The Hero’s Journey

Scott Miller (Apogee, 3D Realms) discusses the essay by Bob Gates: “Into the Woods: A Practical Guide to the Hero’s Journey”. The essay takes a look at a common formula for story in mythology, books, movies, and game design. There’s a terrific reader discussion about the merits of forumlas in games; both sides present some very compelling arguments. It’s worth the read, whether you want to follow the formula or break the rules. You can’t break the rules if you don’t know what they are.

Even if you ignore the controversy, it still serves as an enormous source for ideas and inspiration. On my first read through, all kinds of ideas jumped into my head. I’ll revisit this article when I’m ready to start fleshing out the storyline of my game (…must…resist…moving…too…fast). I have a ton of work to do before I’m ready to work out the gory details, but resources like this just keep me chomping at the bit to move forward.

NOTE: The essay also appears on Gamasutra.

Farmer’s Hours

It’s amazing how much you can get done if you get up a couple of hours earlier than normal. I normally get up for my alter ego’s day job at around 7:00 am, take a shower, check my email, and head off to work by 7:45 am.

Well, this morning I awoke at 5:30 am because of some unusual circumstances and found that I was awake enough to get out of bed. I promptly made myself some coffee with my french press and sat down to try and widdle down my rather large pile of paperwork that I had been putting off for some time.

By the time I normally leave for work, I had completely eliminated that pile of paperwork, checked my server logs, upgraded the server software, responded to all my email, written one blog entry, started four others, taken my shower, and had two cups of coffee.

Additionally, I got the benefit of getting to the day job already fully awake and in the mode to be productive.

I had read about this phenomanon before on Steve Pavilina’s blog: How to Become an Early Riser but had told myself “that’s not for me, I’m a night person.” Boy, “the proof is in the pudding,” as they say (whover “they” are).

Watch Your Logs

Don’t forget to regularly check your web server logs. This is how I discovered people were linking to me. Check your referral listings to see how people found your site — invaluable information. This stuff can help you optimize your site, see what search engines are finding you, what your most popular (and unpopular) content is, even what keywords were used on search engines to find you.

If your web host or blog host doesn’t provide this information for you, then you need a new provider.

Getting More Readers

Ian Landsman, owner of the MicroISV UserScape and developer of HelpSpot has some nice words about this blog. Thanks Ian for the plug (actually two of them right in one day)!

Ian Jones, owner of IMiJ Software and developer of CaseDetective for FogBugz also mentions me on his blog.

Dimitris Giannitsaros (rapidsignal.com) who is developing a CRM application has also linked here.

Wow what a day! I guess as Ian Landsman said: Comment on other people’s blogs if you want to gain readers and links.

Thanks Guys!

Game Plan

Before starting, I need a game plan. Every software project should have one, so I’m going to fight the urge to jump in and start coding and actually put a rough project plan together. I’m not concerned about a business plan at this point, but a high level plan of action for leading me through the long and complex task of developing my first video game in nearly fifteen years.

Since I’m going to spend much of my time learning game design and the various technologies needed along the way, I’ll need to leave enough wiggle room to adjust and change this plan as I go. Given this need, I won’t include any dates in my plan but simply list the high level tasks I’ll need to complete. Additionally, I suspect that these items will not necessarily be sequential. I may be able to work on several in parallel and some of them will need to be revisited many times during the duration of the project.

  1. Setup Development Workstation and Environment

    1. Select and install a Version Control System
    2. Select and install a reliable backup system
    3. Select and install development tools (compiler, editor, tools)
  2. Write a Design Document

    1. Describe the basic game idea
    2. Define the game play (players, enemies, goals, etc)
    3. Define game engine requirements (view, player movements, controls, save & load, etc)
    4. Sketch graphics ideas (players, enemies, world levels, scenery, etc)
    5. Define sound requirements
    6. Licensing mechanism, demo vs licensed version
  3. Simple Game Engine Prototype

    1. Get a very simple version of the game working with developer graphics & sound
    2. Test that game engine idea will support game requirements
  4. Develop actual Game Engine

    1. Refine / Refactor Prototype Engine?
    2. Implement all required game functionality
    3. Implement all extra screens (load/save, help, options, demo screen, intro screen)
    4. Test, Test, Test
  5. Acquire professional graphics and artwork
  6. Acquire professional sound effects and music
  7. Installation Package
  8. Play Testing and Beta Testing
  9. Final Touches
  10. Release

Over time I’ll revisit this project plan to fill it in, refine it and hopefully improve my process along the way.

Designing Player Choices

Psychochild has a new blog entry on how his team went about play balancing their Online RPG Meridian 59. It’s interesting to read about how a successful game developer constantly tweaks their game in order to keep it interesting for their players. He also presents some observations their team has made on how players create the “best” choices from game decisions in multiplayer evironments creating a “conventional wisdom” situation.

Why Have I Asked You All Here?

Well, I guess I should tell you why I’ve asked you all here. It’s quite simple really, one of us wants to write video games for the Apple MacIntosh… Mac OS X to be more specific.

Why, you ask? You say that no one plays games on the Mac? You say that the Mac is dead? You say that real game players use consoles?

I scoff at all that. I play games on the Mac. I’m a real game player. I buy (and don’t pirate) games for the Mac. I don’t own a console or a Windows PC, and don’t plan on buying either one anytime soon. I also don’t think the Mac is going anywhere — even if Apple is switching to Intel chips. Plus, it’s a great platform for all kinds of things: photo editing, video, music, office productivity, UNIX hacking, web design, and playing games (among a ton of other things).

Okay, so why am I starting this blog? First, because I can. Second, because I think it will serve as an inspirational tool to get myself and keep myself moving forward on my projects. Finally, because someone else might find some of my steps, misteps, and musings of some interest.

So, what am I going to write about? I’m not exactly sure yet. This is going to be a stream of thought, unorganized, inconsistant, and unplanned process. And hopefully, this will keep me from being all of these on the actual projects that I write about. The idea is to keep track of everything I research, think about, and decide upon on this website. This will help me find things later and may just help someone else out. I originally began keeping my “journal” and research notes in a private wiki. I’d keep track of articles, ideas, blog links, etc so that I could find and reread them later. A few days ago, I finally realized that all this information could be of value to someone else and wasn’t really moving me forward. It’s not in a prose form, so it wasn’t really capturing my thoughts in the best possible way. So, I guess this blog is really my research journal, take two.

I hope that some of you reading take the time to comment on some of the topics that will appear here. Writing about something can be very valuable in helping to fully form an idea, but discussing it takes everything to that next level.

In upcomming posts, I’ll try and introduce myself a bit better: who I am, what’s my background, what are my plans, etc. But for now, I’ll cut this off. I love reading things on the internet, but long posts make me cross-eyed.