Tuesday 30 June 2015

making another roguelike game (yay/boo)

my last couple of games have been pretty trad and i thought that after those i'd make something weird again. i'm interested in all different things, made a pretty wide range of stuff, but recently not so varied. so i had some ideas, big concept theme express, it was going to pile some really bizarre stuff on top of a basic dungeon scaffold but then i started making it and put some systems in place and it just crystallised out into this very trad "collect magic gem for high score" videogame videogame and all the amorphous chaos i was trying to put in didn't fit anymore. scaffold becomes game.

and like, i'm okay with that. it is good for things to take on their own life. and it is a Good Game. it's very much following on in the same vein as zaga-33 and 868-hack, call it a sequel if you want, but it is still doing its own thing and it is still new difficult interesting work to design it. and the ideas that didn't fit into it, maybe i will use them somewhere else.

i guess i'm kind of worried about being judged for making such easily categorisable games. i am disappointment for not doing "outsider art", if you recognise me for that then maybe it is quite dull that what i am making now is so much game product for sell on market.

or, i judge myself. i don't know how much i'm being influenced by thought of money. i know by now that it is pointless to have any expectation of how a game will sell, but it is impossible to not be affected by the huge difference in response to 868-hack from everything else i've made. this is how sequels happen. it's not even necessarily a money thing, just like a feeling of external validation (though obviously i do need the money once hack credits run out). i don't make multiplayer games anymore because nobody wants to play them, but a roguelike on a telephone! yeah interesting how roguelikes are big now, just a few years ago they were weirdo niche but now seems like every third big budget release has roguelike mechanics honest. or at least all the crowdfunding campaigns. "ugh another roguelike" is the new "ugh another puzzle platformer". so i guess i'm the establishment now, k.

but also like, vesper.5 and become a great artist in just 10 seconds both got quite a bit of external validation too. i haven't even tried to put something like that (whatever we're calling them now, not-games art-games alt-games game-fusion digital-tapestries, idk) as product for commerce, i guess i assume that it wouldn't succeed, don't know how valid is that bias.

i guess it is self-discovery. adventure to find out what i will make. i thought i would make all things wildly different, turns out i actually make a sequence of very closely related things; update self-image. can i justify this.

i think i justify it by saying that i am interested in game structure, and it makes sense to experiment with structure by making different shapes out of the same basic materials. making multiple small-ish games with same mechanics gives space for structural expression, because any major features only need to be internally consistent. if you try to fit every possible variation on a theme into a single game that drastically constrains its overall shape (mostly there is one specific shape). the way corrypt devours itself would not be nearly so bold if it was isolated mechanic in one subset of puzzle levels.

so 868-hack was drafting from random setups, iterating over very short game to build streak metagame. new thing has same pieces, opposite configuration. small differences resonate through entire design.

Friday 19 June 2015

haven't been writing much here lately.

a few times i've started writing general "game design theory" posts and given up. they either seemed quite obvious or. well. we're all pretty sick of people making claims about what games really are or ought to be which are really just thin attempts to justify their personal preferences. i wanted to avoid doing that. just really tired of any time someone's writing about one kind of play they have to point out why other kinds of play are stupid and bad. so i would try to only say things i was absolutely certain i could fully justify, trying to always be precise about the category of things i was talking about and to acknowledge the outside of that category as also worthwhile, to make it clear that i know perfectly well that any design principle can be fruitfully broken. it's a lot of work to write like that. it takes a lot of words. and the more words there are the more likely it is someone will just skim over and pick one thing out of context to argue about in bad faith. can't be bothered with that right now.

it's easier when i'm releasing games because then i can just write about those and the context is completely clear. maybe i'll start writing about my new roguelike. i've become wary of drawing attention to things i'm making if i'm uncertain when they'll be released - i felt like i hurt helix a bit by showing it at a bunch of events and then putting it on hold to do 868-hack; it got attention too early and then when it came to release i'd already used that up and had a hard time selling it. but i think it would be good for me to write what i'm thinking about it. just don't take it as "NEW GAME ANNOUNCED COMING SOON". i've already been pretty bad at estimating how long things would take me and now i'm travelling i just have no idea. it'll be done when it's done nbd.

also been thinking a lot about dancing.
it is something i have no natural inclination towards. more than that; it is completely alien to me. i had no appreciation for it, no intuition, no understanding of why people would do it. when i ended up in situations where dancing occurred i would just be baffled why otherwise rational people were doing this pointless activity. when i saw a dance performance i would appreciate that things like fast complex steps or throwing someone in the air were technically impressive but i felt no emotional response.
but i am interested in alien things. one doesn't have to go to another planet to study something so incomprehensible as to seem utterly meaningless. so over the last couple of years i have been learning to dance. defying my nature. abomination.
and along the way i have also found that since it is a kind of play there is a lot in common with games for me to think about, especially about non-competitive goalless social play. i tried to write about this a couple of times but it seemed probably all so obvious for normal people. perhaps there is something my outsider perspective is useful for but i am not sure yet.
the one thing i do however really want to communicate regarding this is:
if there is a thing that other people care about that you think is pointless and stupid
stop thinking that and instead think "that might take me a year of hard work to acquire the most basic appreciation for"

no actually go back and read those two lines again because there probably is a thing and you're still dismissing it

ok so here's a blog post. done.