Keeping Up Appearances
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.
I was talking with my dad and showing him my new one-man game. We were discussing the mechanics and the modular way I built it and how much was left and so on.
I explained that there was a bunch of work left to do before the game would be shippable. I'm in the heat of production, that phase where you are happy with how the project has worked out so far, but now you need all those detail animations and UI and code polishing, everything that takes it from amateur to a product you feel is worth commercial value. (Man I hope this is worth 99 cents…)
My dad looked at the game and responded that I was going above and beyond what was needed, that such things would help, but I should probably focus on just shipping the game. I could certainly understand where he was coming from.
I have been working on several games since I went indie. Zero have shipped. It's been frustrating. Most of the projects have not shipped because they aren't ready, and that's fine. I began this solo project on my own with the intent of fighting the helplessness that comes with being part of a larger vision with a long timeline. I was raised to make my own way, and yet you often make your own way by joining a larger force.
It's great to be part of something larger, but it's good to feel comfort and stability as well. I'm sure many of you know, even the success and stability of a AAA company with health insurance and other benefits is dependent on a myriad of factors, many as fickle as the public playing or not playing your game.
So with such a feeling of helplessness, I had to come back and think positively about day to day living, and thus I've been making my own game in spare time for the last few months.
Success requires more than just a good idea and a few animated sprites moving around at the touch of a button. You have to care about those extra moments, you have to know the details, you have to care about your art and your craft. It's not enough to ship what I have done so far. I am in "THE REAL WORLD", people won't give me the time of day if I don't give my work the same. Dammit, I plan on being competitive.
Making a prettier Game Over screen, adding shadows underneath the characters and more animation, highlighting important elements, none of these actually affect how the game works, they don't change the system whatsoever, but they do change my and your perceptions of the game, and that is important to what you do. While I write this blog, I will pull out sections, I might reorder paragraphs, make other changes, because the whole point of this post is to present information and thoughts to you, and how I write these ideas will affect how you receive them.
Every little extra piece of your game is the most important part. I won't go to a store and buy a new appliance if it's missing a manual. There are expectations I have, reasons I am paying for a new product. Mostly I buy used stuff (there's so many useful and nice things that people throw away) so when I choose to spend money on something new, the love and quality of that product is a deciding factor.
I learned a lesson years ago when I was first attempting to build Half-Life levels. The best way to make a level look more real, to add fidelity, was to add just a few small details to break up the monotony of a space. Little outlets, light switches, a decal of rust over in a corner. Drop a small little item somewhere, and suddenly your room has scale. Real walls are never blank. Just dropping that tangled piece of wire in a corner of an otherwise empty room gives the room individuality. It shows that you care about the space.
I have a bunch of little details that I still have to add to my game, each is a sign of love. So yeah, the game won't ship until I've put in the necessary details. And in this project, any failure is only mine.