Atlev's Corner (of the Internet)

Jul 5, 2021

Failed Games

All my life I have dreamed of creating games. As with every project of mine, I run out of steam pretty quickly and abandon it, only to start something else afterward (of which I eventually abandon too). Unfortunately, this habit is very bad for someone looking to make a game.

My first attempt at creating a game was when I was around 10-12 years old. A program called GameMaker Studio 2 had appeared on the front page of Steam and I, being a little too ambitious, decided to make a top-down shooter about hacking into people's minds. This was of course predictably titled MindHack. GameMaker had its own visual language so little non-coder me could take a swing at this stuff. It's safe to say that I had no plan.

The funniest thing I can remember about the short-lived project is that I had no knowledge of raycasts and very little knowledge of AI. Instead of measuring where the player was in relation to an enemy's FOV with angles, I made a long invisible stick that originated from the center of the enemy and always pointed to the player. If the player touched this stick then the enemy would be alerted. However, I'm pretty sure I never got the stick to be stopped by walls so enemies ended up being able to miraculously sense you from around corners, haha.

I couldn't even figure out how to make objects collide with walls without stopping in place, and enemies' version of "run to cover" was to smack up against the nearest wall. As you can guess, I gave up quickly.

Years later on July 24, 2019, I discovered Quest, which is an engine for creating text-based games. After stumbling through a tutorial, DL7 was merely a blank white screen with the game's title in black text. I switched over to a different variation of the engine and started on DL8, with the intention of creating a text-based RPG set on a space station inspired by System Shock. The opening of the game was completed and that's how far it got before I lost interest and moved on.

On April 6, 2020, COVID-19 lockdown started and depression seized its opportunity. I lost motivation to go to school, I was being manipulated, cheated on and life generally was not going so great. Anyway, I have never had a PC capable of running anything new or even mildly demanding. This pushed me toward the Source Engine; Half-Life 2 and Portal were (and still are) some of my favorite games. Everything about the engine is so cozy and I always had a lot of knowledge about how it worked from years of Garry's Mod and messing around with its editor, Hammer.

With all this time away from school, I thought, "Hey, what if I made a mod!" I still had little coding experience but ambition overtook me and I tried anyway. My mod was titled The City; the premise being that after all the humans mysteriously disappeared, CRT monitors armed with AI took their place. You played as a human who was woken up to complete a task that the AI couldn't. I was writing as I went along so this task was never decided on.

The player would have climbed up out of this underground facility into the robot-run city whilst being guided to the job site, which would have begun at an office tower.

For whatever reason, the SDK wouldn't load speech event files so I couldn't get anyone to talk. This was when I had settled on CRT monitor robots, and development went alright for a week or two. However, I lost interest shortly after that and decided to archive the project, throwing it onto my SD card for safe keeping since I had run out of space. That SD card ended up corrupting the data and all my work was lost.

Moral of the story: don't chuck valuable data onto a Walmart SD card and have that as your sole backup. Great going, me.

Months after, school started in August. One of my electives was a game design class, except lockdown was still in effect so we had to distance learn. Not everyone had a PC, and because of that, we weren't working in Unity like previous years. The teacher had us go through an easy online JavaScript course, and instead of learning game design, we learned "game design" which was just basic programming. I already knew this from messing around with GMod's Lua implementation.

The class was easy enough to get out of the way while I started on another game. This was once again a top-down shooter, except that I knew what I was doing this time. Because I'm not an artist, I just used ascii and basic DOS-era RGB colors for the sprites, and since I'm not an animator, anything animated was actually physics-based. This game of mine didn't have a name (though I considered naming it DL9 just to continue the "series").

This was the most polished that I have gotten with a game so far. By January, it felt good to play that I had even gone out of the way to make it sound good as well. Sounds slowed and shifted whenever the player's reflex regulator kicked in, as well as cutting off entirely when the hull of the ship was breached. The AI was inspired by Hotline Miami's and the only real problem being that I couldn't get enemies to avoid pathing through each other.

My plan for this game was to fly around space, scavenging derelict vessels and raiding people's ships to add to your own. The UI was styled after 80s-90s DOS TUI systems and the planned in-universe ship systems were supposed to be as well. In this universe, technology froze in 80s-90s aesthetics as if it were a Sci-Fi movie from that era.

Development came to a halt when I couldn't figure out how to select and render the UI letter by letter. I was tired, my motivation was lost, and ultimately never got around to adding anything except for basic ship modules, enemy AI, slow motion, and two weapons. All the systems needed to be rewritten and I wasn't (and still am not) in the headspace to do that. Maybe someday I'll try again on this thing, maybe I'll take another crack at it and find the motivation to keep going. I'm hoping that I will.

You can try two builds on my downloads page; the zip file contains a build from one month into development as well as the last build from May.

So far I haven't had the energy to start on anything ever since then; I need to get my mind sorted out first before I dive into another project.

Make sure to follow through with your ambitions,