Active Sketch 02 - Ledges

Another sketch.

This time, a prototype. I made it to test out the movement controls for a climbing game.

In our effort to make a cool intriguing game, the artist brontosaurus and I have been coming up with concept art and procedural sketches that we could combine into something interesting. But we've realized that our approach is in need of a slight course correction.

Procedural trees and space invaders may be cool to look at, but that's not the same as a game that's fun to play. If you create a bunch of cool things, you don't automatically end up with an interesting interaction when you put them all together. But if you start by creating cool actions, things to do, then you're more likely to end up with something that's fun to play.

Daniel Cook put it this way, when asked for advice:

Typically what I'd suggest is working on a core mechanic and seeing if you can 'find the fun'. I see you focusing more on artwork...which is pretty, but doesn't find the fun.

Given this suggestion, I realized it might be more appropriate to spend less time creating procedural art and more time prototyping gameplay.

This doesn't mean that I shouldn't spend any time creating procedural art. It just means that before I come up with things, I need to come up with the actions first. If I have the gameplay down, the stuff you do, then I'll know what sort of things would go well with those actions, what would make them more fun or meaningful or interesting.

So this is our new doctrine: design the verbs first, then the nouns. Not the other way around.

Thus, this climbing prototype.

It's simple. Use the arrow keys to move the climber around. You can press up to jump, or down to drop from a ledge. The interesting bit is that you can hang on ledges. Maybe not quite as interesting as jumping off walls, but hey, it's an experiment. :p

I used the Flixel engine to make it. Flixel is awesome. It's perfect for little games like this, especially if you like pixel-y graphics. I wholeheartedly recommend it. I'll write a blog post about it sometime.

However, brontosaurus and I probably won't be taking this climbing concept any further. We had thought it might be a good idea to start with a simple action like climbing, and build up from there. And we started creating some concept art for such a game, which you can see here.

But after trying out some movement controls in this prototype we decided that the gameplay wasn't strong enough to carry an entire game. And that's the whole point of a prototype - to tell you whether the game is worth making or not.

So we're back to the drawing board.

And with some inspiration from Shaun Tan and The Little Prince, hopefully we'll come up with something even better. I'll let you know how it goes. :)

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