Creating great software, one line at a time


Code alone won't make a game

Posted by Rowan Powell on December 31, 2015 at 2:20 PM

So something that I've always struggled with, simply because it requires a bit of perspective shift from my default state, is that what is fun to create and let lose as a programmer, isn't always fun to play with as a player.

This may seem obvious to a lot of people, but there's a subtely to it that's important, many times I've found that the very clever and useful bit of code I wrote into a game, the player simply would never notice without being told or just doesn't care about. I've written complex AI to challenge the player, which are not found exciting and intricate level generators which the player just breezes through.

The concept that becomes clearly more important (When you want your games to be more than an idle hobby), is the idea of code that interacts and talks to the user, rather than to itself. Tiny, simple code snippets that make elements of the UI bounce and shake, or tilesets to convey how a level will play out (more on this later!) have had a significantly bigger impact on the way users are engaging with my content.

I'm in a rather unusual position of being able to create acceptable art alongside being a professional programmer, which gives methe logical and pragmatic mindset of code to pull the puzzle pieces of a design together, but also the absolutely vital ability of an artist to realise the feel of a composition of components, beyond just the technical aspects behind it.

One of the most recent reminders of this has been my recent work on Puzzle Slide and AxeOf Kings. Puzzle slide was a very quick and dirty cobbling of some clever code for puzzle generation polished up with some cute art, informative UI and basic sound. And it was one of the most popular games I've ever made, reccieving far more praise than Anya'sQuest in it's behemoth glory, a heap of code, hard work and duct tape. My old art teacher would often encourage me to step away from trying to precisely line in the little details and just paint freely, where I was strongest and most uncomfortable. This is a lesson I need to bring to my work on games, to step back from the neat lines of code and add some broad strokes of properly engaging content to my games.

Categories: Winter 2015/16

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