Last week I finished a long-overdue upgrade to Lion, Xcode 4 and the latest cocos2d. After I got THE OCTOBER GAME running again, I turned to updating the artwork that I talked about last time. The work wasn’t hard, but I just couldn’t bring myself to focus on it. I think I’d worn a dent in my brain.
When I get blocked or burnt out, I take one of my other game ideas and work on it for about a day. It’s good practice and it resets my head. I had the vague idea of joining parts together to make a rocket, that would then aim itself at some enemy mothership. I wrote the concepts on 3 x 5″ index cards so I couldn’t bog down in detail:
The idea wasn’t totally stupid, so I elaborated on more cards. This forced me to think through the interactions and the cast of characters.
Most of my game ideas only make it to the index card phase. This idea had promise, so I scanned the cards and put the info in a text file. I made a short design document identifying the theme, hooks and play mechanics.
Then I stripped the idea down to it’s core: Joinable parts that turn into ships, that fly at an enemy. This would make it easier to test the basic concept. I was having trouble visualizing the mechanics, so I got some physical components and acted out the play pattern. Coins were joined to clothes pins, which became cups (ships). The ships then flew into the enemy (stacked cups). I made sounds and everything. Pew pew.
Eventually I had to make the visuals more concrete so I did a quick Photoshop mockup from my clip-art stash. This would be a landscape-oriented, iPad-sized game:
I made a minimal app from this concept, to see if it felt right. I gave it the code name Montador, spanish for “assembler”.
Except for the icon and the space background, I strongly resisted the urge to generate real graphics, and just built with colored squares. Graphics and animation are a huge time sink & a temptation to noodle around.
This took 16hrs in total. My long-term skill goal is to go from napkin to working app in a single work session. I may or may not revisit it. Or I might incorporate some elements into another prototype down the road.
The next day my art block was gone and I wrapped up another chunk of the game.