Monday, March 11, 2013

The lost years

The other day I was talking to a friend about the lack of time we have to really focus on our hobbies.  I recall saying something like "if I didn't have kids I would have already created the next angry birds."  I guess I say such things to make myself feel better about my recent failed attempts at video game creation.  However looking back, the sad truth is that I was failing at this way before I had kids.  Maybe by noting what I think are the pitfalls I can avoid them with Blue Boy.
Here is a high level summary of what I think the major stumbling blocks have been:

Technical limitations
Creative limitations
Lack of fleshed out story line
Overly ambitious game mechanics

OK I am not sure which of these short comings is most most significant but I am thinking technical limitations goes towards the bottom of that list.  Not sure why I placed it at the top but I will start with my struggles in that regard.  I am a software engineer with an advanced degree in cs but in all honesty that has served as more of an obstacle that anything else. The first time I sat down in front of the computer to create something was an exercise in futility.  I faced creating a game like some type of term project where I was going to start from the bottom up an implement every little cog that went into creating my game.  No cutting and pasting code for me man I was going to account for every little pixel.  After about 3 months I knew a great deal of assembly language and had drawn a stick man on the screen.  He could walk across the screen and looked something like this...

I remember showing my girlfriend this wonderful work of technical genius and she just stared blankly and ask what is it suppose to do.  I was getting no where fast.  Fortunately I had enough sense to stop programming my video card and start using sprites and Java.  Finally I was getting somewhere and a few months later I have a poorly drawn pixel art character walking across a blank screen, and knew a lot about Java and Object oriented programming, but still nothing you could call a game.  Life happened and I put aside the idea of creating any games for a few years.  Eventually I came across someone who knew a bit about graphics programming and they inspired me to great my own characters and give the gaming thing another try.  This time I was actually able to place objects on the screen that actually interacted with each other!  And you could control the outcome of the game by using your mouse.  I guess you could call that a game but it had no HUD and no way of gaining points.  Once again I proudly showed my girlfriend (new girlfriend) and she asked why I spent so much time working on it.  What was the point.  I agreed and went into me second retirement from video game creation.    At some point I got into rendering 3d graphics using a program called Blender, and when they came out with a game engine I decided to give that a shot.  I started on the creation of this 3D airplane simulator game.  Eventually I was able to actually fly around inside of a 3D world with clouds a sky, runway, etc...  Once again I became frustrated, but this time I knew why.  I had worked out most of the technical issues, thanks in large part to the good folks of Blender, but I have no idea what I was trying to create.  I had no story line for this game.  So I took some time to play other 3d flight sims and sketch out what I would like to do.  Things were sort of coming along until I got caught up in:

1. How to properly fly the plane
2. How to introduce enemy AI
3. How to keep the plane from flying through the ground
4. etc...

I got frustrated once again and stopped.  I realize now that my problem was that I did not work out the game mechanics prior to  doing a bunch of implementation and had painted myself into a corner.  In either case this was the start of another game creation retirement.

Over the next few years I had many more failed attempts.  Mainly failing as a result of one or more of the reasons mentioned above.  One thing I noticed though is that each time I took away a little more knowledge and skill in an area that is essential to game creation.  Graphics design, AI, animation, music creation, and story boarding were all learned during this process of trial and error.  So by the time I got a hold of this latest game engine called Construct 2 I was ready to finally say enough is enough!! and commit to creating some kind of playable game by the end of 2013.  I sketched out a storyline on some scrap paper, and have begun working on the game.  I decided to use this Blog as a way of tracking my efforts.  Most importantly I am hoping to use this Blog to bring Blue Boy to life and by doing that motivate myself to complete both this character and his world(s).


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