Sunday, May 29, 2005

Vyde is Born

Well this will be interesting. A blog about a video game -- designed, written, produced, and catered by me.

I'm keeping this blog as a log of my progress for two reasons:

  1. So others who might be interested in learning about my progress can keep up on it, and maybe learn from it, and
  2. To motivate myself.

So here's the setting:

Vyde is the name I've chosen for the game I'm making. The name has no special significance; it's pretty much a made-up word that I thought sounded like a place.

Vyde, as an idea, started back in college. I was a member of Georgia Tech's video game club, Entertainment Software Producers (ESP). Back then, I fancied myself a game designer rather than a game programmer, and came up with an idea for a 2D side-scrolling game involving a randomly generated, boundless map. The game was to serve as a research project, with the goal of answering a few different questions, but mainly this one:

What are the gameplay implications of a game whose playfield has no boundaries?

I've always, always been frustrated with artificial boundaries in games. Like that fence that encircles the first level of Diablo II: why can't you just hop the fence and keep going? Or the ocean in GTA: San Andreas: you've got a bloody plane, why can't you see what's on the other side?

Of course we know the answers to these questions -- the games have boundaries, artificial or otherwise, to accommodate things such as resource limitations and directed storylines. But I've always been a fan of sandbox games, and have felt a compulsion to blend sandbox games and directed action/adventure games. Imagine SimCity with "GTA mode".

So Vyde is a philosophical quest. Can such a game be made compelling and fun to play? What would keep a player coming back for more? Is such a game suited for a 2D world or a 3D world? What must the interface be like?

Now then. With the philosophical foundation in place, I've spent another part of my CPU time coming up with a theme. I want something that I can stick to for artistic guidance that keeps the game from being just a tech demo once it's actually buildable. So here's what I've come up with...

Vyde is a mining game. The player(s?) assumes the role of a miner(s?) in an underground environment. The player will have the ability to interact with the environment, which shall be dynamic in many ways, and the creatures that inhabit it, whose motivations are so far undefined. Elements of the world (geology, flora, and fauna) will have autonomous properties that exact change in the environment without player interaction, thereby keeping the game fluid -- ever changing, rarely static.

This description satisfies me in that it provides an interesting canvas with the following characteristics:

  1. It lends plausibility to the concept of infinite space (a vast network of underground tunnels and cavers) without resorting to the tres chic outer-space.
  2. As a starting point, constraints on the variety of elements of the world are easily chosen. That is, you've got a lot of room to brainstorm on elements like story, the environment, creatures, artistic styles, etc., without fear of becoming uninteresting. At the same time, you're not saying, for instance, "The game shall be set in space," which has absolutely no boundaries and way too much possibility, which to my mind stymies design by introducing too much "What if I included _____? That can happen in space," and thereby overloading my brain and making me want to go do something mindless, like play City of Heroes. :)
  3. I've always been fascinated with mining, and environments that mimic it. Metroid is my favorite game of all time because of how I feel about the claustrophobic, alien nature of it. It's safe to say that Metroid shall be a major source of inspiration for this project.
  4. The description (and any description like it) does not enforce a particular point-of-view (2D/3D) or interface approach. I want to keep implementation an unmade-decision at this point. Not enough design has happened yet. However, so far, all my thoughts on Vydehave led to a 2D side-scrolling mindset. A game that lends itself to a 2D, side-scrolling gameplay style serves as a good starting point for a hobby-level project. Ultimately, I want to concentrate more on gameplay theory as my exploratory domain rather than technology, as the latter is often dependent on the state-of-the-art. That, and I want to be able to play this thing quickly, and use the immersiveness of the work-in-progress to both reinforce the immersion and fuel brainstorming for additional features. I do not want to focus my initial efforts on building the next great 3D engine, or developing the next great geometry streaming technology. (I've even considered developing the prototype in Flash. More on that later.)
  5. It mandates variety and an aspiration towards continuous evolution. (After all, this is gonna be a hobby.)

Now then, what I plan to include in this blog is whatever pops into my head during this adventure. Articles I've read, games I've played, ideas I've had (and ideas I've shelved), technologies I try, screenshots, links, code samples, and more. A veritable "whatever" of design history documentation.

I hope I enjoy doing this as much as you enjoy reading about it.


Post a Comment

<< Home