The Worm Ouroboros, that forever eateth its own tail. That’s my development cycle.
I spent a year and a half, maybe even two years, building Exon as a procedurally-generated dungeon crawler. Over that time I rewrote the level generator at least six times, edging ever closer to a system that would actually make nice playable levels and not be insane to extend and tweak.
Then I decided it was time to finally attempt natural cave levels to break up the bunkers, and the whole thing fell apart again. Feeling that the near-constant rewrites of the level generator suggested a more fundamental problem with my approach, I have decided to change direction.
Pretty much everything I do in Unity, I compare to what I could do in Warcraft III. One of the most surprising (to me at least) omissions was the ability to make custom materials. That is, being able to layer, blend and animate textures to create a final look for your characters.
In this strange modern worlds, such things require one to make shaders. That means a whole heap of extra programming work, and some pretty esoteric programming at that.
Then they invented lovely graph-based shader builders.
What’s in a name? A game as called by any other name would smell as sweet, or so the old Romeo and Juliet quote goes. But I’m not sure that I agree, Shakespeare, because as lots of classical fantasy and folklore will attest, names have power.
For as I’ve been working on this game project of mine, I have been pondering what to call it. This is difficult for me because, as a shallow man in thrall to the shape and the power of words, it’s got to be a good name, and fulfill many criteria that others might consider to be… a bit facetious.
Either way, this is a very important project to me, so it has to be just right — and as I’ve decided that 2018 will be The Year Of a Release, I can wait no longer. It must be named.
It’s the most productive time of the year! That means it’s time to tackle those big problems that put the fear into you at in any other season. But with a couple weeks of holiday? Oh yes.
Over the weeks leading up to crimbo, I was dancing around, adding little new features and refining systems. I put decorations into the bunkers, added vending machines and guard posts, deleted the crap code that was failing to do these things before — the level generator is, dare I say it, looking pretty damn good.
The next step, then, is to take this mishmash of content and make it… into a campaign.
Yep, that’s four years since I started work on this game — it still has no name (that’s a lie, it almost has a name), but it is still blisteringly consistent with the original vision. So assuming that my constant ramblings haven’t been too coherent over the years, here’s a video so you can acquaint yourself with what it’s actually like. Also includes audio commentary if you just want to hear my dulcet tones for a bit!
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Oh yes, it’s the most productive time of the year!
Well, maybe last year I got ahead of myself. The 36-feature plan I gave myself three weeks of holiday to complete in the end took more than six months (bar one remaining feature, the Towers of Hanoi puzzle, for which I have some lovely ideas). Plans, it seems, are not really my strength.
What, then, shall this festive period hold for my still-unnamed magnum opus?
Oh, that thing where you just get out of the way of writing regularly, and then it gets harder to go back to it the longer the hiatus lasts.
I might have decided to replay Dragon Age: Origins and its expansion pack and then moved on to Divinity: Original Sin: Enhanced Edition, which amounted to… well, rather a lot of time not spent working on my own game, I’ll tell you that. I didn’t have much of note to say about either, so I just didn’t say anything.
Now, though, after that holiday, it’s finally time to tackle a problem that’s been lurking at the heart of my engine for a long time now: its use of animations.
This might be the sixth time I’ve reworked my level generator. It’s incredibly complex and every time I think I’ve got it right… Well, after each rework, everything goes smoothly until I start to layer on another system — then suddenly the architecture can’t hold anymore and it’s causing more pain than gain.
Other times, yes, I’ve just been too clever for my own good and tripped over my own shoelaces. Is this one of those times? Erm, possibly…