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I'm Going To Need Some More Excuses

Construct 2 is bought.

For over a month, I have smothered my creativity, waiting for Construct 2 to go on a holiday sale.  For naught!  Instead, those limey developers went on holiday, all the while spamming my email address by accident.

Enough is enough!  Construct 2 is bought, a juicy $130 license that is actually fairly generous considering it encapsulates 100% of what the software is capable of (whereas competing products would hope to entice me into spending severalfold that for the same).   Knowing my luck, it will go on sale tomorrow.

Regardless, I no longer have any excuses.  GameMaker Studio is much easier than coding from an API.  Clickteam Fusion 2.5 is easier to use than GameMaker StudioConstruct 2 is even easier than that.  It is so ridiculously easy to use that it is a little frustrating, because I immediately come into contact with any fault in progress being my own.

I guess I could make the excuse that Construct 2 is primarily limited to exporting products with a heart of JavaScript, and this limits their overall power to that of a virtual machine.  But is it really such a terrible limitation?  Anything that can interpret JavaScript can run a Construct 2 game, and that includes the typical browser, even on smartphones.  Because of this, you only need to write a JavaScript extension once, and it will work on all the platforms Construct 2 exports to.   (No wonder Scirra was able to add so many default behaviors: the overhead of managing multiple platforms is greatly diminished for them.)

Yet, even if the HTML5 performance or sandbox bottlenecks prove to be a major impediment to my project, Construct 2 is nevertheless an overwhelmingly effective prototyping app.  Meaning I can at least use it to make simple versions of a game I might want to make and then, upon deciding what I want, move on to develop in something that produces native code without the same limitations.

With Construct 2, I have given myself a set of the best kid gloves there are to ease myself into game development, so I need to stop stalling and start building.

So, what do I want to make?

Offhand, I want to make my own ASCII Sector, without the ASCII... but even this description is not entirely right.  In truth, the inspiration behind this drive to make a game is in a 1989 game called Sentinel Worlds I: Future Magic.
What is it that Sentinel Worlds did that was so worthy of bringing to the 21st century?  That's the kind of question that keeps game designers up late at night.  If you find an easy answer to why people like what they like, it is probably wrong, as people are collectively a whole lot more complicated than that.  However, a game developer is not doing their job unless they try to postulate a reasonable answer, and I fathom Sentinel World's appeal as having something to do with its freedom.

In most games, you are either on foot or in a vehicle, not both.  In Sentinel Worlds, they put you on a spaceship when traveling the solar system, an all terrain vehicle when traveling over the surface of a planet, and on-foot when your squad was where they wanted to go.  One of the most incredible, rare functions about this game was that you could actually go aboard the ships you encountered in space and fight the enemies there.

Another thing I liked about Sentinel Worlds was its setting.  Players controlled a team of conscripts working for an interplanetary organization that was almost-but-not-quite a Star Trek federation.  You jumped into the system to try to stop raiders from attacking shipping.  We are space cops?  Awesome!  But it went further than that: by questioning the locals and following the clues between three planets in the solar system, your team slowly unravels the mystery of who the raiders are that plays out more like Jedi versus Sith.

I do not plan to just lift the games' design and setting, partly because that is unethical, partly because my creativity is repulsed by the idea of marching lockstep in tune with somebody else's design, but mostly because I am sure I could make a better game if I turn my collective game playing experience towards creating it my way.  After all, when Sentinel Worlds was made, computer games were still fairly new, and the craft of making them has advanced in many ways since then.

What hope have I to be able to make it?

In some ways, my odds are better than you think.

Back when Karl Buiter and about a half-dozen others were putting together Sentinel Worlds, they had to create it using tools far more crude than the ones that exist today.  Sentinel Worlds was released for MSDOS and Commodore 64, platforms whose processing speed was measured in single digit megahertz at the time.  So today's computers are thousands of times faster and our development tools hundreds of times more advanced.

This actually creates a bit of a hurdle when it comes to content creation because huge assets (like high resolution pictures) mean huge work.  However, if I set my target asset quality to be as pixelated as a 1980s game, then everything with modern tools works to my advantage, instead.   What Electronic Arts could do in the 1980s with a half-dozen people I logically should be able to do by myself in 2015, right?
In other ways, my odds are terrible.

I have a track record of wanting to do this for years, and doing little more than nibbling at it.  The fact I would rather blog about it than do it, right now, is an artifact that it is not getting done.  I recognize a procrastination habit to curtail.  To some extent, I am writing this entry to get myself in the mood.

Yet, funny enough, I may not have much of a choice here.  Frankly, I have reached a state where it is hard to find myself willing to play a game.  I am sick of these being nothing new under the sun, and I will either challenge that or have to radically change ways and become something other than a gamer.  Besides, I have had a taste of game development, and frankly it is a bit more exciting than actually playing games...

Now Playing: Wasteland 2. playing games is a problem in that each gaming session is a speed bump in serious game development.   Yet, I would feel guilty if I did not play some of these games I was bought for Christmas, and Wasteland 2 is probably the best of them.
I have written enough, so it is a good thing I do not have much to say about Wasteland 2:
  • It is a roleplaying game.
  • It is played from an isometric perspective, fully 3D and rotatable/zoomable.
  • You control a party of up to seven characters (at least three will be recruited NPCs).
  • The combat is turn-based, with an initiative bar to keep track of who goes next.
  • There are high production values all around, including great flavor text.
  • It has a post-apocalyptic setting that builds heavily on the lore from the original Wasteland.
This 2014 PC World Game Of The Year is proof that a great game can get by without reinventing the wheel.

But sticking to the tried and true is not without consequence.  Games like Minecraft have pushed our expectation as to what you can do with an open world.  While Wasteland 2 does not skimp on having consequences for our actions, they are limited to scripted hand-crafted venues, and there is comparably no procedural generation going on.

Wasteland 2 is just a great take to an oldschool PC RPG.  It is modernized only in terms of technology and game balance.  That's it; that's what Wasteland 2 was kickstarted to become, and hopefully that will be enough for you if you are interested in it.


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