dragons to be found, but what was found was a pointless exercise in monotony.

Sci-Fi shouldn’t be boring, so how can one present it as an entertaining game?  Lately, I’ve been seesawing across two approaches, and I haven’t quite decided which one to settle upon, or even if a comprimise could be reached.

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Hard Nova Retrospective

My destiny of being an ultimate game designer continues to be delayed by a destiny of being an ultimate procrastinator.  On the radar for Tuesday: Hard Nova, a 19-year-old quasi sequel for one of my all time favorites, Sentinel Worlds I: Future Magic.

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