The Fun Part of Game Making

When thinking about game making, it’s easy to get lost in the details of it all: coding, graphics, level design, physics, lighting… the list goes on. But what sometimes gets lost is the small stuff, when sometimes I just need to bust out a piece of paper and a pen and work out how something is going to work.

In the past several months, I’ve probably drawn out over a dozen sketches like the one pictured above. I just haven’t shared because, honestly, they look even more like chicken scratch than that one and barely even made sense to me once I was done doing what it helped me figure out. (Ever seen dots and coordinates on an unlined sheets of paper? Yeah… like that.)

What this little sketch shows was my attempt at describing the bad guy’s attack logic to Dan. Don’t'cha see it?

The handsome stick figure on the left is our hero while the squiggly on guy on the right is his enemy. In between is an arbitrary and changeable barrier I’ve helpfully labeled “500PTS” which denotes 500 points in screen space (so as to remain screen resolution neutral). At that barrier is where the enemy “sees” our hero and reacts by stopping his path movement and taking a shot at him, which our hero can either jump over or duck under. The 45-degree lines going up and down both represent the limit to his vision while the horizontal line in the air represents a theoretical space where the player can stand and the enemy won’t react. To the left of that are some notes I’ve scribbled attempting to chart out how the enemy reacts throughout the process.

After having seen my handwriting, I’m sure you can understand why I prefer typing. (And don’t bother asking about the arrows, I’ve already forgotten why I drew them.)

The reason I’m showing this is because even though we’re making a computer game, for a very small computer, it’s sometimes important to step away from it and attempt to express what you’re doing in an analogue fashion. In fact, I can look at this and know instantly what it is I’m trying to achieve even if no one else can. Some people do this on white boards. I like a pen and a blank piece of printer paper.

To me, this is the fun part of making a game. Sure, it’s cool when new animations are dropped in or when Ricca delivers another character or when a whole bunch of new set pieces are dropped. It’s really cool when you can run through the level, actually enjoying the gameplay you’ve put together. But it’s planning things out that’s really enjoyable for me. That and seeing the end result.

There’s just something that can’t easily be captured in words in knowing that what I plan today will have a major effect on the gameplay when I’m done. And, as an ex-D&D player, I can see why every table had a host of house rules, each designed to effect the game in small way for maximum enjoyment.

So there you have it. This is the fun part.

The not so fun part is probably going to be the rest of the month. We’re attempting to have our demo finished by the end of September to tour around to our investors. That means a lot of tweaking, a lot of bug fixing, and a lot of finalization of features. But, in the end, we’ll have the core of our game engine built which will hopefully mean that I can start spending more time on platform specific features from then on out to make it app store ready while Dan and Ricca design out the rest of the levels.