Have you ever had an epiphany?
“What sort of hyperbolic nonsense are you treating us to today, you ridiculous goof?” you might ask. You would probably be right. I am a ridiculous goof, but I do have epiphanies from time to time. Usually while I’m peeing. That isn’t, exactly, an important bit of trivia. I’m not sure if I was peeing when this particular epiphany struck me, but it is possible that my pants were down. If that put any unfortunate images in your head, that’s on you. Everybody pees.
Anyway. I have spent literally months working out how the game I’ve been working on should look. I have been more concerned with how to make all the pieces work together, than really nailing down the aesthetic. Do these shaders work? Do they work on mobile? Is the fill rate too high? Do the models need to be rigged, or can I just use hierarchical animation? do they even need to be models? Should the animation be sprite based?
When you start a game, the blank page analogy applies, but this blank page stretches out in 4 dimensions, and requires a 6 cylinder engine that you must also design and assemble. You don’t just draw a nice picture and then add ‘game’ to it.
So I drew a picture, and now I have to add game to it. Luckily the game part is already well underway. I’ve been working on the underpinnings of the artwork, while Rich Hudson has been working on the code.
While doing this, very necessary technical work, I’ve been systematically reducing and refining what I wanted the game to look like for months. The dark secret of art, is that it never comes out like you thought it would. No one imagines a picture and then, recreates exactly, that picture. You attempt an approximation and then push, pull, and refine from there. Typically, this process only comes to an end when you run out of time. When you work to a deadline, you do what you can in the time allotted and then hand it off, dissatisfied. The client, since they were not the ones doing the work, usually is satisfied, and might even say they “like it” or “it’s good”. If you did your best, you know that you did your best, and move on. You have to be content with that.
When you don’t have a hard deadline, or you have a loose, self imposed deadline, you just have to ram into the problem as much as possible in the time you have. Sometimes, what everything should look like will become apparent quickly, and then you just do the same as you would under deadline. You attempt an approximation and then refine from there. Other times, like with this game, you might be more concerned with the function of the underlying systems than with the final look. I would never recommend waiting for an epiphany, since there really is no guarantee that you will have one. I go pee a lot, and honestly, epiphanies are rare. This time, though, I had an epiphany. That is to say, I worked on the problem long enough, and from enough angles, that the solution came to me, all at once, almost fully formed. As if it were obvious.
Now I just do the same as always. Attempt an approximation. Refine. I’ll know I’m done when I run out of time. And now I know when I will run out of time.
Adventure Caddie will launch in 2013.