According to design doc I wrote, I have finished my Halloween game. In my WebVR game Monster Zoo you suck up monsters with a spectral vacuum cleaner. Supposedly I finished it but it doesn’t feel finished. Partly because each time I play it I realize there are more things to do, but mostly because it just doesn't seem very fun to me. In my head it was fun but now that it’s actually done I don’t think I would play the game more than once if someone else wrote it. I keep trying to find ways to make it better, but they end up just fundamentally trying to turn it into a different game. So the game as it stands is a failure. But you know what, that's okay.
You see, I learned a ton while making it, which I’m documenting for the benefit of others. I learned how to work better with GLTF assets. I managed to double the performance from 25 FPS to 50+ on the Oculus Go (here's a post on performance tuning). I learned about why you need a game engine when you build a game. Actually you don’t; but you’ll end up creating an engine along the way if you don’t start with one. I produced some useful reusable code along the way (like a new animation lib) and a ton of ideas for new blogs and games along the way. So making the game wasn't a failure even if the game itself is.
The weird thing is, I have been building things from code for several decades, including tons of open source projects, but this feels different. I didn't feel this weird mix of success and disappointment when I created, say Sidekick or AMX. And it’s not just because those projects weren't popular. I think this is just the nature of making games.
Fundamentally making a game is a form of creation. A form of art. Yes, writing code for an animation library has an art to it, but making a game is capital A Art, just like painting or sculpting. When you build a library you probably have a particular end goal in mind, certain things it must do, and if it does those things then it is considered successful. Building a library is an exercise in design and engineering. But making a game is Art.
Art has no "functional goal" even if there are certain things that it must do to function. A game exists to create feelings in the mind of the player. In this way it is no different than film or painting. It has no definition of success the way a library does. The act of creating it is the success.
Thus the challenge of being a game maker means everything else that comes along with being an artist. How to stay motivated. Handling criticism. Turning failure into life lessons. Art is hard. Being an artist is harder.
So what is next ?
First I need to write up everything I learned so that others can use it. (my ongoing ThreeJS + WebVR tutorial series) Then I can start on the next game. I have several new ideas and I can’t decide what to work on next. I have noticed that most of my ideas revolve around different ways to interact in VR. Sounds like I need to do some prototypes.
The important thing is to keep motivate and keep creating things.
Have you ever felt this way about a game you made?