Some months ago, I challenged myself to make three games in six months.
It is now two months since I wrote an update on this challenge. The last post was when I finished the first game, Bionic Carrots.
Why I started the challenge
I started the challenge to practice actually finishing and polishing small games. At the time I was considering several options for my future, and one was the dream of someday opening my own small indie studio which focused on small games in the puzzle-like genre.
If this was ever to happen I had to figure out, if I was actually able to finish small games of a decent quality within a limited time frame since part of my potential business strategy was to release at least two games a year the first couple of years. And the only work on larger projects after some years with professional experience.
I then started working on the first game, Bionic Carrots, which is a Minesweeper inspired puzzle game.
To speed up the development I used Unity for the first time. I had tried to learn Unity several times before, but finally got a hang of it for this project. Mainly because I had made a serious commitment to myself and this challenge. Visual development environments are usually not my favorite thing (first hint that I would end up quitting), but I decided I would have to used Unity, Godot or similar if I was to make my little games within the restricted time frame.
Bionic Carrots was a huge succes!
Not in terms of downloads, I never really marketed the game (which I think would also be difficult when the development time was about one month).
But because I finished it and ended up being really proud of the result.
I started by implementing a classic Minesweeper game and expanded/changed it into Bionic Carrots which actually gives a very different experience than the classic it is based on.
On mayor change, which is also what changes the overall focus in the game, was that the game does not end when you hit a bomb. And the scoring is not based on time, but instead on the number of bombs secured vs. the number of exploding bombs. This slows the game down and gives space to solve the puzzle.
I also added both a minor settings menu and a high score menu.
The game was inspired by research from MIT on how plants can be altered to detect explosives. And I thus also wanted the graphics of the game to fit to this. Most of the development time was used on this.
I used the Unity2D subreddit to get feedback on the feel of the game and used the feedback to make the game world more alive and engaging.
This is really one of the things I am most proud of, but this is also where I began to realize something very important; I am really more into back-end than front-end development.
But all in all I am super proud of how Bionic Carrot ended up. Not only because I pulled through and actually finished the game, but also because the feel of the game ended up better than I had imagined (and planned) when I started. The Unity2D subreddit played a huge part in this. Communities matter!
Why I quit
Okay the first game was a success. But then why did I quit the challenge?
I actually had some serious trouble finishing the last parts of Bionic Carrots. Things that could be done in hours suddenly took days to finish. I was extremely tired of both the game, Unity and working so much on UI.
The balance between difficult technical problems and editing menus, animations etc. was heavily skewed towards the latter. Actually there were no real programming challenges during the development.
There was of course lots of challenges. But they were concerned with game feel and learning how Unity works. Game feel really is a field of its own, extremely relevant and interesting, but what I have realized is that it is definitely not what motivates me to make games.
Neither is actually finishing a game or even people playing my game.
Why I love making games
But I still love making games. What is it then that motivates me?
It is solving difficult technical challenges. It is researching data structures to find the one that fits my problem best and the customizing it to my needs. I absolutely love data structures.
And it is reading about design patterns, architecture, unit tests and building systems.
I love making games because you often have a lot of data and have to carefully consider how this i handled. How I write my code matters and the first initial solution might need optimizations later.
I’m definitely more into back-end than front-end development.
Realizing all this there is absolutely no point in dragging myself through the development of two more games this way.
This is why I quit.
My plan of a small indie studio has been thrown in the trash. While I have lots of ideas to small puzzle like games, I am in no way able to develop them on my own. I may have the skills, but skills are nothing without motivation.
Instead I’m going back to my voxel experiments for the time being. I’ll be looking into different useful data structures and analyzing, measuring and comparing them. At some point I also want to take this research and make a voxel world I can add some kinds of simulations to – but who knows if I’ll ever move on from working on cache friendly octrees and raycasting which is my main interest at the moment.
I also have an idea for a retro Zelda-like dungeon crawler puzzle I might start working on at some point. This will most definitely not be a small project, I will be creating the game engine from scratch myself and I have absolutely no plan of ever making this into a finished polished game – at least not on my own 😉