Thursday, March 21, 2013

Journey into ReTaken: My First Game

Hello to all of my fellow hopeful game devs!

In my last post I stated that I'm starting to find my stride (thanks in no small part to the great bunch of people that are working on this game with me). I have a number of blog posts in my head that I plan to write. I'll be talking about my progress, the code challenges that I've faced and how I overcame them. Before I start pasting code snippets and talking about sprites however, I thought I'd talk about the game I'm working on.

Let's take a journey into ReTaken: My first game.

So, the "elevator pitch" for this game would be "a turn-based strategy game with a race-to-the-end mechanic incorporated into it's design." Simply put, you need to build and create units and structures to take on the enemy, as well as battle your way to certain places in the stage before it's "too late."

Having played a bunch of TBS and RTS games, ReTaken is inspired by the likes of the original Warcraft, Starcraft, and Fire Emblem. However, the game that plays the biggest part in it's inspiration is actually ActRaiser for the Super Nintendo.

This may seem odd to most of you who have experienced this Enix classic. After all, ActRaiser was mostly known for it's platforming, right? True, but if you recall, before you got to fight the second boss in each area you took control of your little angel helper rather than the sword-wielding god and built a town. Well, you less "built" the town and more guided the little mortals down paths, using your heavenly magic to burn forests, destroy rocks, and otherwise clear out the land.

Above is a screenshot of ActRaiser.


I loved the town building sections of ActRaiser. To me, the platforming sections where a vehicle to get to the next desolate, unpopulated area. I used to wish that you could skip the platforming sections all together and just do more town building. When the sequel to ActRaiser came out and they cut out the town section for pure platforming, I was devastated. I always wanted Enix to release a full game that was just ActRaiser's town sections.

When I re-played it as an adult (it should be noted that when I call myself an adult in this blog I'm using the  loosest sense of the word), I found that the town building parts of ActRaiser were...far less engaging then I remembered. They were still charming, but they were very, very simple. I also found out that they were impossible to lose. The sense of danger that I once held when a monster flew out of a den and barrelled towards my town was no longer present. Still, I was longing to recapture that joy and fun I had with that experience as a kid.

Thus, the idea for ReTaken was born.

Don't worry, ReTaken is not just going to be a quote-un-quote "rip-off" of the town sections of ActRaiser. I hope to make it a whole lot more than that. At worst, this game is going to turn into a nice little portfolio project for myself and the team (since right now it's just a labour of love), but with a little luck and a lot of effort, it will reach a high enough quality to actually get accepted by the Steam Greenlight project. That's the goal at least!

gl hf

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Journey into Acknowledging and Overcoming Fear

Hello gamers and game devs!

I hope you can forgive the overly dramatic title...and also forgive me for not posting in so long. Has it really been over a year? I haven't been entirely idle for the full year though...just a fair chunk of it. Now that I'm finding my stride, I think it's time to start sharing my experiences with the world again.

And this one is a bit of a doozy. Let's buckle up and Journey into Acknowledging and Overcoming Fear.

Since this blog (an yours truly) is dedicated to video games and game development, I'm not talking about the fear of the dark or your the of spiders. Not being a trained psychologist, I can't really help with that. However, I can speak to my experiences of trying to overcome my own fear of actually getting a project started. The type of fear that can paralyze you from meeting your goals.

As I wrote in my very first blog post, I've wanted to do game dev for quite some time. I'm talking as early as the age of five or six, when my little brain had matured enough to realize that games didn't just materialize from the ether. I fantasized about being in a fancy suit in front of a big board of directors at Nintendo, presenting my idea for the next big game. The presentation was met with a standing ovation, and had that one obligatory old man in the back with a tear rolling down his cheek, happy to have staved off his retirement long enough to see such beauty (so I watched a lot of T.V...give me a break, I was six).

When I got to my adult years, and had the base set of skills I needed to really start digging into game programming...I didn't. There was always an excuse. I didn't have enough time, I needed to learn more, I just need a better idea, blah, blah, blah. My loved ones and friends who I would rant to about my indecision to would always be supportive. They would say things like "what do you have to lose by at least trying? Just go for it!" I adopted that mantra myself. I should just go for it! I've been saying it for a long time now! I don't have anything to lose, so why not just do it?

I was lying to myself. I did (and still do) have something to lose.

I had my dream to lose. That's the thing about dreams...until you try and make them a reality, the dream is still a perfect and beautiful thing. Untouched by reality and as warm and comforting as it was when you were a kid. Trying and failing at a dream isn't like trying and failing at anything else. It's scary.

Without even realizing it, I was too afraid to really try. By not trying I could always hang onto the hope that I could one day do it. By not trying I'd never lose my dream.

But I'd never gain it.

It was only when I finally acknowledged my fear of failure could I start to overcome it. It was like a light bulb went off in my head when I finally answered the question "why can't I get started?" The fear of failure can be an intense thing indeed, but when you have admitted to yourself that you're afraid, you can then ask yourself the important question "how do I get past my fear?"

Not an easy question to answer. For me, it was deciding that my dream was important enough to risk being hurt if I found myself unable to see it though. It's actually amazing how much easier it was to start making progress toward my ultimate goal (starting up my own dev studio) after I acknowledged my fear of failure. I've decided to really try and turn my dream into a goal, and that goal into a reality...and it's scary as all hell.

I guess if there is any moral to be taken from this blog post (other than an excuse to be slightly dramatic), is that if you find yourself having trouble getting started toward your goal, ask yourself if it's fear holding you back. I personally didn't even realize that I was making excuses because I was afraid of failure, and couldn't move forward because of it. Maybe it's the same for you? If you find that it is, then acknowledging that fear is the first step.

Whew...good to get that off my chest. I hope you can forgive my slight foray into the dramatic. I hope to start bloging again on a regular basis. My plan is to get a large(ish) post every Thursday, with smaller posts randomly sprinkled throughout the week.

Thanks for reading, and to my friends and family, thanks for your support! Let's make this happen!

glhf