Games and Blocks

I mentioned last week that I’ve been taking a class in game development using Unity. Unity is one of those tools that has become an industry standard in the past few years, particularly among indie developers. It allows for quick prototyping, it has a lot of stuff built in in terms of physics logic and resource management, it allows you to port your game to basically any extant platform or operating system, and there are a lot of free-to-use resources already made by people who are smarter and more talented than you.

Screencap of the Unity development environment
All I did here was swap out models and do set dressing.

Basically, I’m always looking for more weird shit to cram into my brain, and this class seemed like it might be really interesting. And I won’t lie, the fact that I’ve been watching the second season of New Game! recently absolutely had an effect on my decision to take the class.

A screenshot from the anime New Game!
Look at all these adorable game design and development lesbians!

Unfortunately, the class isn’t full of ladies who are adorably gay for each other and for whom I could play matchmaker. On the upside, it’s full of really good information that, even though I probably could’ve learned it just by sitting down and plugging away on my own, it’s still nice to have codified in a school-type setting.

With a full head of steam going because of the Unity course, I was particularly vulnerable to the siren song of the current Humble RPG Maker Software Bundle. This is a tool that has been around for a while in various iterations that, while potent, is very specifically aimed at doing one type of game: the JRPG. Like Unity, it takes care of a lot of background stuff and even provides a repository of free resources that come with it.

A screencap of RPG Maker MV
Again, literally all prefab resources. I just pushed them around like puzzle pieces.

It’s also, unfortunately, held in somewhat less esteem than tools like Unity because there is that weird logical fallacy that, if something is simple to use, the results must intrinsically be garbage.

I won’t argue that ease of use lowers the barriers to entry for people less dedicated to producing awesome shit—God knows that any jackass with a word processor and too much time on their hands can write a truly horrendous novel—but I think it’s disingenuous to think that everything that comes from a simple tool is going to be bad. There will always be those who are willing to put in the extra effort to create something polished and special.

Now, here’s the weird thing I’ve run into while working with these applications. I’ve dug in and gotten my hands dirty. I know the absolute, and I mean the absolute, basics of each one, and I’m excited by all the possibilities that are there. But when I try to think of something I want to actually create, I draw a complete blank. 100% blockage. I’ve had a couple of adventure game-style things knocking around in my head for actual years, but it’s all too big to try to tackle at the place I’m at right now. I basically have novel ideas when I’m trying to come up with a short story to get my feet wet.

All I can figure is that there are a couple of things in play. One is that I am not accustomed to thinking in terms of constrained interactivity. I say “constrained” specifically because I’ve created plenty of tabletop RPG scenarios over the years, but those allow a wide degree of freedom to players. That sort of jam is difficult to handle in a format where the difficulty of creation rises exponentially with the amount of freedom a player has. That’s not something I want to reckon with while I’m learning a tool set.

The other thing is that, even though I’m creating something in order to learn, I still want the end result to be decent. So I’m reluctant to just kitbash a thing together and call it good. Which I should probably make my peace with, but it would go against my better nature as someone who likes good stories and good games.

In the end, I’ll just need to come up with something that I can feel good about locking in for the sake of learning. Then, maybe, I can move on to bigger and better things!

So how about you guys? Have you ever picked up a new format and found yourself at a loss for what to create with it? Did you get past that block? Let me know in the comments!

One thought to “Games and Blocks”

  1. As soon as I find the game design class full of lesbians that need a matchmaker, I’ll let you know ASAP. Right now, I imagine your class is full of a random mix of folks, plus one dude who doesn’t bathe near enough.

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