The Story So Far

Hello. It may not have escaped the attention of both of the people who read this blog before that the site has been changed slightly. This is mainly because this is now going to be more of a portfolio/devblog being maintained by me, Ash, than anything else.

Basically, after finishing Nuclear Storm, the games we had planned on developing (‘we’ being Me, Dan and Miles) fell a little flat and then life got in the way, so I’ve continued to develop some of my own ideas, which is sort of what this post is about…

Where we were

The idea behind developing Nuclear Storm (which is still playable here!) was to learn how to use Unity while obviously making a finished game, and we learned a lot. Like, more than I could have imagined. The code and general art pipeline makes me wince now, but you’ve got start somewhere and I’m really happy with what we produced. I’m actually proud enough of it that I’d love to go back and “remake” it at some point, without the horrible code and clumsily implemention of Dan’s artwork, obviously.

The next project was supposed to be Stranded, a sort of puzzle/adventure game, which I still think could be a great idea. Unfortunately I think we bit off more than we could chew in terms of scope, and just how much we were actually capable of at that point in time. Again, it’s something I’d like to come back to at some point. The development did inspire what I decided to next, though, while we all got busy with our lives.

The mini-games

With the knowledge that learning by doing is clearly very effective I decided to keep making games, basically. Unfortunately, I’m no artist, but since my main aim to was to keep learning, I decided to think of mini-games (or old school flash games) that I could do my own take on and try to make one every month. I get to keep the scope of the project simple (increasing it slightly if it was a particularly simple game) and not worry about the art all that much, while having something immediate to focus on – I didn’t want to spend a lot of time designing a game when I still had lots to learn about how to bring that design to life.

The extra advantage of this plan, which I didn’t actually realise until after I’d almost finished my first game, was that I’d get a chance to interact with people playing my games by using a service like GameJolt. GameJolt is basically one of those previously mentioned Flash game sites, but includes games built on a much larger range of platforms and includes features like leaderboards and achievements. Having people actually play on my games is the reason I want to make them (which may seem obvious, but I’m not entirely convinced it’s the reason some people do it!), and the players at GameJolt are very enthusiastic.

Park It

So, my first game was based on those top-down parking sims that I remember playing years ago when I should have been working but got especially bored – You control a car and you have to park in an assigned space in a car park (or “parking lot”) with an often increasing amount of hazards.

You can play my version here.

I’m going to write a separate post about what went right, what went wrong, and what I think I learned, but long story short, I loved the process. I produced everything for the game except the music, so it’s especially nice to read some of the lovely comments that people made about it.

Unfortunately, some rather horrible personal circumstances (all fine now, thankfully) after finishing Park It meant that I ended up away from development for quite a while. Afterwards, since I’d clearly broken my ‘game every month’ plan (Park It actually took me 5 weeks, but quiet down, you) I decided to start working on a game idea I had ages ago that would also work on touch-screen devices.

Turn By Turn Racing

As the title hints at, Turn By Turn Racing is basically a turn-based racing game. Players pick a gear and move their car a set distance based on that gear, before passing to their opponent and repeating the process. Judging the distance you will move and making educated guesses to gain ground on them being the aim.

It took me quite a while to get Turn By Turn working anywhere close to how I wanted, but I posted it around to get some feedback once it was mostly working and it got some good reactions and a *lot* of suggestions, which varied wildly in the direction the game would take. I had some basic ideas for where I wanted the game to go, but nothing that I was absolutely certain of, so this feedback was both brilliant and, in hindsight, a bit of a pain.

Again, I’ll write up a separate post about what I learned, but the main point is that I rushed in too quickly. Not having a concrete plan before I started developing some of the core features meant that I’d painted myself into a corner in some senses, and some of the suggestions left me a little confused about exactly which direction I needed or wanted to take the game in.

Again, you can play the latest version on GameJolt here, or download the Android version here. It’s essentially one basic mechanic at this point, but it gives an indication of what I wanted to achieve, I think.

Sniper

So here we are now. After another short break, I started working on another of those mini-games, this time based on stickman-shooting sniper games that seemed to be everywhere at one point.

This was one of the first ideas that came to me when I planned to make the min-games but I’d put it off because of concerns about producing the art and the scope of what I wanted to do. Thankfully, a slightly different plan popped into my head one day which seemed feasible and I started working on it right away.

I’ve not quite finished with Sniper yet so I’m not going to go into too much detail about what I had planned originally and how it changed (again, another post for another day) but so far it’s the happiest I’ve ever been with a project. I’ve taken my time and made design decisions early, and planned the design enough that I don’t end up backtracking. It’s been fantastic to work on so far.

I still don’t know for sure how good the game is – I’ll let other people decide that – but the early feedback I’ve received has been useful and I’m approaching a point in development where I need to start overhauling my awful placeholder art into something better. Exciting times!

Wrapping up…

This was all considerably longer than I had originally planned, but it was surprisingly cathartic. Hopefully this sets things up nicely for me to continue posting about development and gives a nice intro to anyone who hasn’t read anything here before.

I’m actually quite looking forward to writing about the development of Park It and Turn By Turn Racing, and I’d recommend other indie devs take some time to think about a project a few months after it’s completion to see exactly what you did right and wrong.

Right now, it’s back to finishing Sniper. Wish me luck!

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