Monthly Archives: May 2014

Game Making Philosophy

A game is a form of art. Its uniqueness lies in its interactivity. There are many form of interactivity within a game. It can give you a meta-sense of control, satisfaction in solving puzzles or questions, virtual interaction with other players, etc. Consequently, every game designer has its own approach in presenting their ‘art’. Generally, mainstream game designer follow a set of ‘best practice’ rules that also cater the mass market movement. While on the other side, indie game designer usually seen as an ‘egomaniac’ with a strict vision on how they will present their game. Often, they do not care about market orientation, sales or profit as long as their ‘unique’ ideas come to fruition. Commonly, the quality of games made by mainstream developers are much higher compare to the ones made by indie developers. Mainstream (large) game companies  also used to not care so much about indie developer communities.

But now, those stereotypes is becoming blurred. Some of the big game company now give more freedom to their in-house developers to produce unique games. They also put a lot more effort to embrace and support the indie communities. Even some indie game developers now have also become more aware of the business side of producing a game. Self-publishing now has become easier than ever, especially in mobile market. These developments produce an increasing amount of indie ‘professional’ developers. This rapid change is also strengthened by the development of middle(soft)ware  in many area (digital painting and animation, sound and music production and game engine). All of these middleware help many (indie) amateur game developers, musicians and artists in producing great products (Tom Francis produces Gunpoint with no programming background, C418 produces music for Minecraft without any formal music education). It is amazing to see how the average price of these tools also decreases over time (Maya now has a product for indie professional game developer with lower price level), especially with many (free) high quality open source software out there (Blender for example). Some of them even give a free version with limitation that will not hinder a person in publishing their ideas (for example Unity). The gap of game quality and success between small and large game developer is decreasing over time.

With these developments in mind, I want to become an indie developer that will not only stay true to my game art idealism but also considers the business and market aspect of my game. It means that I will work hard to polish my game to a quality level that is ‘acceptable’ by a general mass of people. I also want to become an open-minded indie game developer. I will not loath candy crush, angry birds, clash of clans or even flappy bird types of game due to their huge (lucky?) success and casual gameplay. Instead I will try to think of something that can improve those game (play) experience in a more unique-refreshing way. I will consider all type of game from Flappy birds to Clash of Clans, Spelunky to Braid, etc. I want to grow my skills by taking very small projects at first and moving on to middle or possibly large project in the future. Many first time indie developer make a mistake by taking a large project without assessing their limitations. Most of them lost their interest in the process of making their first game.

The essences of my game making philosophy are:

  1. Open to any ideas in designing my game (popular, casual, hardcore, absurd, weird, complex or just plain simple)
  2. Awareness to business side of game development (tax-compliance, copyright- adherence, going-concern, and so on)
  3. Stay true to idealism and completion of my art (Once I put faith to an idea of my game, I will keep working on it until it finishes.)
  4. Producing high quality product (I will not release my game until it is polished to a certain ‘acceptable’ quality level.)
  5. Realizing my limit as a game developer (I will not make a MMORPG  or RPG using 3D engine as my first game. It’s an overkill! I will start a very small 2D game project and make sure to be able to finish it. Finishing a game is very very hard for an amateur game developer.)

Apart from all of this, I have been lucky now. I have financial stability and a lot of free time to do whatever I want. These conditions allow me to pursue this game making endeavor without any hassles. I want to continue making games (in my spare time) even when I have to go back again working as  a lecturer and researcher. I want to make games forever! Boo-Yaaa!


April 2014 Game Making Progress

There are not much to tell for my progress in April. Unfortunately, I still spend most of my time doing the game assets. I create many new game assets and tweaking the old ones. I made a lot of art work for ’tile’ assets. Using ’tiles’ will save you a lot of time in creating and modifying a game level. A ’tile’ is a small piece of 2D graphic image arts that you can reuse again and again within a game. You can use it to build walls or terrains where your enemy or objects can interact with them (collision, walk, jump, fall, etc). Also, I make game arts for many objects and enemy sprites with many possible instances (for example when the enemy die, fall, walk, stand still, etc). The real progress that I made in April is to include a complete prologue story after you press play in the main menu. I add a skip button in the  short story sequences if a person want to go directly to the next game room.

The main menu now looks better than before and I manage to add the credit room that is easy to make. I also add sprite animations to each of the buttons (play, credit, game progress, music and sound effect options, and tutorial). I plan to include a simple animation in the background of my main menu to attract people attention (after I finished the required sprites).

One day, I suddenly have an urge to build the menu and the prologue story into an android .apk file for testing. In the process, I finally realise the need to put the required game icon objects to replace the default yoyo games logo icons. I took me a couple of days to experiment with different design of my game icons. For android you need to make several different resolutions to support many mobile devices. The .apk file work flawlessly on my Samsung mobile phone and tablet. Also, the display resolution scaling code that I made seems to work perfectly for both devices. In the process, I also tweak the look of my game opening menu and its prologue story. There are still minor adjustments that need to be done. I will continue refining it until I get it right. I have learned the importance of ‘real’ game testing in the targeted devices in order to get the ‘right’ feel although I only use a very simple example. Everything requires utmost attentions in a game design.

I read many things in GameMaker Studio user manual that can be useful for my game and also doing and tinkering the supplied tutorials. Their tech blog is also one of my favourite source of information. The information on the GameMaker forums is also great but you still need to filter them. Different people post different solutions and you need to pick the one that suit you best. Also you need to pay attention to old and new solutions. There are many solutions in the forum using an old version of GameMaker that might not work in GameMaker Studio. In developing this first game, I concentrate more on learning as much as I can to produce a rich game experiences. Although I did not set any strict targets, I will work hard to finish it as soon as possible. Tchau!