I think I know what game people want. I think I know how it should be. I think I now how it should work. The job now is to produce what is in my mind, to make it a reality. Basically it’s to do the job of creating the game, really, really well.
Being independent has a lot of pluses, you do things your way, you can focus on what is important, you make all the decisions yourself, and you waste no time communicating ideas.
But, it has its price, no-one to work with, and wondering about whether with more resources, more people, money, you could do a better job.
The answer? Both are true, but you have to make a choice of one.
I have built controls that allow you to set tactics. I have given myself a range of options, but I never settle it in advance. This is a key part of getting the gameplay right, and until I can see how it works and play with the controls, I can’t be sure not only whether my ideas work, but whether change and refinement will make it better. So this is an interesting stage, with more playing and thinking, than actual coding and programming.
I work on the core of the game to get that right, like concentrating on the plot if it was a movie. Similarly to a plot making a movie, if the core games design is right the game will work as intended, and be entertaining.
But the look and feel is important too. In some games there is so much focus on the look and feel that they don’t put enough into the game play itself. We’ve all seen many games like that, visually stunning and rubbish to play. It’s the same with movies, great special effects, no story worth following.
I remember seeing 2 movies one day apart. Minority Report was great Hollywood fun, with superb special effects and a giant budget. I enjoyed it but then next day I went to a film festival and saw a low budget subtitled movie about the lives of the fans of a Danish football club. The Danish football movie was much better, with a good story, great characters and feeling you had experienced something in people’s lives.
So back to the point, any images I show of the game are rough and ready. I’ll polish up the look later!
So my original Football Manager game was a simple game, but much loved. So was it really simple? Well yes it was easy to learn and easy to play. But it was subtle, subtle in the way it affected you. And it had a lot of range, a lot of different scenarios and things that could happen to you, in the framework of something that you could understand quickly and know how to use. Those design qualities are driving what I am doing now, and I was trying to think of similar things to help my inspiration to get it right. My mind went right back and although it was before my time I know it was their first hit- “She Loves You” by the Beatles was a very simple pop song, but still is catchy to listen to today, what, nearly 50 years later!! In my era of growing up, “Cos I love you” by Slade is one I remember that was a simple song that made it to number 1. Simple but, great to listen to. And I remember them saying they wrote it in half an hour! (If only this game would be so quick!). And the endless success of popular songs are mostly based on a simple song structure that we are all familiar with and know what to expect from.
As I am writing this a young lad next door is blasting out the riffs of Smoke on the Water in his garage. Deep Purple lives on! It’s well known that I like good Rock. I saw Deep Purple twice, thirty years apart and 12,000 miles apart, once in Bournemouth and not long ago in Auckland, New Zealand.
I wasn’t going to write about that, what I was going to write about was the transition in games writing where you start playing it more and writing it less. I am in that phase now. How far in I don’t know!
(I am distracted by Smoke on the Water now, can’t remember the details of what I was going to write. Uugh!)
Aah yes, it’s a key transition, where the game becomes playable and starts to absorb you. It’s one of the ways you know you have something good. One aspect I enjoy is the tuning that comes from it, where you spot things that will make it play better, make changes and try again. It’s where you build your own touch into a game and is the key difference with writing business applications. With business applications you are solving a problem, with a game you are inventing the problem to solve, quite different!
There is a design target I am working to. People comment that they enjoyed my original Football Manager, written a long time ago now. And, they would like something similar but modernised. (In some cases, they want exactly the same!). So what am I aiming at with this game? Well one thing I can honestly state is that I am aiming at simplicity, in fact you could argue minimalist. – In the sense that I intend to include only what is necessary to achieve my aims. And, my aim is targeted on the enjoyment of playing, that is my only priority. I’ll know when I have achieved that aim.
A good week this one, the feel of the game is starting to appear. I wanted to have a thin thread through the game running by the end of the week, and I have got that. So now it’s a case of playing that thread through, learning what works and what doesn’t, making enhancements, and gradually fattening out that thin thread to incorporate more, and more of the full game.
I did more work getting the league table functioning in the way I wanted yesterday. Got some UI work to do on that today. I also spent some time playing other Football Manager type games. I haven’t done for little while. It was good to do so, and confirmed that what I am doing is different, my style, but different to the others.
So, the Global Game Jam is under way. I am in the Auckland location of it right now. Great so far, I am just helping out, but good to be involved. What a great way to get people to be creative and productive, give them only 48 hours to make a game! – No project management, no politics, no prima donnas (I hope).. and no time!
(When I say we started it in New Zealand, I mean just that we started this year’s round first here, because we live in the future from most of the Rest of the World!!!) (13 hours ahead of GMT!)