Today I had another typical day at work. I spent a whole heap of time thinking of other things I should be working on. Somewhere between heart and dollar-sign post-it notes is where I should be working.

I ended up throwing it all out in the bin, and instead thinking of how I can increase my chances of my current project – Emilio’s Email Express – could succeed. I know that if I don’t actually finish a game on my own, then I’ll forever be in a cycle of making and not making, never finishing, because I am so obsessed with ideas that have some unknown potential.

Here’s what came to mind when I thought of ways to improve EEE’s chance of success:

  • Single-player. Duh, it’s the lesson I learned while working on Kinstrike. This is simple, but truth is until this year I’d always been focused on system-based multiplayer, not content-based single player.
  • High share-ability. It’s got to have something that is worth showing friends. It could be a creative element (level building), humour, randomness. It could be Twitch integration, or mixed reality casting. I look at EEE, being based around delivery and emails, and wonder if there’s some chance of asynchronous communication. It could be speedrunning. It could have an artistic element.
  • Sustainable income. I also had notes for DLC every 3 months (initially I wrote “Game every 3 months” but crossed it out), low-cost expansions, and a growing cast of “friends”. I am very interested in building an IP around Emilio and similar characters. For effective DLC, I look at the only success in VR, which is Beat Saber with beatmapped songs, which seems to be a very efficient form of DLC. The DLC uses 1 new audio track on top of new content that uses existing systems and assets. No new 3D art, or effects, or mechanics. I love it!
    EEE DLC could be more levels, with existing mechanics, but perhaps different colours, or slightly different models, for example a desert-themed pack. Writing and dialogue could be a low cost form of new content, too.
  • Solid, polished core. This is obvious, but even more obvious following the DLC talk above. Would BS have been so successful if the hit registration was weird, or the visual design wasn’t so TRON-like? If they hadn’t polished every pixel and sound in the headset?

I’ll only remain motivated to continue EEE as long as there’s a hope of success. By continuing to think about the market and what I can offer, I hope I’ll find a couple of awesome features that push it over the line.

So, as I resumed work, I watched a talk about Astro Bot for PSVR. I haven’t played it… and I haven’t played any platformers since Mario Galaxy. I was immediately struck by how unique every level and boss fight is. The sheer amount of effort that went into Astro Bot is astounding. I can’t match that. One day in the future, maybe Emilio will stand up to comparison with Astro Bot, but not now. I fear the customer will compare it. Is that the norm for platformers? If so, then I need to look at more arcade-style games.

Dev Progress

I’m using a production schedule that looks like a linear GANTT chart. It list feature sets and allocates a time for me to work on them. I’m fairly serious about the timeline – because I’d rather ship a shit/small game than never ship anything.

Currently, I here’s what I should have completed:

  • App, Input & Menu: I kinda cheated here, re-using stuff from Kinstrike.
  • Level: This is bare-bones. I found a way to make long levels without requiring artificial locomotion between areas. I have an alternative idea, that the level exists completely in shared overlapping space, but only contiguous parts of it are revealed at a time, kind of mazelike.
  • Player: I made (and re-made) a cute player model out of cubes. My initial plan was to let the player move freely, but beyond X distance from a platform it would die/timeout. It felt arbitrary, as you were never sure how long you could jump/fly for.
    I spent about a day trying to do a kinematic player body that has Mario Galaxy-esque gravity. The control scheme makes design sense: E will stay on a surface, try to follow your hand, and jumps on command. Your second hand is used to aim abilities. I complicated it by wanting E to traverse and jump on any surface (not just the top). He orbited platforms a lot. It’s not at all the slick and predictable controls you get in Mario games.
    I’m not giving up on it yet. My logic for local gravity is good. I am going to try using more common Unity techniques for platformers – rigidbodies and forces – and look also at how they handle jumping. I’m going to start with Catlike Coding’s tutorial because I’ve come across the author’s work on Hex Grids and they do a great job explaining code.

Tomorrow I should be starting on Enemy or Collectable features… but I don’t even have a player controller yet.

I feel like I don’t work on it enough, and every hour I spend working on it is damaging my relationship with my partner. I wish it wasn’t a binary choice of game dev or happy home. I need to push forward.