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Invested Gambits And Infested Planets

As much as I enjoy my time off, I was naive indeed to believe I would get Thanksgiving weekend to myself, as I am about to be up to my ears in familial obligation.  Sometimes, my introverted nature makes me think I want to live in a fallout bunker and lock the entry hatch. 
Just provide me with adequate nutrient paste and a computer, and I'm set!
However, as much as I fear I am not making adequate time to slake the thirst of my unexpressed creativity, I already made some pretty good progress this week by realizing something I should have realized long, long ago.

What was the problem?  Well, if you look over the past few game development entries, you will see me quibbling extensively over wanting three things in a game engine:
  • Ease of use - How quick easy it is to translate my ideas into the game.  In the long run, ease of use is secondary to simply exerting sufficient will to make it happen... but it is still a real time saver.
  • Flexibility - The accuracy in which I can realize my ideas in the game.  In terms of choosing an engine, flexibility is important only if the engine does not implement the desired behaviors by default.
  • Power - The ability of the computer to simulate my ideas as integrated in the game.  Power is mostly only a concern if the game requires the computer does a lot of "thinking" to work.
The problem was that I was having difficulty picking an engine that would have a satisfying mixture of all three.  Complicating the issue, different game concepts are going to require different measures of each.  I just could not come up with a satisfactory choice!

So, what was my breakthrough?  Use more than one engine.  
In retrospect, this was obvious.  I must be getting old.
Specifically, I need two engines:
  1. A prototyping engine.  This engine focuses mostly on ease of use in order to facilitate speed of integration.  The purpose of the prototyping engine is to see if my the game concepts works out in reality as well as I imagine they will.  The faster I can bang out mockups, the faster I can make up my mind.

    Construct 2 should excel here, as I can get around any lack of flexibility with JavaScript extensions, with the exception of being restricted to "Scenes."
  2. A dedicated game engine.  This is the main shortcoming of premade game engines is that they are usually made to create specific types of games, and can only extrapolate inaccurately from there, hemorrhaging power and flexibility as they go.  It is a noble endeavor to try to make an all-in-one 2D game engine, but 2D games vary radically in concept and execution.

    Here is where I would probably turn to cobbling together a custom engine from existing APIs like monogame, possibly cutting corners by using an extendable multi-platform software delivery system like Cocos2D.  This is assuming a specific game does not run just fine on the prototyping engine, which is possible.  Honestly, for a lot of concepts, Unity3D or GameMaker will work just fine, but personally I find them just slightly too awkward for fast prototyping.
So I will have my ease-of-use where I need it (the prototyping stage) my power where I need it (the final, dedicated game engine), and flexibility throughout. 

At the moment, I am waiting to see if Construct 2 goes on a Black Friday sale.   If not, I will snap it up anyway, it has a pretty generous price by default.  Anyway, my weekend ends after Thanksgiving, so that puts the kibosh on getting anything meaningful done this week.

Now Playing: Infested Planet.

A lot of really quality indie games coming out these days are basically just such radical remixes of older game concepts that they become significantly novel (whereas AAA developers are typically constrained by flighty investors who do not even allow them even that much freedom).  For example, when I played Space Run, it was basically a form of tower defense game turned on its head by taking place on a cargo ship running through blockades of pirates and asteroids.

Infested Planet is a novel retake to real time strategy genre where you control a small handful units (mercenary space marines) that freely respawn on destruction and your opponent is never-ending spawn of aliens.  This differs considerably from your average real time strategy by being less about resource accumulation and having a foe of a wholly different nature than your own units.  However, there is a "build point" allocation that limits how well you can equip your marines as well as limiting available support structures, such as turrets, and labs which mostly unlock various passive buffs while built.

Another similarity Infested Planet shares with Space Run is that I have surprisingly little to say about it despite the game being so much fun to play because they are both simple concepts executed well with a nice presentation and smooth gameplay.  Actually, I will say that Infested Planet might not be quite as well balanced, because I find some of the upgrades you are provided with to be next to useless in most situations, but this is a fiddly kind of balance critique considering the overall balance is just fine thanks to careful weighting of build points.

Overall, I would say that Infested Planet is not quite Indie God Tier, like FTL or Dungeon Of The Endless are, but it is good enough to be a near miss, and I do not regret my time spent playing it.  I completed the campaign in one 8-hour sitting, but there's still plenty of additional modes to play.
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