Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Racing Game - limiting scope, wishlist culling, and task prioritisation (or, The battle against hobbyist A.D.D.)

I have a horrible habit of starting a project, having great fun with it, then either losing interest, or heading off in a different direction to what was originally planned, unnecessarily complicating things, and giving up. End result is an unfinished project kicked to the kerb and a new one started. Repeat ad infinitum. It's like hobby ADD. I have so many started but unfinished projects it's not even funny. I know I'm not the only one!

This time it'll be different I said. This time I'll see it through til the end... But I so want to start a new project. I want to make a start on a platform game, Super Mario 3 on the NES is still one of the best games ever in my opinion, I want to make something similar. I want to create an arcade blaster, I loved Spy Hunter as a kid, I want to remake it for android, maybe 2D gameplay with 3D graphics. I want to create a basic 3D engine, maybe start with a first person perspective maze game, and extend to create a first person shooter, or a first/third person driving sim. I have lots of ideas, and I want to start on them all at once. So much ambition, so little attention span...

I'm pleased that I got further than usual this time - I've actually published an early alpha of Race Game on Google Play. I think it's in no small part due to me publishing this worklog and publicly sharing the code on github, there may not be that many visitors (yet?), but I still have a funny feeling of responsibility to get something finished. What's currently on Google Play is very much unfinished, so I'm definitely not off the hook yet (I won't be until I hit v1.0 at least), but it still feels like a mini victory over my hobby ADD :)

I've been reviewing the ideas/todo list and have decided to be pretty ruthless in terms of what stays and what goes. What's staying has been split into 'must haves' and 'would likes', and each list has then been prioritised.

I think it's fair to say that until all the 'musts' have been tackled the game is essentially broken, pretty good definition of must have really... Once all the 'musts' have been taken care of, I can package the app up as v1.0, update on Google Play, and go on to start a new project with a clear conscience.

The 'would like' items can be deferred to a later update. None are crucial to the functioning of the game. Only reason facebook bragging is at the top of the list is because it interests me personally, I think it would be a cool feature to re-use in future games (players post achievements to their wall, friends download the app to compete... a kind of viral promotional platform). Variable difficulty should be easy enough to implement, good bang for buck ratio (players could choose a quick course to kill 30 seconds, or a longer course when they're feeling a bit more hardcore etc, tailor game to the player for relatively small effort on my part), might as well get it done. The rest of the list are items that simply add a little polish to the game. I like to keep reminding myself that atari/spectrum games were ugly as sin but good fun, so I'm not too worried about this stuff really (just as well, I'm no artist!). Learning a little about animation and intro/outro scenes would help me when working on future projects, so I might have a little poke around in those areas, but we'll see.

The 'dropped' items won't be implemented in this project. I would like this project to remain simple and easy to read when finished. I know it'll help me if I ever need to quickly check back to see how I solved a particular problem in the past, maybe it'll help others too. The simpler and clearer the better, so I don't want to pollute it with too many extra features and it ending up a confused mess. There's nothing to stop me (or someone else) coming back and making Race Game Deluxe in the future, but it will be a seperate project, this particular project won't live forever, it will serve its purpose and then development will stop.

So, it looks like I have a plan. Great. As an added bonus, that 'must' list looks quite small and manageable, which is nice. I'm quite confident that I'll be able to get a modest v1.0 published on Google Play soon, and only then start tinkering with 3D mazes and tiled maps and other cool stuff... I guess the question of if/when v1.1 will see the light of day depends on how interesting the next project is, but I'm determined to get v1.0 out there pre-September (I got this far in 10 days of spare time so that should be a very achievable goal)!


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