The age old question of new game developers is where do I start? Do I create art? Do I start programming frameworks? Do I make physical prototypes? Do I mod an existing game?
Like most things in life, there is no actual answer. Let what drove you to take the mammoth task of developing a game inspire your work. Jenova Chen chased an emotion with Thatgamecompany’s third outing, “We wanted to bring in a new feeling between people online.” Doom was inspired by id’s late night D&D campaigns. Chase whatever muse started this adventure.
For my current game, the muse was the idea of solving logic gates. For those that don’t know, logic gates are things like AND and OR (link) where the inputs are two bits that are either on or off and result in a single bit that is either on or off. I was targeting mobile phones and thought touching bits to turn them on or off was a simple yet enjoyable input mechanism. I wanted to limit the goal to solving logic gates, solving being the resulting bit from the logic gate is in the on, but the idea of solving a single logic gate is not interesting enough on its own. So my list of self-imposed limitations for this idea were:
- Solving logic gates will be the goal
- Player input will be touching the input bits toggling them off or on
- Make touching bits on or off interest and solving logic gates difficult enough to warrant a game
Given the above, I went to the old Nintendo playbook of making paper mocks. With the mocks my goals were to solve the interesting and difficult piece but also make the the puzzles the players were solving visually appealing. I toiled with this for weeks, creating various compounding logic gates and struggling with a balance between difficult and visually appealing.
The breakthrough came when I lazily started taking other puzzle paradigms and implementing logical gates into them. How can you replace any puzzle that relies on addition, multiplication, unique items, etc. and replace that core mechanism with a logical gate. When I arrived at Sudoku with its base idea of solving something horizontally and vertically, I ended up with my current puzzle paradigm. It made sense to introduce cascading logical gates both horizontally and vertically, where a single bit effects both axis in both directions.
Every person and every game has a unique journey from a muse or inspiration to a final executable product. There is no framework or pathway that leads to success and I implore everyone to toil around until you hit your own magical balance.