From my squishy brain to yours.

Welcome to 2010

I really did have the best intentions of blogging in 2009.  Honest!  But a change of jobs, trans-Atlantic move, stricter contract, and birth of my daughter all conspired to keep me pretty quiet on the internet this past year.  Well, here’s hoping that changes in 2010.  The safe money is on my updating this blog a few times and then disappearing into the woodwork for months on end.  But I’m not much of a betting man, so I’ll move forward with wide-eyed over-optimisim and plan on updating this blog every couple of weeks at least.

And what, pray tell, am I going to be writing about?  Well, my aspirations towards creating my own indie film are on hold due to a conflict of interest with my present job.  Since I like my job, and want to keep it, my film is mothballed for the time being.  In the meantime I continue to develop my skills as a filmmaker and CG artist as part of my job, and I will put them to use on my own film project some day in the future.

In the meantime, I am dusting off some of my goals from before I got back into film.  This year, I’m going to be working on a computer game.  I’ve started dusting off some of my code from the Studio Blue days, and integrating it with code that I developed in more recent years.  It is a very odd feeling to open a file of code to start updating it, and realize that you haven’t touched the file in the past 12 years!  The tires needed some air, and I had to knock some cobwebs out of the corners, but my old code is transitioning to the modern age fairly well. I only get about an hour a day to work on it (half an hour during the morning train ride, and then half an hour on the way back home), but progress is being made.  Slow and steady wins the race, doesn’t it?

So exactly what type of game am I going to be working on this year?  Well, many years ago I played a game from Japan called Princess Maker 2.  It has been translated into English, but never released due to a complicated licensing problem.  It is an interesting game where you guide the life of a child put in your care through ages 12 to 18 in a fantasy world.  The game ends on the protagonist’s 18th birthday, and you achive one of several possible endings based on how well you did and what choices you made during the game.  I found this facinating because gameplay consisted of developing a character and evolving a story, rather than running around a map and beating up countless enemies like you see in most RPGs (though to be fair, there are parts of PM2 where you run around a map and beat up baddies).  This game was part RPG, part Tamagotchi, and part Visual Novel.  And to top it all off, a game only lasts 2 or 3 hours, allowing the player to more easily complete the game arc in a single sitting.  Since my own life has become very busy and I don’t have 40 hours to dedicate to a single game, this style of “short play time, but very replayable” game strongly appeals to me.

In the years since I first Princess Maker 2, a few other games in this “life simulation” category from Japan have been translated to English, though usually for the console market.  There have even been some indie games developed in English that carry on the spirit of the Princess Maker style of gameplay, including Cute Knight, Cute Knight Kingdom, and Spirited Heart.

My goal is to develop a worthy addition to this genre.  Rather than playing the adoptive parent of the protagonist as in other games of this genre, you will play the main character himself.  Gameplay will focus on developing the character and story, and moving through the story arc over a few years of the character’s life.  It should be possible to play through an entire session of the game in 2-3 hours, but multiple endings should keep replayability high.  Interaction with other characters in the game will be a key factor in achieving one ending versus another. I will be coding the game engine myself in C++, utilizing the code base I’ve developed over the years.  I also plan to do most or all of the art myself, which means I need to start brushing up on my drawing skills!

A long journey lies ahead.  I’d be lucky to finish this game up within the next two years, especially considering how my family and my job hold the highest priority on my time.  But I will chip away at the project bit by bit (byte by byte) and try my best to keep a record of my progress here.

And away we go….

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