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Thanks! Don't tell anyone, but I was legitimately skeptical too. :)



Many many many game developers get sucked into the infinite vortex of trying to "find the fun". A computer is a very large blank canvas and the set of all possible games is infinite. It can be overwhelming trying to decide what game to make.

Often, developers wander off to "make an engine" partially as an excuse to put off making those scary decisions. But an engine isn't a game and if you want to ship something people can play (and not just make games themselves with) you do have to make that choice.

You've made an insane amount of progress, but I wonder if you're struggling with this too. If I can make two suggestions that might help:

1. Realize a negative choice has positive value.

Every idea or feature sounds cool, so the default answer to "Should I add ___?" or "Can the player do ___?" or "Can the engine support ___?" is going to be "yes" because it all sounds fun. But the end result is something that takes infinite time to produce. Your time is finite.

It takes courage, but I find I make better progress when I deliberately allow myself to choose not to do something. Remember, any feature you omit pays you back in the most important currency: time. By saying, for example, "No multiplayer", you're saying "Yes" to a lot of other features you will now have time to implement.

2. Make the game that only your engine can do.

You're in an unusual position in that you already have a very interesting, unique engine. Most developers out there just have half-baked clones of existing engines.

When you're trying to figure out what kind of game to build on top of that engine, focus relentlessly on the kind of gameplay your engine, and only your engine can support. For me, that's rich, detailed, destructible terrain. If it doesn't take advantage of voxels, cut it.

Looking at the videos over the past year, I see lots and lots of basic character animation. Every game engine can do that. It's not interesting to see yours can too, and it takes (took) a ton of your time to do it. Don't spend time catching up to other engines. Spend time building on top of what you already have.

I don't care if a character in the game is a simple billboard—I actually think billboard characters would look nice with the pixely voxel style—I'm coming to your engine for the terrain. Everything else is secondary.

Good luck! It's been inspiring watching you make progress on this.


Thanks Bob! Totally agree with you - it really is a battle of fighting against my "engineering instinct" which just wants to build stuff all day, no matter how useless it is. I have deliberated over this internally with myself and others for a long time. In fact, half way into the character animation I was kicking myself for even beginning working on it. I tend to justify things (whether rational or not) as a content problem ("Oh I can just build this system and it will make making this type of content so much easier!"). I now really need to hone down on gameplay (and stop just telling myself to do so). :)


> I tend to justify things (whether rational or not) as a content problem ("Oh I can just build this system and it will make making this type of content so much easier!").

That can also be a trap (one that I myself am particularly prone to given how much I love roguelikes and tool-building). When it comes to games, I'm just not wired right to enjoy hand-authoring content. So when I do game-like stuff, I tend to lean towards procedural generation because it lets me avoid that unpleasant task.

But, I've learned, painfully, time and time again, that that tends to be way harder than hand-authoring. It kind of makes sense. If hand-drawing a fun level is difficult for me to do, why should it be easier for me to write a program than can author a million of them? In some sense, the latter must be strictly harder since it is a superset of hand-authoring a few one-off things.

Tool-building does matter, of course. But sometimes you just gotta make some stuff.

Another option is to push it onto the player: make the gameplay itself creative. That can work (SimCity), but it can also fizzle out (Spore).

The problem there is similar, I think. With hand-authored content, you have to come up with a narrative path or maybe a tree through the possible game space that's fun to play. With player-authored content, the entire play space has to be fun. Otherwise they'll be able to make anything, but most of the stuff they make won't be fun to make.


I agree, especially if you are just making one game, there really is no point to procedural generation - other tools will make all that much easier (Maya, Blender, etc). I'm trying to think outside the context of just making one game, but rather making something that people can broadly use that it is simpler than Maya and Blender, and even disguised as a game to lure people to it. This could be a foolish move - the odds are already against me making a game, let alone a platform/engine. But I feel like somebody has to shake things up a bit, we are getting too comfortable with our AAA Unreal games. :)


"One more system will solve my problem" is the siren's lure isn't it. But I have learned "It's turtles all the way down". Each problem solved reveals more opportunities. So I just try to enjoy the process of learning, if I am lucky it will end up being fun too. If not I enjoyed the journey.


I never knew the source of that expression until just now: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turtles_all_the_way_down


As someone who has commented on your engine threads in the past(and pointed out this challenge) it's good to see that you're getting towards the content stage of dev.

Here is my tip this time: try to find a lot of anchors outside of the game engine. You can do design incrementally by defining what the "rules", "logic", and "lore" of the world are, in order to clarify it. For example, use a mind map tool like a writer to plan scenario ideas. Pick a genre of music and a visual design language and incorporate them into the game's identity. Consider the limitations of the camera and control scheme and allow those elements to shape the scenarios. Borrow plots and characters from stories you like. Compose an essay response to something you want to critique, and then figure out ways to turn that essay into game form. If you don't have ideas for game mechanics, you can develop the story more instead and you'll eventually find some story elements that convert into mechanics.

The more of these things you can piece together in a coherent way, the more it will start to look like a complete design where "the work is cut out for you", instead of being a mass of bad content to crank out. There are a lot of ways to go about defining the design, but you will have to find some anchors if you want good content without a lot of meandering and second-guessing. The meandering should happen in notes and sketches, well before you try to write final code or assets.

Oh, and all of this can be done with an eye towards marketing. You can opt to choose and highlight elements specifically to capture an audience. The hard part tends to be finding concepts that you're happy enough with to want to think about for months on end.


I agree - ironically I am not particularly interested in a fantasy setting and many other people are tired of fantasy as well (although I could still probably get away with such a setting). Fortunately if I do decide to do some other design there is not really much work towards content yet - all of the stuff in there is broadly applicable. I have always been interested in a Fallout-style universe. As much as those things are important (and they are) above all I think I really need to laser in concept-wise as well; that may just mean mean going with something tried and true in the early stage.


Have you tried asking for help with how to invent/build contents & fun-factor on the TIGsource forums? There seems to be a section dedicated to "the non-programming aspects of game-making":

https://forums.tigsource.com/index.php?board=5.0

for example a "sticky" thread titled "Game design resources" from one of the subforums:

https://forums.tigsource.com/index.php?topic=31350.0

Also, I'd think people like to help with generating/brainstorming some ideas when provoked, like you're doing here with throwing around some thoughts. I can barely resist adding my $0.02 of random suggestions already :)


I browse TIG a lot but had not thought to do that - not a bad idea :)


You could always go the route of many 80's and 90's RPG's and mash up some fantasy and science fiction themes - time travel, alien worlds, other dimensions, etc. Nearly every popular franchise of that era pulled in those tropes and they give you tons of breathing room to pull in whatever elements you want.


Yep, that era of RPGs is my primary inspiration. My favorite series were Ultima, Fallout (1/2), various DnD games like Eye of the Beholder, Dungeon Master, and quite a few more.


I think this is great advice. Is it accurate to summarize it as "artificial constraints can create unpredictable strengths"? (In this case, the strength might be a strong sense of identity)

There is probably a name for this concept, but I don't know what it is.


I also struggle with adding extra features to a game I'm working on. I've added "You're not going to need it" to the top of my to-do list as a way to force myself to think everytime I add something on there. ;) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/You_aren%27t_gonna_need_it

Have you ever heard of the game Magic Carpet? See http://www.gog.com/game/magic_carpet . It had insanely good destructible terrain, base building and exploration. I think something like that might work extremely well with your engine and also there has never been another game quite like it that combined exploration and resource gathering with the almost RTS like base elements (and of course the fun of creating volcanoes and dropping asteroids on your opponent's base).


Yep I know about Magic Carpet - its one of those games (along with Outcast, Commanche, etc) that drew me to alternative engines over polygon-based ones. Initial ideas for a prototype did revolve around base building, mini RTS / tower defense style stuff.


Magic carpet, what great memories! A modern take on the theme would be great in VR.


In my opinion, that's what has been missing with Starbound, which has been one of the punchingbags for crowdfunding/pre-order games. The engine looks great and it has a lot of unique content - but its just an engine right now, with no real content for people to play through while they task and tinker with changes (they are on, what, the 4th full combat overhaul?). In contrast, during development of Terraria or Minecraft you could get enjoy playing it.


The major difference is that Starbound made heaps of money (not to mention that Terraria sold 7 million + units!) I'm still looking for change under the couch. :)


Heaps of money do not make you happy! They just change what stresses you. Don't discount just giving users the ability to build, I spent 10 times more time building in MC then I did playing "the game".


Oh come on, that's just... not right, given the amount of work and time you put into it. I don't see any "Donate" button on your page, so I just bought the pre-order. Don't lose it all under the couch ;).


Thanks for your support! :)




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