Our Story So Faror:
Why You Should Make the Game Before You Ask For Art, Dumbass:
A Cautionary Tale
Once upon a time, John Sandonoval and I found out that we go to the same stupid school, so we decided to make a game. The first game we made, a tribute to the monster king, was buried deep within the forums. We then attempted to make a real game, the story of which has been lost to a terrible and wondrous place, where pornography and pugs live together in harmony. Finally, we decided to try one more time. This time, the game would have a much smaller scope, and it wouldn't be based on what might be the shittiest series of video games ever made.
The game, we decided, would be based on an idea Xion and I came up with a few years ago when talking about what gimmick to use for an Ikiki platformer
ripoff. One of us (I don't really remember who) suggested throwing different types of dudes, combined with the light stealth mechanics from Ikiki's games and the action-puzzle platforming.
Unfortunately, we started working on code and graphics for the game at the same time, which was ultimately about the dumbest thing we could've done. This version looked something like this mockup:
This version of the game actually made it pretty far. Most of the basic game mechanics were in, and a large number of the animations for the main enemies and the player were finished. You could grab dudes and throw them, interactive stuff was in, a few neat enemies were finished, and the "engine" was in a state that allowed me to add new enemies / items fairly quickly. We were messing around with some simple levels, although at this point in development, most of them ended up being crate puzzles, which are objectively the worst kind of puzzle.
(Click the gif to view a larger version)
(Those lasers turned out bitchin, I'll be sad to see them go.
(Click the gif to view a larger version)
(You could "surf" enemies you grabbed to deal with the fall damage. Felt fun, but didn't really fit with the other mechanics, and I had to explain it 20 times whenever someone tested the game.)
(Some of the art assets for the old version)
The main problem with this version was that a large number of design choices were made to fit the art. This wouldn't be a problem, normally, but the original idea for the game didn't quite fit with the art style. In order to make the game feel more smooth, the design ended up being stretched in two separate directions, making the game feel bland and stale. The art would have worked well with a certain type of game, but not the one we originally set out to make. Another issue was that, while the game was small in scope, and the art style seemed simple at first glance, the number of animations required to add a new enemy or item kept increasing drastically. John's workload became higher than it should have been for such a simple idea.
I started bringing up these concerns to John (read: whined like a little babby), and, understandably, John was hesitant to scrap all of the work we (mostly he) had put into the game so far. I decided to throw together a prototype (!!!which I should have done in the first place!!!
) to see if the original game I had in mind would be any more fun, or if it was less of a conflicted design issue and more of a "this game is just fucking boring" issue. I threw together a prototype in a few days, using about half of the old code, and without worrying about art considerations. This version felt much more coherent, it seemed like it would be easier to make content for, and it was more fun. After a bit of deliberation, we decided to remake the game in this fashion.
(Yay programmer art! Bonus points to anyone who can guess wtf the stuff is.)
(Some of the new art, and a simple level.)
(Some of the art assets for the new version.)
Now we're working on this version of the game, and things are going a lot more smoothly, design wise. I've only been working on this new version for a few days, not counting the code from the first attempt, and John has only been working on the new art assets for a few hours today, but the game is already feeling better than the original. The takeaway from all of this is something that gets repeated all the time, but it bears repeating yet again: MAKE A FUCKING PROTOTYPE OF YOUR GAME FIRST.
Most of these problems would have been avoided had I made a prototype of the game before John started working on art assets. Alas... that was not the case, and a few weeks worth of work ended up being wasted. (Although we might still use the art assets for another game down the road, who knows.) In the end, though, we didn't do that, and, although it was a hard decision to make, and it'll be some time before we can be 100% sure of this, I think that we made the right choice. It was better to deal with these problems (even if I caused them through stupidity) before it had gotten to the point where we were releasing a game that just... wasn't very good.