This installment is going to be a bit different. I thought I’d discuss some of the more “personal” aspects of development, using ROBOT-SB as the example. If that’s not that what you’re here for, I totally understand — feel free to skip this one, maybe come back next time for more coding talk.
Why do I make games? Perhaps to make a load of cash? Hmm, sure, that’d be a nice bonus, but wouldn’t really keep me motivated. In truth, I do it because I just enjoy the creative process and technical challenges – this is a hobby, rather than a job. Further, and more importantly, I enjoy the fact that my kids like being part of the process, as it gives us yet another thing to do together, and they’re pretty good at thinking up game ideas.
What follows are some examples from ROBOT-SB…
Early on, ROBOT-SB with pretty “stingy” with its awarding of stars (the in-game upgrade currency). This was mainly due to not yet having tuned the cost curves – everything was essentially too linear and too cheap.
So the “quick fix” was to just make it harder to get stars. As the cost-curve developed, eventually I was going to need to go back and re-balance the star awards in order get it all working.
My son Nick noticed this problem before I actually got around to fixing it — he’s my in-house alpha tester. He came to me saying “It’s too hard to get stars”, and of course, he was right. So, the two of us sat down one day and brainstormed possible ways to award more stars.
As is often the case in such sessions, development decisions directed by an elementary school kid tend toward the “flashy” rather than merely “functional”, but we came up with a bunch of just-spawn-multiple-stars-whenever-you-would-have-done-just-one type solutions:
Some of these patterns might actually make it into the final game, but more importantly it was the “research work” needed to get multi-valued stars implemented. (not only was the early game stingy with stars, but they were only ever worth 1 each)
Sometimes, rather than brainstorm interactively, I’ll take a collected group of ideas and suggestions, try to pre-implement them quickly, then show them off to my alpha-testers to gauge reactions. Most of this comes about from random comments of the form “it would be cool if it could…”. And you know how kids think, so finish the comment with things like: ..have a super-mega-ultra-gun, be invinvincible, ..look like Mine Craft, ..et cetera.
We call that “hacking”, and it goes something like this:
Anyway, hope you enjoyed a bit of behind-the-scenes, I’ll be back to technical stuff next time, cheers!