I know I promised a blog post on Sound Design, but its taking a little longer to put together than I thought! So, in the meantime, here is another request, again by Jessica.
Would be interesting to know how you feel about your current active marketing vs keeping your project secret until launch.
Everybody is a game designer.
I can promise that if you asked anyone who plays games, if they have an ‘ultimate game’, they would be able to give you a semi-decent description of what their perfect game would be.
STASIS is my perfect game. Its the game I wish someone else would have made. Its my ‘massive Zombie MMMORPG’, or ‘Epic Space Real Time Strategy Game’. Its the game that, when asked what my ideal gaming experience would be, I would describe. In all sorts of ridiculous detail. Hell, I’ve obsessed about the colour of the stripe on Johns jumpsuit for an entire weekend (settled on black).
If you think about it, the only people you should feel the need to hide your ideas from, are the people who have the ability to copy it. But those people already have their own ideas. They are overflowing with them! I know a few guys who have 5 or 6 entire worlds designed, and are stuck on which one to pursue.
While keeping this in mind, if someone else told me about THEIR perfect game, and it was something that I had the ability to produce, I wouldnt go near it. And the reason? Because I have STASIS. I could have recieved a completed design document for an Isometric adventure game, complete with puzzle design, characters, models, script, and I STILL wouldnt touch it with a barge pole-because in my mind, I had this idea brewing. This world that was MINE. The realisation of MY idea. And I think many creative people are the same.
Share your ideas. Share your stories.
I started STASIS with NO previous experience in designing an Adventure Game. For anyone that was a member of the StarControl 2 community a good 10 years ago, my brother and I were the team behind a game called OUTWORLD, later changed to Alien ME. It was a StarControl 2 clone, but built using our own story, and some very cool gameplay mechanics. We also did a very cool tank game called Blast Radius, which was a take on Scorched Earth.
When we started those projects, we had each other to bounce ideas off of. But we still eventually created a website, set up a forum, and had discussions about the game with other people.
When I decided to create a (small…HA!) Adventure Game, as it was my first foray into something like this, I wanted to get some feedback from other people. I created some threads on the forums I visit most, posted a few screenshots, and really listened to the advice people gave me. It has not only altered the way I’ve created the game, but also the game itself. I love hearing if people are responding to a certain feature, or a set of ideas.
But there are two reasons, which trump all others:
There is NOTHING more satisfying for an artist than to know that other people out there appreciate your work. Every comment on this blog, email, forum post…every time someone says something about STASIS I get goosebumps. And I wouldn’t have that pride in what I was doing, if I wasn’t willing to share it, in all of its embryonic stages, with the world.
Its important to share knowledge. Im completely self taught. I would know NOTHING if it wasn’t for like-minded people out there who shared their knowledge.
The fun spinoff from these ideals has been the marketing of the game. It really wasn’t my intent for STASIS to gain any sort of popularity through the blog, or the forums-but the fact that it has has been terrific. You guys are very much the reason I can open up my design book, sit down for hours after a full day of work, and get renewed energy to continue on!
And for that I thank you – and I urge you to share your ideas. Share your stories. Share your knowledge!
PS-Ill be uploading some new screenshots in a few days. Yay! 😉
I asked you guys what posts you would like to see, and Jessica had two very interesting topics, both of which are quite close to my heart, and to the philosophy thats been behind the development of STASIS.
*how you stay motivated to do so much creative work (after the initial rush of designing the game has faded).
I’ve mentioned before that, when starting any personal art project, it MUST be something you are extremely passionate about. You need to have a love for EVERY SINGLE ASPECT of the project, or you will start to slip in one area, and in turn other areas will suffer.
The reason that the game has such a heavy ALIEN, and Aliens influence is because I am OBSESSED with those 2 films. Really, its borderline unhealthy. They are my ‘go to’ rainy day movies. Both of them are such different takes on the same subject, but both hit pretty much every aspect of SciFi I love.
SEEK OUT INSPIRATION CONSTANTLY!
I also try to surround myself with inspiration whenever I can. I buy art books, listen to old 1920’s SciFi radio plays, and read as often as I can.
Here is an older post on Inspiration, and showing my ‘wall of nerd’. And yes…that is a 1:1 Plasma cutter. And yes I do run around my apartment going Pew Pew. Since then I have added a few Avatar sculptures, and 2 scale models from Mass Effect.
VARY WHAT YOU DO. LEARN NEW THINGS.
Something that has also really pushed me is that Im trying to do everything myself. When the scripting side of things gets a little heavy, I move onto the sound design. Once that is done, I can fire up MAX and play around with the graphics. Once all that is done, I can open up FL Studio, and start with some music editing. Having my fingers in so many pies is fantastic, because I always have something to do thats COMPLETELY different from the others.
HAVE A COMPLETE DESIGN DOCUMENT.
But I can honestly say that the biggest driving force has been A COMPLETE DESIGN DOCUMENT.
Having a roadmap that shows not only where you have been, but where you are going has been instrumentally important. Its let me bounce around the game, with full confidence that Im not wasting my time in a certain area. Its also allowed me to create things that will happen early in the game, that link to things much later-and its a satisfying thing to see those elements link up gameplay-wise.
TAKE A BREAK. STEP BACK. BREATH.
Something that’s also very important is to TAKE A BREAK. I would rather have a Stasis Free weekend, than burn out on the project. I get more done when I leave the project for a few days than I do when I work on it solidly. Watch movies, see friends, sleep in. If you arent a full time developer, your game should NOT take over your life. You need to have a separation to make sure that you dont loose that flame of passion for the game. It MUST be something exciting-something you miss doing-something you WANT to sit down for 4 hours with and get that last bit of interaction perfect.
Ill be putting together some stuff on the Music and Sound of STASIS soon, as well as my take on why on earth people feel the need to hide their games from the world, and why they really shouldn’t!
Again, if you guys have any requests, pop them in the comments below.
I was browing around the UNITY forums on the weekend, and took a good look at the forums where guys are looking for collaborations. Something ive noticed is that many of them fall into the same trap.
They start off with the idea that they want to create the next *insert AAA game here*, and want to either copy, or expand on what they see as the successful elements of those larger projects. Now I do understand the want to create something like that. AAA titles can be very inspirational…but you are trying to compete against something with a 4 year development cycle, and 200 constant staff members-many of whom are at the top of their game.
So what can we do?
Play to your strengths!
I’m personally driven by stories, so for me it was natural to come up with a story, and then wrap a game around it. I didnt start with the idea to create an adventure game. I started off with the desire to explore this incredible environment I had in my head. To really look at what a huge, abandoned space ship would look like. In fact, initially I just wanted to do a series of envionments to explore, and then through the natrual evolution that art goes through, the story of John came into being.
Wrapping that story in an adventure game came about when going back to my original idea. How to tell a story in this world. But no matter what genre I chose, the core idea would have remained the same.
Now when people come through with massive ideas, and the want to create a ‘Zombie MMORPG’, they are really missing the point. A large company can work backwards…come up with ‘Large Zombie MMORPG’, and then start to create test builds, experiment, and see what works. They have the manpower to build multiple prototypes before choosing one. BIOSHOCK was originally set in a twisted WW2 hospital. Then evolved into taking on the role of a Cult De programmer, sent into a cult to find a girl. From there, they started to build the game into the one we love, by pushing forward the idea of codependent relationships between enemy characters (the Big Daddys and the little sisters), and then pushed the game design in that direction.
But they have that luxury. We don’t. So how would I go about it? Well, work backwards.
Distil your idea.
Strip your idea down to its absolute core. Lets say you want to do a zombie game (which seems to be the rage). You arent going to create the CALL OF DUTY of zombie games-but what you can do is take ONE element, one FUN element, and build your game around that. As I said, start off with a single core idea.Lets say its survival.
Suddenly your massive zombie game, is a zombie survival game. It has some set boundaries that you can work around. Now you can distil your idea even further. The survival of your family. Or rather, the survival of you, and a single family member. Now you have a really nice CORE idea.
Now we need the mechanics.
You have your core idea. You need to survive in a zombie infected world with a single family member. Lets say its a father and son. Build a simple mechanic AROUND THAT SIMPLE IDEA.
Your son is helpless, and you have to protect him. If that is the core idea, the game has to do everything it can do put up obstacles to prevent that. To me that says a frantic click fest…zombie coming from all angles, as you shield your son from them. Perhaps its a case of trying to move from cover to cover, hiding your son in cupboards/holes in the wall/anywhere he can fit. Suddenly you can see where this type of game could go.
Ive spoken before about designing reusable systems, and keeping things SIMPLE. Its something that I have been guilty of, and something that has cost me many weeks of development time, which for an Indie is a MASSIVE thing.
Now go forth, and come up with awesome shit!
Are there any things you would like to see in future blogs? Articles on Sound Design, Music, Graphics? Either drop me a mail, or pop in a comment below!