Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

Big Vision Games

A frequent piece of advice given to indie devs is to work on small games, and to concentrate on the gameplay and the balance, and then add some shininess later. This is pretty much good advice. It’s good to caution against biting off too much.

Increasingly though, I am finding myself making games where this advice just does not work. My games have become about a general ‘feel’ and ‘atmosphere’, and based on a lot of things all coming together to have a cumulative effect.

Gratuitous Space Battles obviously had some cool ideas mechanic-wise, but it also had a ‘feel’ of ‘epic space battles’. The problem with this, as a design aesthetic, is that it takes a year of coding and artwork and polishing and tweaking before you can say “yup, that’s an epic space battle alright”.

This is the problem I currently have with LB. The game is awesome in my head, and I have that big vision in there for how it should come across, but it doesn’t feel like it yet. Not vaguely. Mostly this is due to crappy coder art (for 95% of it). I’ve got another 2 weeks or so before I start getting more proper artwork for it. I have to admit, it’s tricky to stare at something that looks so messy and maintain the big vision for the game. The good news is, I know I can do it, because GSB turned out alright.

I am, however, developing enormous sympathy for people running a studio with 150 people working for 2 years on a game, telling themselves every day that “don’t worry, it will be awesome when it’s done”. Talk about stress…

8 thoughts on Big Vision Games

  1. To be honest, GSB seems like the complete opposite. While it is very polished, looks as good as some AAA titles and is incredibly shiny, I find the mechanics on the weak side, and the balancing is neither very interesting nor -ahem- better than mediocre. Instead of being a deep version of Starcraft with crappy graphics (see: Space Chem), it looks nearly exactly as good, but is way less deep.

    In a way, you did something that is way more difficult. Good mechanics are probably easier than good feel.

  2. Sometimes I feel the same way as you described in the last paragraph, even as solo indie. It’s hard to tell yourself your project will become as good as envisioned. Especially when it’s already one year in the making and there’s still so much to do.

    Positive attitude is essential in those dark days. But brighter times will follow. In two weeks or so in your case. :)

    I’m wondering what LB will be/look like. So far it sounds like a fireworks of special effects.

  3. Please keep some screen shots of how the game currently looks, it would be interesting to see how they compare to the the first art import and then the finished product.

  4. I have to agree with Kdansky. GSB’s graphics look fine; gameplay and UI lack polishing and ruin the experience for me. Learning curve is much too steep – and the things you actually have to learn to master the game seem quite boring in the end (spreadsheet anyone?). Compare with Democracy (2) – also some kind of spreadsheet game – there the mechanics made some sense from the start, and you got some more interesting insights when playing it.

    Concerning sales, I know several people who do not actually play/like GSB but still bought it since Cliff is a nice guy. :)

  5. At my previous job we had projects lasting up to 5 years. And frankly the overall vision must have changed every 6 months, along with the game name. One of them, we started with a gory psychopath serial killer main character to end up with a cartoony angry teddy bear with a vengeance. So yeah, we don’t exactly know how its going to end up. But it doesn’t really matter, as long as the game doesn’t completely change. Sometimes good ideas comes far along the development and we usually try to integrate them or at least prototype them, that is how you get good games. This is part of the risk of doing game dev.

    Other times, the changes come from the publisher, so that is one less thing to be afraid of when you are indie :)

    I’m looking forward to seeing the first screen shot of that LB game :)

  6. Well we already have gotten a screenshot of the game in a previous post. I’m thinking war in a desert… With tanks :)

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