Experimental Experiments

Did I already mention that I like to experiment with small ideas? Well, if you take a look at my codemachinery website, you discover that mostly anything there is an experiment in some form.
I think coding some small experimental game now and then is a very good habit for any game developer. Because the time investment is not that big (usually between 1 day to 1 week), it is not so important when in the end the overall result can not be considered a success. Instead it is more important to celebrate all the new things learned along the development process itself. E. g. I regularly found myself having to answer these challenging and interesting questions:

  • How do I find an appealing (possibly innovative) idea for a gameplay mechanic respecting any constraints given (e. g. by a contest theme)?
  • What is a good input schema for this idea? (Some people dare to say: “The interface is the game”.)
  • How do I actually implement any of my feature ideas? What base architecture do I choose?
  • What do I want the game´s thematic atmosphere feel like? What graphics style, music, sound effects would support it?
  • How large a scope do I dare to try to implement before my limited time runs out?

Three weeks ago I ad-hoc decided that it´s once again time for some more practice in that matter. I got around spending some few hours of a weekend to make an entry for the LudumDare#24 (a 2-3 days contest). I named the game “Morph, Virus, Morph!”
Alas in the end it did not become what I initially envisioned. Especially I missed implementing the main idea of having the player improve a tamagotchi-like creature over the course of playing several levels. My time was just enough to implement a single level. But still I learned a lot on game development:

  • sfxr is a super tool to easily generate 8/16bit sounds.
  • The Unity3D standard player input scripts are not usable straight away. It is especially challenging to implement a 3rd person control combined with mouselook. In “Morph, Virus, Morph!” I invested a lot of time getting the input controls to be intuitive, but did not manage it in the end. *sigh*
  • For the first time I added music to one of my games that was composed by myself. (Up to now I used to get music from ccmixter.org and similar Creative Commons resources.) You can get it here (title) and here (ingame) if you want. Hopefully it does not make your ears bleed! 😉

In conclusion I think developing small experimental games should be for game developers something similar as what is for a martial artists to dare some sparring fight now and then: It is necessary to diversify, improve and keep up the good skills.