Pre-Sprint 3 Planning: Better Late Than Never

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Pre-Sprint 3: Better Late Than Never

Truth is, I should have written this 3 days ago. But, uh, better late than never, right?

This sprint – pre-sprint, that is to say – is likely to be similar to the past two. So long as I’m chained down my time will be split and my concentration difficult. Still, it’s 8:31pm on a Tuesday and here I am working away, so that’s a good sign, right?

Well, let’s hope so.

Sprint Goals

  • More blog posts! I said this last time and wrote just one article. Granted that’s one more than I had before, but I need to do a better job
  • Obliterate stickies. I have a ridiculous number of outstanding stickies on my backlog board. No doubt this has contributed to my feeling unproductive. I want to tear through them, at least the easy ones.
  • Think more about the development process. Now that I’m actually coding it’s time to do some hard thinking on how I’ll actually work. How do iterations work? When do I know I’m done? When can people play this darn thing?

So, very similar to last sprint. Fairly unfocused, but not distractedly so. I think it’s going to take me at least a couple months before I can really focus on any one area. Until then, lots of irons in the fire.

Pre-Sprint 2: Retrospective

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It’s official: progress continues to be made! These additional stickies are proof.

Highlights

  • Even more coding! I had promised myself that I wouldn’t harp too much on the actual coding – mostly out of fear of burnout while I’m in this weird limbo stage. Still, I got a lot of good work done, including dialog boxes, sprinting, a dog (!), commands to the dog (!!!), a bunch of other stuff!
  • Transferring work to Visual Studios Team Services. I don’t use Visual Studios. I’m not part of a Team. And yet I’m finding these so-called ‘Services’ pretty useful. TFS / VSTS is a wonderful one-stop shop for my features and code. It’s free. It’s way overkill for a solo project, but it’s working for me
  • More work on design. Now that I have a basic framework sketched out ideas are flowing through me. I’ve wrote most of them down but I have plenty of stuff still floating around in my head that needs to be put to paper

Lowlights

  • Not as much work as I could have done given my free time – again!
  • A big issue was concentration. This is going to be a big issue as this progresses, as I’ll need to be able to focus and concentrate to be successful – again!
  • Not much else to talk about save for the above repeats.

Demo

Still nothing to share in the way of an actual .exe, but here’s a gif of borderline dog abuse

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Creating a Saturday Simulator

“Our lives are so short. We only get to live in this one existence, but what if we could have more than one?”
Kyle Bosman, Easy Allies

We all play games for different reasons.

For me, it’s always been an escape. My life isn’t so bad, but I love running away to some fantastical world where I can do and be anything. Even as an adult, (especially as an adult?) where my freedom is high, I still find myself fantasizing about game worlds.

It should come as no surprise that the ‘life simulator’ genre is my absolute favorite. After all, what better way to escape life than to simulate a new one altogether? Such is my love of this style that I find myself latching onto games where only a small portion or mode can be considered a LifeSim – games like Dwarf Fortress, Little King’s Story, Majora’s Mask, and a huge number of other Nintendo titles

Yet no matter what other games I play, the king of kings of this genre is undoubtedly, without debate or question:

Animal Crossing. 

Not The Sims. Not Harvest Moon. Not Second Life (is this still even a thing?)

Animal Crossing.

In fact, I’d go so far to say that I don’t even particularly care for games like Harvest Moon. Strong words, but stay with me here.

As a certified LifeSim lover, I recognize that I should be more enamored with the Harvest Moons of the world. After all, Natsume has cranked out about a billion of them, Stardew Valley was a fantastic success, and people clearly like them.

And yet they’ve always eluded me. In this post, I’m going to dig into why this is – as well as what it means for my game.

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Harvest Moon: A Weekday Simulator

Nothing is wrong with Harvest Moon or the Sims, and I can recognize them as fun games that scratch that escapism itch in many people.

But to better deconstruct my dissatisfaction with this style of game, consider this example of an average day in Harvest Moon:

You wake up and immediately perform your daily chores related to your farm. It’s all rote stuff and is meant to be relaxing in its own way, but you’re always made aware of time passing and your energy meter depleting. Together, these promote – and in some cases, demand – efficiency over relaxation.

You then make the rounds to talk to each NPC at least once. Maybe you try to level up relationships by giving them their daily gift. Maybe you grind materials for your new building. Whatever you do, it’s always another cycle of managing meters, checking boxes, and grinding for progress.

In short, it’s simulating your average weekday. There’s time for relaxation and socializing, but your day is still dominated by work, chores, and the need to earn and progress

I’d actually argue that there’s a surprising amount of pressure to the whole thing. Have you ever had a ‘bad’ day in Harvest Moon games? It can feel terrible! Some players go so far as to restart saves in the name of efficiency or ‘re-rolling’ bad RNGs.

I’m painting this in a negative light, but it’s not all bad. In many ways, the bread and butter of a Harvest Moon or Sims game is to take the habitual, routine parts of life and bottle it in a way that’s bite-sized and entertaining. To a many, it’s perfect – you get a sense of accomplishment with a fraction of the effort.

and yet…

Animal Crossing: A Weekend Simulator

(or, more succinctly, a Saturday Simulator)

…I still vastly prefer the Animal Crossing model. Let’s compare the above with your average day in Animal Crossing:

You wake up and check your mail. You spend some time looking for fossils and seeing what’s new at the store. Maybe you talk to the villagers, run some errands, or spend all day creating pixel art. Maybe you do nothing at all.

There are no meters, no pressure to do anything. You have goals, sure, but they’re always minor and there’s few, if any consequences. Your days can be as productive or lazy as you’d like.

I’m not sure if all of this makes Animal Crossing the least game-y game or the most game-y game, but it works. It simulates a perfect Saturday: your free to spend it being as productive or efficient as you please, but there’s no rush or pressure. It’s carefree, relaxing, and completely at your speed.

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So what does this mean for WARP DOGS’ first game?

In case it wasn’t clear before, let me be explicit: my game will fall into that Saturday Simulator model.

There’s no deadlines. There are no energy or health or hunger meters. There will never be tasks or chores that must be done.

Each day will be similar the one before it in a very key way: every day is Saturday. You can choose to be productive, you can choose to be lazy. Above all, I want you to feel relaxed. Carefree.

One thing that will differ slightly is that I’m going to impose far fewer artificial restrictions to players’ progress than AC chooses to do. I understand the value in saving the player from themselves by drip-feeding them content, but it can also be a really transparent design restriction .

I don’t want players to think I’m shaking my head disapprovingly if they want to grind their way through something. It’s a valid choice for some.

I want a game that 29-year-old me would want to play after a bad day at work. I want a game that a kid wants to play after a bad day at school.

I want a game that makes every day feel like Saturday.

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Pre-Sprint 2 Planning: The Storm That Wasn’t

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Pre-Sprint 2: The Storm that Wasn’t

The Pacific Northwest is fairly sheltered as far as weather goes. We get a lot of overcast days and rain, and sure, one day a giant earthquake will kill us all, but we’re spared the blizzards and hurricanes and tornadoes and everything else. It’s typically very quiet here.

That’s why this last week was so unique. All throughout we were repeatedly warned about an upcoming storm that was to make landfall on Saturday (yesterday). Hurricane-force winds combined with a rain-soaked, saturated ground seemed to spell a devastating, once-in-a-generation type of storm. At best we’d all lose power, at worst we’d all lose our lives.

Well, the fact I’m posting this on Sunday morning is essentially some environmental storytelling, isn’t it? There was no storm. We didn’t lose power. We all survived. A bit of a bummer, if I’m honest.

Anyway, onto the next sprint – and the next storm!

Sprint Goals

  • More blog posts. I have a lot of thoughts bouncing around my head. Not all of them are useful or interesting, but I believe this blog is a medium in which I can get them down on paper and think through them. Expect to see some more posts
  • Continue implementing ‘simple’ systems. I’m not a strong believer in the whole ‘vertical slice’ pattern of game creation. I think it encourages bad practices and wasted work. My goal instead is to start simple, start rough, and then relentlessly iterate.
  • Read a whole lot. In order to become a better writer I need to first become a better reader. I know, I know, I sound like a 7th grade Language Arts teacher, but it’s true in this case. I have quite a few books coming my way on game design, storytelling, and writing in general. I must absorb these books like a sponge if i have any hope to make it

So, very similar to last sprint. Fairly unfocused, but not distractedly so. I think it’s going to take me at least a couple months before I can really focus on any one area. Until then, lots of irons in the fire.

Pre-Sprint 1: Retrospective

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It’s official: progress has been made! These bunch of stickies are proof.

Highlights

  • Actual work on the game – wow! Real coding! Real design! It’s like I’m really developing a video game
  • Fixed a laptop. The prospect of drastically reduced paychecks has incentivize me to fix and maintain old hardware instead of ogling new hardware. I fixed up one laptop and now have 3 in total
  • Tons of design. Lots was done on the design part of the game, including a design document
  • Lessons Learned documentation. I’ve watched a lot of Shenmue 1 & 2 let’s play videos, and it’s not just for fun. I developed a system for taking notes and analyzing a game for what to do (and not to do) with my own game. I’m calling it ‘Lessons Learned’
  • Implemented several helper libraries. Used Tiled, imported a map, attached a camera to a sprite, and animated it. I love love2d

Lowlights

  • Not as much work as I could have done given my free time.
  • A big issue was concentration. This is going to be a big issue as this progresses, as I’ll need to be able to focus and concentrate to be successful

Demo

No shareable demo yet, and likely not for awhile, but here’s a GIF of my ‘progress’

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An impressive amount of bugs:lines of code, if I do say so myself

Pre-Sprint 1 Planning: A Very Rainy Start

These types of posts will be used to go over the next week’s work. However, because this is still just a hobby, I’m not considering this an ‘official’ sprint – just a test run.

Goals for Pre-Sprint 1

There are a lot of spinning plates right now! It should be of no surprise that there’s simultaneously too much going on and not enough to talk about. After all, this is the first one of these.

I view the current iteration in three parts:

  1. Research & Design – Familiarizing myself with the tools I’ll be using, other games in similar genres, and more. Essentially laying the foundation for the game itself
  2. Biz Prep – This is all just a hobby, but could it be more? Maybe. This week, I’ll look into my options and come up with a plan.
  3. Prototypes – I want to avoid burning out on working on too much at once, especially if my design isn’t nailed down and refactoring is unavoidable. Still, it’s important to test things out. This week, I’d like to play with Tiled, a neat little tool to create tilemaps.

I’ll have another post up this Saturday to see how I did with the above. Depending on this goes you’ll either seem way more or way less of this type of thing.