Digging for Fun, and Not Finding It

As I’ve continued to work on Tiny Miner, I think we’ve finally come to the decision that the game is not very fun.  There are probably some things we can do to change the gameplay around, but what was supposed to be a one-month game, and now two-month game, doesn’t feel any more engaging than it did in the first 2 weeks.  That’s probably not a good sign.  As developers like Spry Fox say, “Find the fun quickly“, and I don’t think I have this time.  I think we should shelve it and move on to other projects.

Which raises the question of where to go from here.  Certainly I have pages and pages of ideas.  We should be getting a Rift fairly soon, and that may sway my attention.  I haven’t done much 3D development, though, and I don’t have a solid idea for a game that would take advantage of the Rift in a novel, innovative way.  Not yet, anyway.

In addition, my day job is ramping up a bit as we finally start moving toward the end goal at the client site I’ve been working in since August.  For the next 4 months or so, I’m probably going to be very busy.  That might put a kink in my game devving time, but I haven’t been getting much done lately as it is, anyway.  Optimism!

Still, I’ll have at least one game project going on, even if it’s a small one.  I just need to figure out what it will be.  Currently, Tiff and I are playing Bioshock Infinite and Luigi’s Mansion 2 as well, and some inspiration may spring from those.  I think for the next project, though, I might expand on the mechanic of Villagers Vs. Vampire and the world aesthetic of Tiny Miner.  Exciting?  Perhaps!

I’ve also been getting caught up on all the discussions surrounding Pax East and GDC.  I feel like a turning point has occurred in the past year or so with respect to ultra violence and lack of diversity in games, where developers and gamers alike have said “we’re tired of this stuff, we can do better” and good on them for it.  Perhaps I’ll write a longer article about those things later.

Anyway, Happy Easter for those that celebrate it.  For some reason, I’ve always associated Easter with playing Gauntlet for the NES.  I probably only played it on Easter once or twice as a kid, but the feeling and tradition (and level music) has stuck with me.  *obvious joke about wizards needing food*

The Whooshing Sound It Makes

I apologize for taking so long to post any updates.

It’s been a month since I started my current game project.  How did I do?  Well, progress was made, but not as much as I’d hoped or was shooting for.

The goal was to create a shippable game in a month, partly inspired by Christer Kaitila (@McFunkypants) and his One Game a Month challenge, and partly from the desire to finish more games.  The end result would be a game where I’m happy enough with the gameplay and the polish that I could actually put it out into the public and ask money for it.  Then, I would add on additional features and polish going forward.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get there in February.

The main problem is that I didn’t stick to a consistent level of output throughout the month. I was doing fairly well the first 2 weeks, but later in the month I started slowing down considerably.  I was distracting myself with my well-constructed creature comforts (watching movies and TV shows in the theater, playing a bunch of Fire Emblem: Awakening and Minecraft), and when you can only write games in your free time (outside of a regular 40-hour job), that time escapes you at an alarming rate.  There are some days where I can only handle having one job, though, and those non-productive fun things help me decompress and not go completely nuts.

Still, I did make some progress, and the second part of the “One Month Game” goal was to get better at finishing a game.  Lately I’ve been starting a lot of game projects and not following through on them, and that’s a disastrous direction to take.  All that time spent on working, and no real results to show for it.  I need to finish more games and get them out into the world, so I’ll continue working on this one, which I’m tentatively calling “Tiny Miner.”

In the game, you’re a tiny miner who must travel the lands in search of ore and gems.  There are several mines laid out on a map, which I created with Tiled and some Creative Commons art:

This might not be the final map, but will be fairly close.  Then I add mine objects, which are connected to other mines by roads (with placeholder images for now, automatically drawn with Vectrosity):

Each mine has a certain cost to open, types of ore and gems to be found, and a given depth.

When the mine is opened, you then select a type of pick to take with you into the mine.  You only get one pick, and each type has a certain number of uses.  For the Used Pick, it only has enough durability to get to the bottom of the mine plus 5 more uses, so you have to be careful if you want to get out of the mine without needing to be rescued!  On the plus side, a used pick doesn’t cost any coins.

After that, you jump into the mine, and try to get to the exit at the bottom while picking up valuable ore and gems along the way.

Again, I’m still in the “placeholder art” stage, so it doesn’t look pretty yet.  But the game logic is mostly done at this point.  The biggest feature I need to write at the moment is the one Tiffany came up with, where each mine actually has multiple shafts that you need to dig into.  Each shaft completed will give you a star, and you can see the star rating of each mine on the map.  It’s a sort of completionist guide, and I like the idea.  Plus, it will allow us to have more “mines” in the game without cluttering the map.

So that’s my plan at the moment.  Continue working on Tiny Miner until I have a Minimum Viable Product, put it out there on the various app stores (probably as a free title, with in-app payments, and no ads this time), then add features on a continuous basis.  I have to admit, I’m also kinda chomping at the bit to start on some 3D proofs of concept, as the Oculus Rift and Ouya are being released very soon.  But, I need to focus on finishing games first, otherwise there’s no point in having a game company if I don’t create revenue for it.  At least I’m getting better at this sort of thing.

Thanks for reading, and happy gaming!