Thursday, May 30, 2013

@Star Wars, where art thou?

It's been quite a while since I last wrote anything about @Star Wars. I'd like to talk about why that is and why development has seemingly come to a total halt.

First off, Dead Man Walking happened. Dead Man Walking is an amalgam of ideas and concepts about Roguelikes I have and/or like. It is its own creation - there is no overarching canon to work with or perceived pressure to worry about. The story of Dead Man Walking is the story I write and if someone doesn't like it, then that's fine, but I'm not going to change it. It isn't the most consistent narrative ever, but it works.

When I was actively developing @Star Wars, I never really felt like this was the case. I felt like I needed to make the game fit within the monstrosity that is the Star Wars universe. On the outside it may seem easy to create a good Star Wars story that fits within the canon, but that was not my experience. The overwhelming number of details - hundreds if not thousands of weapons, species, planets, etc - would seem to give a wannabe writer a lot of space to work with. There were too many choices to make and too many places I could fail. With Dead Man Walking, I can write anything and it basically fits, at least within reason.

Secondly, @Star Wars was my first ever project. I had massive dreams for what it could be. I think a lot of brand new designers do this and, at least in my experience, it doesn't really work that well. @Star Wars taught me a lot, but I rarely got anything done with the actual game because my programming skill and ability to quickly design content was way worse than it is today (note: they aren't really "good" today, just not as bad as they used to be).

Dead Man Walking was a back to basics game for me, but I never had any "basics" before. So it was really just my introductions to the basics. This was largely out of necessity: unless you're capable of rapid content development (see: PrincessRL), than having a 7DRL that's bloated with content is difficult. I wanted to complete the 7DRL and make it winnable, and that's exactly what I did. I will always consider the 7drl version of Dead Man Walking to be a complete game that can be enjoyed as its own entity. I do not consider it to be the perfect version of Dead Man Walking by any means, but it stands out on its own just fine.

Thirdly, @Star Wars suffered through a lot of design hell. If you think I do a lot of back-and-forth decision making with Dead Man Walking, I dare you to go back and read some of the old @Star Wars blog posts. Again, Dead Man Walking needed concrete design from the get-go. I had no time to suffer through design hell or I would have failed the 7drl. I've gone back and changed certain elements that I felt could be improved in the 7drl version, but the core game is still surprisingly similar considering how much extra development time I've given it.

If 0.7a ever sees the light of day, it will go through a number of changes compared to 0.6a. I'll go back to the drawing board as far as content and narrative goes. I'll try to ignore the canon and just the game and hope it kinda fits. Trying to worry about the canon all the time is a neat idea in theory, but in practice it's very time consuming and not as fun as it sounds. I'll also probably go back to the beginning as far as species and the like goes. I'll want to make a decent game with a "base" character and then start adding in species and other player choices later in the process. A lot of development time was wasted on trying to balance and integrate species into the design fold, when it really wasn't necessary.

I still spend quite a lot of time thinking about @Star Wars and I predict that I'll start working on it again one day. I'm not sure if that will be tomorrow or three years from now, but it's almost inevitable. I love Star Wars, I love Roguelikes, and I'm thoroughly enjoying creating them - it's a natural fit, so as long as I don't scare myself away from it again. I am currently pretty pumped up about Dead Man Walking and I can't see myself working on @Star Wars until I get some of those ideas taken care, but maybe after that train sails...


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