When I used to work as a research assistant at university, sometimes I faced the situation where all my daily work was lost because of a power outage and I hadn’t saved my progress. A coworker of mine used to say that lost work is a good thing for a number of reasons: first you pay more attention in the future in order to not lose any work; second you do your work faster the second time because you’ve already done it before; and third you get to review what you’ve done and can come with better solutions than before, most of the time ending with a better product and a deeper understanding of whatever you’re dealing with.

VeilWalker game has been in the oven for a few months now, but the idea of making this game has been under discussion  since December 2015. We’ve had many ideas for game concepts including, but not limited to 2D platformers, 3D platformers, racing roguelikes, shoot’em ups and flying simulators. We’ve even prototyped many of those.

roguelike racing3.gif
Roguelike racing prototype. Actually not that bad…

We took a long time to pick a game concept that we really liked and thought was feasible by a small team. After we did, we called it VeilWalker and worked on it for three months and only then found out that it was a bigger scope than what we could manage. VeilWalker was supposed to be a 3D action-adventure game with large levels filled with different enemy archetypes, interesting puzzles and intriguing story told by text and small cutscenes. We even had a pretty good production planning document listing all weekly tasks necessary to accomplish every milestone. It seemed achievable at the start, except we’re a team of 5, we’re working on it in our (limited) free time, and it’s our first commercial title.

CameraTestFinal
Over 1000 lines of code thrown in the trash for smooth 3rd person camera, character controls, pathfinding, enemy AI, etc.

In one of our last meetings, me and @GameraVoador, the other game designer in our team, discussed this issue and it dawned on us that we were thinking on VeilWalker as a 3D action adventure only because our previous game concept was such and not because our core game mechanic depended on it. Come to think of it, all of our ideas were much more feasible in a 2.5D perspective. Suddenly we were having lots of new ideas, many of which would never be possible in 3D.

It can be hard to tell you’re biting off more than you can chew. But come to think of it, Jonathan Blow started with Braid, not The Witness; ThatGameCompany started with Flow, not Journey; So the 2D path does make a lot more sense to a beginner.

So the course is set. We are keeping the aesthetics, story and feel of the game, but the gameplay is in 2D now. Wait a sec. What about all the time had I invested in coding systems and behaviors for 3D? Well, turns out that in two weeks I programmed in 2D what took me two months to do in 3D. And I did it better. There was a surprising amount of code that I could reuse with small adaptations. Most importantly I had the opportunity to rethink the way I was doing AI and do a much more elegant job.

2dv2.gif
2.5D prototype. All place-holder graphics

 

It’s easy to feel bogged down when you lose your progress, but it helps a lot to think positively about all the knowledge you have acquired and to face it as an opportunity to take a step back to view the big picture.

Have you had any similar experiences? Let me know down in the comments!

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