Imagine you could make any sort of game you
wanted. What would YOU make? I thought I knew. I thought I knew better
than everybody else! For years, I looked at the pathetic little platformers and simplistic
games that others made and was like ‘Ha! You have no imagination!’. If I could make anything
I wanted I’d make a super advanced game that featured a weapon customisation system, or
with the best AI ever seen in a game, or unlimited ways that a level could be completed so that
your experience is different every time. Why hadn’t anybody made the game I was imagining?
The thing is, what I was imagining wasn’t a game. It was a fantasy! Like a cool scene
from a movie or a story you’d tell your friends. I had imagined the end result but hadn’t thought
of how to make it a reality. And you can’t base a game around such a specific thing!
You just can’t. The end doesn’t justify the means. And believe me, I tried for years!
For over a decade, I built up enough experience and knowledge to make any sort of game that
I wanted. And you know what I did once I could? I started making simple little flash games!
I became a traitor to my cause! All because I learned that, no matter how
complicated a game is, you can break down what makes it fun into very simple things.
Yes, running through a base shooting at enemies can be great, but it’s only fun because the
movement feels right. And because the bullets do just the right amount of damage. That there’s
enough threat of dying for it to be a challenge, but enough lee-way for you to try cool things.
The enemies can’t be super clever- in fact, they need to be just stupid enough to let
you pull off ridiculous stunts. If any one gameplay element is off, the whole thing collapses!
I learned that you don’t make a game better by adding more to it- doing so only makes
it easier for the game to break and for people to criticise it. This was where I was going
wrong. So in 2011, I put my amazing game ideas on
hold and started my game making journey again, hell-bent on getting the basics right.
Welcome to Light Cubed. I came up with a simple, abstract idea and set about making it fun.
The important thing was keeping it simple. You move your mouse over the screen and press
one of three buttons, depending on what you want to place there. You have to make the
bar at the bottom of the screen fill up to win the level. The faster you do it, the better!
It’s still one of my most polished games to date. I kept the graphics and colour palette
simple and instead invested time making it look good, which I KNOW is something I should
spend more time doing. I just never bother normally. I released the game on Newgrounds
and it got a lot of positive feedback! People complained that it was too short, which is
about the best sort of complaint you can hope for. Most people don’t even start my complicated
games! One review said how unfair it was that I had submitted fake times- which I hadn’t.
I was just awesome at my own game. Was it painful to return to such simple game
development after some of the stuff I had been working on? Not at all. In fact, I learned
a lot from Light Cubed! Firstly, LOOK AT ALL THAT TEXT. Who bothers reading that?! After
this I was adamant that future games of mine would teach you the gameplay in bite-sized
amounts, rather than a HUGE BLOCK OF TEXT. Also, time-based objectives are always a bit
of a cop-out in my opinion, especially when reflexes and repetition are key to success.
But you live and learn and I next applied what I had learned to Jimmy’s Unlikely Resurrection!
I remade it into a flash game with more polish and an online highscore table. It was easy
to learn and was well received on Newgrounds, as were the 3 expansions that I released just
to milk the time I had invested into the game. I’ve mentioned all this before but the highscores
for these games no longer work in the original games on Newgrounds. Mochimedia went out of
business, their databases went down, but fortunately it didn’t break games that featured their
plugins. There just aren’t highscores in them anymore. It’s a shame because they were super
easy to include in games. And lastly, the final game, for a mochimedia
competition! The theme was ‘too cool for school’. So I set it in a blizzard, where you had to
get 3 ugly students to school without freezing. They all have different speeds, strengths
and tolerances to the cold and must be kept near fires or else their temperatures drop.
This project wasn’t as successful as my other flash games. There wasn’t much replay-ability,
but it was a good little brain-teaser. Unlike Light Cubed, it wasn’t so reflex-based since
having people stood near fires effectively pauses time, allowing players to think. This
game has been all but forgotten. I doubt I’ll ever make a sequel, but it’s yet another finished
project under my belt, which is always welcome. I didn’t win the competition but got a t-shirt
for my efforts. This was the last game that I made before
my latest, which is obviously Destruction Darius. But if I finished this series here,
you’d probably be a bit disappointed. Don’t worry- this series isn’t in a chronological
order and I’ve saved my most interesting games till last. I can’t wait to show you them!