Historically, I get about as far as the prototype phase before I give up on my personal game projects. Sometimes life gets in the way. Sometimes I get off work late. Sometimes I think of a better idea. Sometimes I decide my idea is dumb. But most often, my abandonment of a personal project results from a failure to understand and account for the scope of my projects.
I’m relatively new to game development (2 years professionally) and I’m still learning a lot, so my misjudgment of scope probably stems from the fact that my definition for a “reasonably scoped” personal project is constantly changing.
When I was just starting out, I recognized that I knew nothing. During this time, I picked personal projects that were minuscule, but they were still fantastically difficult to finish.
As I became more competent, I got cocky. I could hack and slash my way through almost any project very quickly, but when specs changed or things broke, I couldn’t maintain my project. Despite my skill gains, and despite stronger and stronger starts, I still found all of my projects to be nearly impossible to finish.
Nowadays, I’m focusing entirely on build quality, which I have discovered comes at the expense of project scope. I want my games to be well-built. Then I want them to be finished. I would rather create a Pong clone that is built rock-solid than create a prototype of the most interesting and innovative game idea that I can conceive of.
I realize that this approach sounds sort of unambitious, but I think that, so far, all of my approaches to gamedev have been flawed and extreme in their own ways. This new approach really isn’t any different, and that’s ok. Hopefully, as I get better and better at developing games, I’ll arrive at a happy average of all of the extreme approaches I’ve taken over the past few years.
Anyway, in accordance with my current (and possibly crazy) approach to game development, I’ve decided to work on a teeny tiny itsy bitsy little puzzle game that I’m calling Two.
Two began as the first videogame I ever started (and subsequently gave up on) developing. After beginning to design Two my senior year of high-school, I very quickly realized that I had no idea what the hell I was doing and I moved on to other things, like writing angsty poetry at the coffee shop near my school.
I resurrected Two a number of times: once when a programmer friend of mine suggested we work on a game together, and a second time when I began learning how to program for a web development class in college.
I resurrected Two a third time about two weeks ago, after a conversation with a good friend of mine on the fourth of July. I told him how I was feeling about game development, and he basically asked me: “What is the simplest game you could finish?”
Today, two weeks of work later, I am releasing an early alpha of Two. Over the coming weeks (and possibly months) I will be adding levels and polish to the game. Two is well constructed and has strong roots from which to grow. With the exception of sound effects, Two could pass for a finished, albeit tiny game. I’m proud of that.
A summary of Two and a download link can be found in Two: Part 2