Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What to make next

Now that I have some idea how much effort it is to make something, I've begun to think about what I really want to do next for iOS. I haven't really decided yet, but I've realized I do have some constraints limiting my search space. First of all, the app can be something that takes years to make, but it has to be possible to release an initial version to get feedback on in 2-3 weeks. I'm not patient enough to quietly work on something for a long time with no outside input. Once I get some, it becomes much easier to continue. An episodic game for example would suit my work habits well.

Secondly, it has to have the potential to make some money. I need to eat. It's difficult to code while dead (believe me I've tried). For this reason I've considered making some sort of utility app that could be expensive enough to even be marketed online, but haven't really come up with any ideas. I just don't know any industries / topics well enough. What do I know? I know something about Japanese and programming, but that's about it. Doesn't make me at all unique as a developer. I don't feel there are any tasks in my real life that I would need an app for. There's already plenty of Japanese study apps. I could port "Your Japanese Name" to the iOS though since it wouldn't be that long of a project and I would have an existing userbase on Facebook to advertise to and even some assets for the port.

Third, while for a short period I can work on a subject that doesn't interest me all that much (like the Acey Deucey card game in my previous test), for a project that might extend to years I should pick something that I would enjoy working on. So topics that interest me? Well, I really like the survival genre. Robinson Crusoe, Cast Away, サバイバル, Alive, Lost in Blue etc. I really enjoyed all of them. Another genre I like are business simulations like Sid Meier's Railroads!, Aerobiz Supersonic, Lemon Tycoon, ゲーム発展国. Also life simulations like Jones on the Fast Lane and The Sims (although there was too much menial detail in The Sims) appealed to me. I like to imagine what the far future would be like, so scifi and space themes are good too.

For sound I like soundscapes (sea waves, thunderstorm, busy city etc.), not music. However memorable title music is always good. Chiptunes are great. Ambient style slow paced music is acceptable though, if there has to be some. With graphics I like anime cel art style clean outlines with solid fills or 8bit graphics. Point of view can be from above, bird's eye, even isometric or platformer style, anything goes. Luckily it seems the masses agree with my retro taste, most people don't seem to prefer hyper realism. I think game art should communicate an idea simply and not try to render it in full detail.

How to combine enough of my interests to make sure that if I find myself working on a project still 10 years from now, it would be something I like? Survival + business sim + oldskool. This really sounds like Lost in Blue. So is the answer just to make a Lost in Blue -type game? Survival business sim sounds almost like a contradiction, but I think Lost in Blue does have that. As you proceed you get better tools and with these you get even more resources to play with, that's the core appeal of a business sim.

If I add +Japan and +scifi to include those interest too,.. A guy stuck on a Japanese spaceship with all of the crew dead, left to gather oxygen, food (frozen free-floating sushi?) and such supplies to survive. Wow, the directions this could take are pretty vast. Makes me want to play this. Trying to plan out a game before I've realized it's really really really hard to come up with game designs. So it should be something extremely simple or it will be impossible to pull off before getting more experience with making games.

"A design written on paper and a design in your head is always a fluffy success story. A design created in code (or a paper prototype) is a working machine that must function according the unyielding rules of player psychology. The first is fantasy."

Oh yeah, I like cats too. Cat in space? Jonesy!

Update: Exploring a space ship with the crew dead is extremely cliche. Also, this hardly even qualifies as any sort of "idea", as it's just some vague description of a storyline and doesn't really say anything about the gameplay.