E. Darwin Hartshorn: //Boilerplate

How to make an original game:

My wife pointed out a monster catching and raising game on iOS with the question, “Isn’t this what you’re trying to do?”

No.  It’s not.  See, here’s my design philosophy:  I make the games I want to play.   If someone else has made it already, I don’t have that unrequited desire to make the game, as I can requite said desire any time I like.  Or at least as soon as I save up the cash to buy it.

Ergo, every game I intend to make has never been done before.  Most are variations on things that have been done before.  But all are, in some way, original.

As I gain skill and a feel for the market, I intend to expand my rubric: I intend to make games that lots of people, including myself, want to play.  Once again, games they want to play because they don’t exist yet.

Medium Must Match Message redux

So here’s my problem:  I’m a half-decent artist.  I need to make art for Bestiary.  But the art has to fit the tone of the game.

The idea, in Bestiary, is you are a Sentinel, one of those people who can bond to and control the native creatures of Theria.  Since the powers of therians are fantastic, human colonists rely on Sentinels to keep them safe, to hold the line against the violent world just beyond their doors.  But those who control the monsters are suspected of being half-monster yourself, so your necessary role is also a curse.

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Medium Must Match Message

This is a good article to read.

Auro wasn’t supposed to be “retro.” To me, the “retro game” aesthetic isn’t just pixel art, but an appeal to the specific sounds, feedback, and look and feel of a specific set of old school games. While it’s true that Auro was an homage to my favorite game art, I never intended for it to be “retro.” I just wanted to make great pixel art, yet it inexorably gets lumped in with the retro aesthetic.
But here’s the clincher. It’s not their fault.

“Retro?” Poppycock! I’ll have you know I’m quite jiggy with it!

The Artist’s Responsibility
Though I never intended for Auro to be a “retro-style” game, what I intended doesn’t matter at all, and it’s 100% my fault for failing to communicate in a language people understand.

As a game developer, time is the most valuable resource a human can give you. Nobody owes us their time or attention. As such, when someone gives us their time, an implicit agreement is made and we are now in debt to that person. We owe it to them to deliver value for their time, and to deliver it efficiently.

I am an illustrator/animator. The kind of value that illustrators/animators are responsible for is distinct among other types of visual artists. We must establish meaningful intent as close to instantaneously as possible. By meaningful intent, I simply mean that the audience has to internalize the concept, motion, emotion, perspective, etc. of a pieceright away. The second the audience asks “how can he bend that way without breaking his spine,” or  “Why is he shooting where he’s not looking,” we have failed them. They don’t owe us the time to look at our work in the first place. They certainly don’t owe us the time to squint their eyes and try to make sense of our work.

Meaningful intent applies to medium as well. In choosing to make our game with pixel art, we have accidentally taken on a war on two fronts. My job was to make Auro’s art polished, inviting, and clear to the audience, not to also educate the audience that pixel art is a deliberate style.

My main point dances around Mr. Reynolds’ point.  The consumers of Auro criticized it for its ‘pixelated’ art, not understanding that it was intentional.  Reynolds correctly places the blame on his failure to communicate, but seems only to brush in passing on how he failed.  The quote, “Auro wasn’t supposed to be “retro.” To me, the “retro game” aesthetic isn’t just pixel art, but an appeal to the specific sounds, feedback, and look and feel of a specific set of old school games,” is the closest I see to an explicit recognition of the issue.

The issue is that the medium doesn’t match the message.

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Hurrah for Xamarin!

hate Unity.

That’s not a slight on Unity.  I’m entirely self-taught, and Unity and I don’t get along is all.  It’s me, not U.

Xamarin is releasing business licenses, for free, to indie game devs, provided they can prove they’ve made a game.  With Project Therion in development hell for years as I’ve tried to make myself work with Unity, I don’t feel much like a game dev… but I made a game, and it sold a couple copies, so I totally count.

I’m submitting my application even as we speak.  And hey, here’s a bit of concept art:

Infant - Lyzzor

The official name of the game (unless it changes) is Pocket Bestiary for the phone, and Bestiary for PC.