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Still Seeking The Space Grail

Focus has been difficult.  I've been down for about a week with that nasty cold I mentioned in the last entry, but I've had days in which I feel fine, and my thoughts are returning to game development.

It seems that a great deal of what I'm doing is trying to pursue what I've referred to as the final frontier in PC gaming.  I've been doing quite a bit of thinking about it and, being such a seasoned procrastinator gamer procrastinator, I've certainly a number of games I've played in the past to draw upon, perhaps the foremost examples being:
What do these games have in common?
You might think, "There's been so many of these kinds of games, no wonder there's not a whole lot of them in the here and now: the genre is played out."  I'd disagree because the funny thing about each game is that they all have a wholly different approach to go about the concept - none of these games are clones of eachother, although some of them are sequels (at times, spiritually so). There's still quite a demand for this kind of game.  Why else do you think FTL got a $200,000 kickstarter when they were only asking for $10,000?

So why aren't more of these games being made?  I think it's because they're so very hard to do "right."  The trouble with this "final frontier in PC gaming" thing is that it has such a broad focus, there's just so many different ways to go about it, and it's hard to say what the "right" way to do it is, or even if there is such a thing.  For example, I've spent a lot of time quailing between whether it's better to have a single character perspective or a crew perspective, I can change my mind about this daily... at times, I think it would be best to do both approaches.

So I know the type of game I'd like to make, insofar as I've narrowed it down to the bullet list above.  However, I think that I would also like add two more factors:
  1. Procedural Generation - Because exploring space is a lot more exciting when you don't know what to expect.  There are some past examples of games that have done this - Space Pirates And Zombies and Prospector - but it's still rare enough that I'm not sure the implementations are exactly complete.
  2. Multiplayer - Because the consequences of your actions in space is a lot more exciting when they're shared with other players.   Adding multiplayer from scratch is hard.  This is the edge of working in BYOND: it's multiplayer native.
It's in the air right now; I'm not the only one who thinks this is a good idea.  I've already mentioned FTL, which has the procedural generation.  I've little doubt Notch's current efforts on x10^c will be going for both procedural generation and multiplayer, and I'm taken aback by just how much of what he mentions is something that I, too, have been doing.  The makers of Terraria, too, have been bitten by the bug in their creation of Starbound.  But do any of them have any more idea of what they're doing than I do?  Probably not because, like I said, there's so many different ways to approach the concept, and there's no single best approach to go about it.  It seems probable that everyone will have a very different realization, and more power to them for that, as I certainly can't guarantee my approach is the "right" one.

As I, too, have been bitten by that bug, I have to profess that it's making me miserable.  I believe this hobbyist-friendly game development kit, BYOND, to be quite capable of producing this game, given adequate abstraction (after all, look at the specs Starflight had to run on).  However, my game is, as of yet, an unpolished turd, not even what I would call a game.  Making progress at refining this "space grail" vision is quite difficult, the muse's whims can be difficult to fathom sometimes, and I'm courting giving myself a brain aneurysm via the power of sheer over-thinking.

Yet, despite the painfully slow, dubious, progress, this is somehow the most interesting thing going on with my computer right now.

Boredom is an enemy is productivity, too, and when I decide it's time for a break, I stare at my desktop hoping to find one of the games I've installed will entertain me.  Following a Steam sale, the entire Crysis 2 campaign was a fine 8-12 hours, but I'll probably not play through it again, and care not for its multiplayer offerings.  I've scrabbled desperately against procedurally generated games such as Minecraft or Spelunky, even the player-content rejuvenated Skyrim, but I fear I've played them out in the past.  I'm sure I'm not bored of Guild Wars 2 yet, but I somehow cannot bring myself to commit.

It's then that I realize I'm trapped, never truly off the clock, on an artistic crusade of sorts.  The only reprieve I see in the near future is the release of FTL on Friday.  Aside from that, nothing else but my painful struggles in very independent game development seems likely to captivate me for long.
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