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I Need To Stop Wasting My Days Off

It's bed time, but I sure don't feel like turning in knowing how little I've accomplished with my free time.  My part time work schedule grants me two weekends a week, and what did I do with it?  The same thing I did last week: entertain myself with Hayate The Combat Butler while picking idly at my vast game collection.

Actually, I did play about 15 hours of Space Rangers 2: HD, mostly because that game does an incredible job of mixing up the gameplay.  The main space travel mode is sort of a turn-based version of Sid Meier's Pirates!.  The planetary siege mode is a capably-executed real time strategy game with modular units.  The black hole exploration is a top-down shoot em' up.  There is even a number of text adventures you can undergo to perform certain quests.  On top of all that, the entire game is a space opera, a personal favorite genre of mine.

Yet, I find Space Ranger 2's endgame lacking because it all boils down to upgrading your ships' components until you have powerful enough of a ship to just blow everything away, and that's just a long grind that leads to an anti-climatic ending.

If a game as diverse as Space Rangers 2 can't entertain me, there's no hope for gaming-kind to keep me for long.  However, I'm looking forward to X: Rebirth, due out in a couple weeks, I hear there's a new Phoenix Wright out (which I'll get around to playing if I ever finish the remake of the original games I picked up on my iPad) and maybe Starbound will be out in time for the holidays.  Otherwise, I know of no game worthwhile to play before it's 2014.

At times like this, it seems like I really need to take my impenetrable gaming finickiness and use it as a whetstone in creating a game of my own.  Unfortunately, my game development plans have been stymied.

Perhaps Nagi is not the only Hayate The Combat Butler character
I share some common habits of...
GameMaker is proving to be considerably more awkward to work with than I thought it'd be.  I should shoulder some of that blame: it would seem considerably less awkward if I actually used it enough to be more comfortable working with it.   But ultimately that single-room-active-at-a-time aspect of it is curtailing my plans to make persistent state environments.

Another problem is that I'm used to tile-based design methodologies, because it's nice and simple to build a world out of squares, yet conductive to potentially powerful gameplay mechanics.  (It certainly didn't hurt Minecraft or Dwarf Fortress.)  Yet, GameMaker is not a tile-based engine.  GameMaker does have support for actual tiles, but they're restricted to being non-interactive background art.  Interactive tiles in GameMaker are created using loose objects posing as tiles.  Having hundreds of those objects really slows down GameMaker and forces me to keep the rooms small.  The greatest consequence is that it's very awkward to implement a procedurally generated map in GameMaker - it's certainly doable, but involves extensive workarounds.

If I want a powerful tile-based engine, I might need to change what I'm using, but is that throwing the towel in early?  After all, buying a professional license for GameMaker Studio was no small investment.  A large part of the reason why I bought it was because of its cross-platform compatibility, which allows me to create apps on platforms even JAVA can't touch, while BYOND (a great tile-based engine) is highly platform exclusive to the point where only a small audience is likely to find it.  If I were to get really good at using GameMaker, perhaps all these issues I'm having with it would be moot... or perhaps I would be sealing my fate with an engine that is ultimately intended for concepts far too simple for my finicky gamer wants.

Maybe I just need to ditch the idea of a tile-based engine and practice literally thinking outside the box.

One more hurdle: even if I did get around to making my own games, I'm harboring doubts I'll be able to sell them.  Last week, I saw Saints Row IV, a triple-A game released to rave reviews just two months ago, was already being sold at a half off sale price.  It seems to me as though the supply so far outstrips the demand in gaming that many aspiring developers are giving their games away for free just to get noticed, and this is usually what I notice other people playing in public.   In such a hostile economic environment, chances are that making my own game will be an entertaining pursuit for myself, and nothing else.

If I can neither succeed in having a creative outlet nor selling them, I may well end up having to work full time, after all.

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