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…