As I've written about before, my primary roadblock in developing The Melodist has been making the game legitimately fun and interesting. I've discovered reasons why I want to make the game, and why I think the game is important, but I've struggled hugely over the past year in making a legitimately interesting game to play. This, of course, has been an extremely frustrating process.
I am known to distract myself with visuals, engine details, and other technical endeavors, but I've been trying to attack this problem in the past month through a lot of experimentation and thinking about what I want the game to feel and play like. Recently, I tried a very simple gameplay experiment that I actually found joy in, and I think it might be the first step that I am really quite happy with.
A video of this gameplay experiment follows.
(Thank the artists of the world, ladies and gentlemen, because my placeholder art is really not very good)
It has taken an extremely long time, but I think that those struggles may be ending. I wanted to share my experience for those who may find it useful, as I think there are some important lessons to be learned.
I am, and was, personally invested in and intrigued by, the general principle of the game that I had invented: A world that reacts to music in certain ways. However, in the past year when thinking about the gameplay, I had a tendency to stop myself short when trying to think of how I'd like such a world to be shown to players. I'd have ideas (and it's true that some of them really were not very good), but I'd come up with reasons why those ideas wouldn't be appropriate (even though I was intrigued by them).
A good example is the idea in the above video.
I was intrigued by the idea of different vines in the world growing, corresponding to the occurrence of different notes. This would make traversal of a landscape also play a melody, which is something I thought would feel great to experience (and sure enough, even with my placeholder vines that, well, don't really look like vines, it does feel great to experience). I stopped myself before pursuing this, though, telling myself that it would be a bad design decision to make the vines react arbitrarily to different notes, as it wouldn't be clear to the player.
This is obviously untrue. In the above video, it is very clear to the player what is happening because of the way that the world is presented to the player. Additionally, it is very possible to hint to the player potential reactions that might take place with colored lighting or other graphics.
I didn't know, however, that it was untrue before, because of my assumptions about the nature of the game as a final product. These assumptions were often unstated, but they were extremely harmful.
Deriving from the above, I will write a message to both my future self and any readers:
The important take-away here, I think, is simply to not be afraid to try something, especially when it is intriguing to you. Take care to identify any assumptions you are making about the game you are making. Are these assumptions good, or are they bad? Find the simplest possible image relating to your game that intrigues you, and chase it. Don't be afraid to fail.
Thanks for reading! Expect to hear more from me soon.