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Let The Game Making Begin

For Those Of You Keeping Score At Home, a timeline of my progress in Game Maker goes like this:
I guess it's only been a month and a half since I initially decided Game Maker was the platform for me, but what a long month and a half it would seem to be.  I've spent more time blogging about it than actually using it... it would seem that trend is continuing because, fresh from my first attempt, I have to say it's going to be a bit harder than I thought it would be.

My face when.
(Source: Mike Reed's Flame Warriors.)
I've decided that the "Game Maker's Apprentice" and "Game Maker's Companion" books are not going to be very useful to me.  The trouble with these books is that they're about how to make a really professional looking 2D game in the vein of tried and true game designs of the past.  I want to make the exact opposite: an innovative indy game that may well be ugly looking.  I don't want to make Sonic The Hedgehog, I want to make Minecraft, Dwarf Fortress, or Nethack.  I was hoping to get advanced Game Maker engine tips out of these books but, skimming through the end of the last book, I think I learned more advanced things from a four forum post tutorial from Derek Yu, maker of Spelunky.

Free from having to read these two moderately dense tomes, I was able to go directly into Game Maker and attempt to make my epic space game idea right away.  Yet, inside 5 minutes in Game Maker, something really incredible happened: I was actually making a game... and it rattled me.

Bear in mind that I recognize the value of designing before coding, so I did start with a fairly good idea of how the game will look and play and even how the pieces will interact with each other.  But what typically will stump me is a piece so imperceptively small that I didn't even realize it was a design decision to be made:
  • Alright, so lets design this sequence where the ship is traveling and the player has an overhead view of it.
  • I plop down a ship and think to myself, "Well, if I tell Game Maker to move the ship to the left, will it move the ship to the left?"  Then I mentally facepalm myself.  Of course it'll do that, the computer will do exactly what it's been coded to do, no more, no less.  It's just a bad habit of questioning if this will work because of my previous experiences as a newbie coder in environments where it's far easier to make a minor mistake that breaks everything.
  • At this point, I've realized that, in a scenario where the computer will probably do exactly what I tell it to,  my responsibility to tell it to do the right thing is more vital than ever.  Do I really want the player to be able to move the ship to the left?  It is quite possible that, for better purposes of the games' design, what I really want the left button to do is cause the entire game universe to move to the right.  
  • A bit of foresight should be able to solve the issue, right?  When this game is done, will it be better for all the elements (some of which I can't even know I'll need yet) to be moved in simulation of the ship's movement, or should I just literally move the ship's x,y coordinates?  Whichever choice I make, all connected code will become dependent on that choice.  This is a decision that may span months of future coding effort, if not years.  If I make the wrong decision, I'll end up throwing that effort away, and that's ultimately time shaved directly off my life.  Can I avoid that?  Think, man, think!
  • I sit back and think about it until the cognitive dissonance threatens to give me a brain aneurism.  Then I'll go procrastinate, or maybe take a nap, because all this effort leaves me feeling too worn out to develop anymore.
As I've said way back when I made the decision to go with Game Maker, based on my previous experiences, I knew that the real devil was in the details.  This, ladies and gentlemen, is a game designer's eternal struggle, and Game Maker delivered me onto that battlefield in an extremely efficient manner because the IDE is so intuitively designed and reasonably idiot-proof.

That's awesome, and YoYo Games deserves congratulatory pat on the back for that.

However, because of Game Maker's quick evocation of thought into action, I'm now being directly confronted with the elephant in the room: I'm spineless.  In the recent past, even after I overcome the technical hurdles to code what I wanted in BYOND, I was never able to come to grips with taking responsibility for what I will create.  I would always change my mind and want to make something else before completing the commitment to see a game to completion.

Worse, mine is a learned kind of spinelessness, no mere irrational fear, but borne from an experience: the perpetual abuse I've endured at the hands of triple-A game developers.  Wow, that sounds melodramatic, but there's actually a grain of truth to it when you consider that I've had to endure clones and casual sell outs for so long that there's not many games I'm willing to play anymore, and I'm genuinely terrified of making another such game myself.

Maybe this is a good thing.  If I'm massively apprehensive about making clones and shallow games, then is it not inevitable that the game I'll make will be reasonably unique and deep?  If so, then overcoming my fear through diligence and practice would inevitably produce something new and interesting.  That would be worth the effort.


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