Tuesday, 29 January 2013

New Year, New Things

It may be a little late for a new year blog entry, but with good reason - I've been busy experimenting!

I've spoken before about how the adage "the last ten percent takes ninety percent of the time" in the context of games development is entirely true. I've realised that most of the last four years that I've been reviving Team Mango have been spent stuck in the "last ten percent" doldrums. The part where you finished all of the gameplay features long ago, and you're stuck in some kind of hell where you're polishing UI, adding platform-specific features, writing tutorials, intros and outros, and scouring stock sites for sound effects that might come close to what you hear in your head.

I've decided it's time to change.

While I do fully intend on finishing Dreamland at some point (there's maybe two-to-three percent of actual work left to do for a Windows Phone release), I'm no longer going to let my creativity be held captive by the project that's been hanging over me for two years and three months now. I'd almost forgotten what it was like to actually make a game.

So in September last year, I started experimenting with Monogame. This came after the stark realisation that Microsoft isn't going to be around in its current form forever and I need to become platform-agnostic pretty damn quickly. That said, I still love .NET and C# and I don't want to move to Unity as I still prefer to work in pure 2D, and I still like to get my hands dirty with engine code. XNA is still the best platform for me, and Monogame is the perfect next step.

In the few months that I've been dabbling with Monogame, I've ported Dreamland to Windows 8 (as marketplace app), used it to make a collaborative game project cross-platform, and participated in a 48-hour game jam. All using Monogame alongside XNA.

It also means that in the same space of time, I've taken three game projects from concept to prototype. And I've not felt that usual sense of guilt when I've moved on to a new project instead of finishing a game to the point of release. And in 2013, I'm going to attempt to continue along these lines by participating in the One Game a Month project.

Now, I probably won't end up releasing every game I make in a playable form each month, but rather will post screenshots and video along with a blog post for each project. Then, around the holidays I'll decide which of the prototypes I want to take forward to release on multiple platforms in 2014 and I'll make the others available as both source and executable.

It's quite an ambitious idea, so we'll see how it pans out. As I've only just decided to participate, I'm going to cheat and use the game that I developed during the 48-hour jam as January's game, as I did continue to work on it at the start of this month.

Have a great 2013, whatever you get up to!