A Hard Look
Hey Folks! Bit of a rough day, today. I've been having doubts about the prototype lately, and spent most of the day soul searching.
It started as a smaller-scale judgement call as to whether I should invest significant amounts of time/money sprucing-up the rendering in the game. Rearchitecting the game's rendering pipeline would likely solve many performance issues, further enhance the visual appeal of the game (important for raising awareness and sales), and bestow some cool feature possibilities. But it would also mean weeks, potentially months, of outsourced work. And a significant chunk from BBG's financial reserves. Would it be worth it?
After some thinking, I decided to postpone that overhaul. The game's biggest weakness right now isn't graphics. It's gameplay. It just isn't fun right now. And until that changes, any money put into other buckets is probably too risky. I want to make sure this thing is too fun to put down before I bet the company on it.
And that's where things (emotionally speaking) took a dive. I returned to some of the systems coding I was working on, and it felt like things had regressed since my last visit. Things I thought worked were on the fritz again. Shortfalls of my systems were made obvious. The sheer amount of work left to do loomed large. This thing isn't fun. I've been at it for probably a year, year-and-a-half now. And I still can't "play" it.
Now, it's an interesting tech demo, for sure. It does all kinds of interesting things I wished some games would do. And it has loads of potential if it ever does what it promises to do. Complete ship customization, with Sims-like layouts and Factorio-like ship systems. Deep character customization with backstories. Entertaining interpersonal drama with machine learning. It's literally one of my dream games.
On paper, anyway.
But in practice, it's still just a tech demo that does all of the above only partially. And even at that, many systems barely work, and break at the slightest breeze. I decided to take a biiig step back this time, and really assess what I've got here. That's the screenshot today. A spreadsheet listing the pros and cons of this game, with color formatting for clarity.
And what did I discover? See for yourself! 14 reasons the game is good, 15 reasons the game is bad. Hmm. So much for clarity. What if I weight each one based on some heuristic "importance?" A score of 41 "for" the game, and 40 "against." An almost literal deadlock any way you slice it.
That doesn't inspire confidence. Could be worse, for sure. But at the end of the day, when my brain is tired from second-guessing myself, seeing this isn't helping. At least a clear, decisive answer would've been nice :)
I guess the ray of sunshine here is that no matter which course I take, it's probably equal. No danger of making a mistake.
I dunno, though. Probably the biggest reasons I'd be loathe to abandon this prototype is all the awesome work others have poured into it. Michael's amazing setting info, Emily's engaging portraits, Josh's evocative soundtrack...I'd hate to let them down. That said, it'd probably be almost as bad if those things were paired with a lackluster game.
Definitely some more thinking to do on this. But maybe it'd do me some good to give this topic a rest for a night or two, and revisit with fresh energy. Sorry to be such a downer today! First world problems, I know :)