The Game Developer's Journal: Looking Behind, Looking Ahead

Friday, July 11, 2014

Looking Behind, Looking Ahead

Okay, I may as well start. I was just sitting here for some moments pondering my life concerns and my game's current situation. I thought, "Just start the post. You don't have to find the perfect topic before you begin." So now I've begun. Thirty words and counting (that's just a guess).

Ah, yes. Game development. Let the word and all its connotations sink into your consciousness. For you, perhaps the word means nothing. If you've actually given up massive amounts of time to the practice, then, have more than your share of thoughts.  

"The Amoeba of Light" is an ambitious project. I know that. I knew that. And as time passed and days skipped by, I let my imagination expand the idea with new innovations and designs and narrative and all that good stuff. So the project became huge--naturally unscalable for one indie developer. I decided I should define exactly what I want in this game.  Turned out I had to do more trimming later. And more trimming.

I want to make an extraordinary game, and I'm sure every passionate game maker does. I want to blaze new trails of design, and explore frontiers of unseen ingenuity. This is a world-changing deal for me! I'm after the funnest, most amazing, most meaningful experiences. "What's the purpose of videogames? Why does it really matter?" I ask those questions too.

I study video games like an academic subject, and dig through incessant logic as I interrogate myself for answers: how do I make games better? How can video games step out into realms of significance that no one thought possible? What is the key component that makes games fun? How can video games benefit the player? What makes such and such game so engaging? 

And then somewhere in my searching, I step back, take a glance at video games as a whole, and wonder what the point is anyway. This has happened more than once. But it's only a very short time before I reengage myself in the process once again.

The reason this happens is at least due in part to how I see games. Whenever I come to the conclusion that a game is just a virtual diversion confined to a 17" screen, all the searching becomes nearly meaningless. Everything is within the parameters of how to make this digital medium funner. If it only comes down to a science of how to make the player enjoy themselves, how disappointing.

And that's another thing. Somewhere in the river of techniques, theories, and knowledge, I get lost. I realize how much there is that I supposedly don't know, because I have to learn all the "rules" before I can make a great game. I'm not fond of learning how to meet someone else's standards.

Are games just a teasing enjoyment? I mean, once you believe its a science, it comes down to trying to get the player to feel good. How's that done? By  straightening out the roads, raising the valleys, and lowering the mountains. We're creating the most pleasing place for the player by conditioning the experience to be enjoyable. When you look at it that way, it's no longer, "Hey I beat this boss! I really did something great!" No actually, we designed the game so that you could master it. No more can you have childlike delight in your triumphs and clever actions, because we, the developers, actually structured the game to make you feel good about yourself.

How can we therefore consider this to be true happiness? Making a good game is all about paving a path for the player to lead them to a feel-good experience. That's it! And when the game comes off, what does it mean? Nothing, absolutely nothing.

But maybe I should repose the question to myself: is making a good game really all about the science of conditioning for happiness?

When I make games, I want to change people. I want to encourage them, enrich their lives, and lead them to health. And I don't believe it's impossible to do this. With God all things are possible.

When I look up into the stars on a cool, clear night, I get a sense of something marvelous. There's something greater. Often times, I'm inspired with new ideas from sights like these. Inside a game, the world presents a similar magnificence. Games are a work of art and are becoming more immerssive.  Are people actually enjoying video games, or are they just experiencing a rush of emotions when they blow up an enemy vessel? Are they genuinely happy or just acting under compulsion when they try to aim for the highest score? I don't simply want people to like games.

I want people to enjoy games, while and after they play.

You shouldn't look back on an experience and mourn over all the time you wasted. Just like a good novel, you should be able to play a game, learn from it, enjoy it, and benefit from it afterward.

Okay I kind of strayed from my original subject for this post. I was going to say how the development process for "The Amoeba of Light" was hitting a dull moment. Really, I was glad to spend time writing this post today in place of working on the game.

It doesn't have to be as hard as I'm making it. In the pursuit of perfection (or something close to it) I'm afraid of making mistakes. Yet I thank God that I have improved. At the times when I look ahead to see all that needs to be done, I feel incompetent and am tempted to stop. Sometimes I just want to take a break. Unfortunately, the game's schedule doesn't really make room for breaks, but I may need to make something happen...

Somehow it'll get done, I most only press on. Whatever happens, I'm on the road to greatness. I know that for sure. It's only a matter of time before I get there. 

Sorry, no pictures. :(

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