Game design by necessity

I started work on a game called Gunbuilding about a week ago with the purpose of stress-testing #Punk, a C# port of Flashpunk that I’ve been developing. Nothing puts a framework through its paces like using it for a game jam, and if nothing else I ended up fixing a lot of bugs that would have inevitably bitten me later on. On the downside, though, my idea for the game changed drastically to fit inside my schedule, and I’m not thrilled with the way it came out.

If you want to play it, go here.

The first thing to go was the mechanic that gave the game its name. I created a system that assembled bullets by passing data through a set of components that could be swapped out at any time. In theory, this could have allowed for a crazy number of combinations, resulting in bullets that homed in on enemies and spawned others to ricochet around after impact. The system technically works as it is, but I didn’t have time to create more than one component for each category. I’d like to explore this type of system again in the future, though; it seemed like it had potential to be a lot of fun.

The next feature to be cut was the enemy AI. I’m pretty happy with the way my little guys hop around (the quadratic curve movement system they use was one of the first holdups I encountered), but they don’t do anything to avoid each other and always ended up clumping together into a group as they moved towards the player. As a solution (though at the time it was a joke) I made them explode when they touched each other, and then made that explosion chain to other nearby enemies. The chaining was super simple and easy to do thanks to #Punk’s extensive message broadcasting capabilities, and it turned out to be a lot more fun than the approach I had been using, so in one sense I’m glad I ran low on time to implement the rest of the game systems.

The last thing I didn’t have time for was to put any effort into graphics. Everything in the game is made up of colored squares, with theΒ  exception of a grass tile I used for the background and a tiny image for the particle effects. I generally try to prototype with as few art assets as possible to avoid getting stuck perfecting them before any gameplay is in place. In one sense that worked out this time — I can’t imagine what else I would have had to cut had I spent all kinds of time on art early on — but I feel like shipping the game in such an incomplete state is a real shame.

Overall I’m disappointed with the way the game turned out, but this was never about the game. I’m pleased with the number of bugs I was able to fix in the framework, and that was the whole point anyway, so I’d call this experiment a success.