At the risk of eliciting cries of “Oh ya mug!” I’ve made a change to my projects. Whereas before I was steaming away on Kung Fu Chronicles (aka Kung Fu Legends aka that-Kung-fu-game-you’re-making), I’ve shifted projects and priorities around. I’ve discussed before some of the game engine stuff I had been working on. As a proof of the ontological argument (or Omnipotence paradox), I had created parts of my game engine that were so awesome and featureful that even I had no idea how to use them. So I was stuck.
I have also mentioned before that I was working on a board game called The Day After. Brief synopsis: You’re part of a band of survivors after a weird cataclysmic event, and should co-operate so that you all get to rescue… but is co-operation always in your best self-interest? The idea of The Day After was to make something in the vague genre that Arkham Horror lives in, but do it better. My main criticism with Arkham Horror is that with all the tokens, characters and special rules, it’d be better realized as a video game. Anyway, I’ve done most of the alpha design for The Day After, but was finding it slow to put things onto even prototype cards and get it all working as a cheap-ass board game to foist upon my unsuspecting friends. I wasn’t sure about a bunch of rules, or any of the numbers, amongst other concerns. Prototyping it for quick trial play was taking longer and a lot more work than I expected.
Late last year when I was brainstorming ideas, I tripped over the idea of testing some of the game elements by programming a dumb Monte Carlo simulation of the rules and run millions of test games to see what needed balancing. It was a great idea, but I realised to properly simulate it, I needed to put in certain AI routines. For example, to be rescued you need to achieve some goal (eg, restore power), signal the rescue (eg, with a radio) and get to the rescue spot. To get virtual characters to jump through these hoops they needed some basic planning or pathfinding, which sounded like too much work for just testing.
Anyway, I was talking about these issues with my mate Alex who floated the idea of programming it up as a game for prototyping, focussing on having debug capabilities to rewind games, tweak numbers and continue. Due to the way he phrased it I had the brilliant idea to make The Day After into an actual video game. It was a simpler project than Kung Fu Chronicles, but would provide me with a simple framework for testing out game engine ideas. I think I’m okay at general game design, but my game engine design experience is almost non-existent. By programming something simple, I could bootstrap my way up to smashing the block I had with Kung Fu Chronicles. Plus it could serve as a nice fundraiser for my other projects. I still would like to turn it into a physical board game, but that can be later along when the rules are more refined. Plus I can give the video game a board game aesthetic (like Dangerous High School Girls In Trouble!) which simplifies and unifies graphic design.
I’m doing much better with this as my primary project. Already I have a better events system, game loop and general approach to objects. When my girlfriend goes on holiday for a while I’m going all-out on my projects. Hopefully I can get The Day After and my long-suffering novel Breathe into much better states. I’ll keep you guys posted on how it goes.