I promised myself that during this year I must choose a passion game design project to develop during next year. Now that I am at the mid-point, it’s time to look at what I’ve got so far and reflect.
Deciding to decide
At the end of 2018 I discussed with my friend Maayan Niezna about the fact that I’ve been developing games for years already, but I still haven’t worked on my dream project, haven’t even started.
One of the problems we found is that I don’t actually have a dream project. So I made it my goal to decide on a project during 2019. Later I also decided to share my process here on my blog.
I started with no specific idea for a project, but now I collected quite a few.
Today we are at the halftime, so it’s a good opportunity to look back at this year, and consider what to do next.
First I had to ask myself what is important for me? What elements in a game might make the game development process meaningful?
Those where my first thoughts:
- Tell an authentic and personal story
- Create a positive queer social impact
- Break player expectations, play with the meta game
- Use Israel as the location
Other than that, a game I working on should be:
- A game I will enjoy working on
- A game I will be proud to display
- A game that can earn an income
I chose not prioritize them since I look at this list as guidelines, not rules.
The opportunities I collected so far divide into three categories:
Theme based ideas
Authentic theme-based ides. Those opportunities are projects that are born from ideas, something I want to tell. Their strength is that they touch me, I will be passionate about them, and I will have stories to tell. Their weakness is that they are amorphic and less defined.
- Ghost boy – The story of a young guy who died but stayed on earth, they decide to hide this fact from their loved ones who might be freaked out to know about their undead nature, and on the same time they begin to learn about the undead world. That’s a story about being different and finding your place in the world. It’s a metaphor for my feelings as a queer gay person.
- Relationship story – How does one maintains a relationship? Having to find their path managing outside forces like family, friends, work, health and others. and of-course managing inside difficulties, sharing a house, managing responsibilities, expectations, misunderstandings. Well, one problem with telling this story is that my boyfriend who is in the closet, might not want me to share details from our life 🙂
- The Bar-Noar shooting Interactive Documentry – The bar-noar shooting is a story that happened 10 years ago in Israel, it shaped the face of the lgbtqa community, and the murderer still haven’t been caught. Talking about the state of the children who were in the event and what happened there can make a an important and impactful project. In general I believe documentaries are a fascinating field for game design.
More about documenty games can be found in this Hebrew article by Alon Karmi: https://tektok.co.il/history-game-based-on-a-true-story/
- Animal rights – As vegan person, I have many stories to tell about the animal industry.
Mechanic based ideas
Those opportunities are based on ideas I feel will be fun to play or fun to develop. Unlike the story based ideas they are more defined and ready to be tested, but my connection with them is less deep.
- Card based platformer – CardJump actually started as a joke for a one-hour-game-jam, but reactions to it have been good. The design space for a game that combines platform game with card game is unique and challenging, I believe that this approach can create something new and I would love to dig deeper.
- Clicker – There is a warm place in my heart for clicker/idle-games. The genre that confronts the game-flow-theory by saying that a game doesn’t have to challenge the player for it to be fun and engaging. I believe there is much to do in this area, and I enjoy the number-based form of game design in clickers.
- Portal Shooter – After playing with the new Shader Graph system in Unity, I started to create many types of portals and had a lot of fun doing so. So naturally I started to think what games can use this shader, and I felt that a game based on Dr. Who’s Crying Angles can make a good fit. A game where you are trying to avoid being teleported to the past. I made an interesting looking teleport-ball, that enemies can shoot at you, and have a shader based on a target location, so if the ball hits you and it surrounds the camera and make a smooth transition to the new place. Making it a PvP game where people send each other to different realities sounds like lots of fun.
- Ball World – Again, an Idea that came to me while toying with graphics in Unity. I took a small ball and let the player run around it like a tiny world. This has been done before. What I changed is that I randomly changed the surface of the world where the camera couldn’t reach, which created a weird sensation of a massive world on a tiny ball. With a bit of rules addition to this mechanic, I can create a world similar to the world of Amber where you could shadow-walk to change your surroundings and achieve your goals. Dynamic environment change has also been done before, but I have an intuition that this ball approach can create a refreshing experience.
Cooperation based ideas
While I have made many games with others before (e.g. ode-to-the-dead-sea with Shiri Blumenthal), My initial thought was that my 2020 project should be a solo one. But working with others brings many benefits and interesting projects, so it’s still a thing to consider.
- Match-3 RPG – My friend Roee Avramot and me were toying with the idea of combining match-3 mechanics and RPG mechanics and see what will happen, I wrote about it here.
- Muvtelet – My friend Or Livneh is writing the comics Muvtelet about a high/middle class Israeli woman who became unemployed. Together with Mickey Hoz, we were thinking of trying to tell this story in another medium (games)
- LvP – My friend Oded Eisenberg and me were working on a Typing / Tower defense game. Yes, you might have noticed that I really enjoy mixing unrelated genres. In the game Leprechauns VS Pirates, you play in a quite leprechauns village, when suddenly evil pirates arrive and try to steal your gold. The leprechauns islands have some basic defensed, but they haven’t been used for ages, so you have to charge them (by typing words quickly) and upgrade them, to survive the waves of enemies.
- Dandush – One surprising possible path that I came across is to develop toddler games. My teammate on this one is my 2 years old nephew. His skills mainly surround toddler-game-testing, while being brutally honest in his reviews. It will give me great pleasure to develop games he will enjoy. Those will be games created with love.
- Windrose Larp – another surprising candidate is not a preson, but a larp. Larp stands for: live action role playing game.
This will be the first year of the magic college running in Israel, and I’m very excited about it. I love magic and using this IP (Intellectual property) can be benefitial both for me that can use this magical content, and for the larp, that can use the free commercial and expending of the game universe.
The larp hebrew website: http://windroselarp.com/
Or English indiegogo campain: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/windrose-college-of-the-secret-arts-a-larp#/
The problem of choice
As I mentioned before, the problem is no longer whether I’ll find a project, but which project I’ll choose from so many. And another question comes to mind: Can I really choose? Or as I go along I will continue to pick up opportunities? Can my mind settle on one hobby project and take it seriously? Before I try to solve this problem, I want to suggest another possible path that I didn’t present before: The path of not choosing.
It sounds bad, not being able to choose and jumping from project to project. But is it really a bad idea?
Actually, I don’t need to make a commercial success. I have a job I like at DeepOptics. They develop Mixed Reality glasses, and I build Unity demos to showcase their capabilities. So my hobby project is just that, a hobby. I shouldn’t stress myself about it too much. It is ok for me to just enjoy and do what’s fun for me, to chase my chosen goal for the moment.
If I want I can be the only one who play my experimental games. I can make private jokes and ugly art, if that’s what make me feel good. I can have complete creativity freedom with my art.
So I just felt that I have to put it out there: Not choosing is a valid choice.
Now that I have the work of the last six month layered before me, those are my thoughts:
I’m glad to see that I didn’t waste my time. I experienced different types of game design challenges, and got many opportunities to choose from.
Looking at those opportunities, I still feel strongly about sharing authentic real experiences from my own life. That makes the ghost-boy and maintaining-relationship ideas appealing. Or something on those lines.
Since many of the other choices aren’t mentioning themes, perhaps I can combine opportunities.
On the mechanic games sections: I just love all of them!
And on the cooperation section, I feel that the right thing for me at the moment is finding my unique voice, so working with someone else is hard. Toddler games is the one exception for this. But I can not dismiss those either, since I love working with others, and it makes a project doable.
Lastly, about the choice to not choose, I’m going to use it to mix all of them together:
There is still half a year in front of me, now is the time to experiment with all those ideas and see what fits. It would be advisable not to look for new opportunities, even if they do seem to come by themselves sometimes.
I should try to focus, find two to three projects I feel make the best choice for me, and develop them. Why two to three and not one?
I think even in 2020 having two or three passion projects will be a good thing. That way, if something bad happen to my chosen project, or if some amazing offer comes along that doesn’t work with my passion game, I’ll have an alternative option.
Now it’s time to focus on development and reach my goals!