On Game Development and Setting

When you go and think about creating a game, you try to define the experience and visualize things in your mind. There is a scenery which you try to achieve through the development process, a scenery in which you want to make the player… sense the experience you designed. You design all the components of the game pointing in this direction. There is a reason for each.. thing in the game to exist, a reason given by you. Everything that you put in the game together form that experience.

From what I understand, this first “Oh my! That’s totally gonna be so cool!” design, is somewhat personal. People usually fail to deliver this enthusiasm to people around them, so they get the game done by themselves. Or if they are not alone, they get to decide on important matters. The “other” team members are of course contributing to the project, but mostly by doing the tasks given to them.

Fabric wasn’t my idea. A friend was behind it. Jam version of it, anyway. Then he lost the.. interest. The reason I got my hands on it, after a couple of years of it being left to its fate in the dusty servers of BitBucket, was solely the rock solid core mechanic. Hell, I don’t even like puzzle games. Portal is cool and all, but… I mean the game I would spend this much time upon, wouldn’t be a puzzler.

This, plus the statement above, prevented the game from reaching its full potential by now, I think.

In real life, and most of the games too, you take the ground you step on for granted. You have no choice but to accept the limitations of space. If somewhere is far away, then you have to go there. This isn’t the case in Fabric. I liked the approach of “What environment do I need to reach my goal?”. It is extraordinary. This little nudge of interest was all made me clinging on the development.

For a considerable amount of time, I was that “todo guy”, although I was alone. This was my first non-jam game, and I had no idea of what it should look and feel like in the end. So I went on doing the obvious necessities, like mandatory post-jam refactor and level editor, which doesn’t contribute to game feel that much.

Eventually, friends came, and as several todo guys, we have come up with something playable.

People found it promising and interesting. As the first feedbacks said, overall feel was good, the mechanic was worth investing time into, music was a plus, pixelated visuals were intriguing etc. But there is this fact that everything people admired was from the jam version, either exactly the same or altered slightly.

Currently, the game’s biggest short-coming, and the thing we have been struggling over for a looong time, is boredom and the lack of feel of progression, which should be closely intertwined with some setting, in a game like this. If we had had the setting, we could have designed levels telling a story by themselves, come up with some visuals to give a meaning to passing through levels, thought of things to make the players wonder what is waiting for them on the next level, or at the end.

What we really should do -it has been so for several months, if not years- is to define that core experience with a setting. The reason we don’t, is the first paragraph. None of us have come up with the idea. It has been given to us from nowhere. We could only guess what we could make out of it, which is not the same thing as the creator taking the idea somewhere. As long as there is nothing behind what player sees, we will only be implementing todo’s and the product will be no more than solitaire. At least that has some replay value.

Oh man, we need a designer. And lots of alcohol.

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