Making Games

All the background you never asked for

Alright, in between all the random noise I generate to this blog, maybe it’s a good idea to do one no-nonsense status update on the first Planet Jone game, Operation Balalaika. 

The game started as minimum scope project, a sad app that I could quickly release on Android, to get familiar with the end-to-end pipeline of creating a game with Unity. I was planning to take advantage of the poor, defenseless app for the learnings and then coldly discard it in preparation for the Actual Game I wanted to do.

“But hmm,” I hmm’d to myself, “mayhap it would be a bit bonkers to release something nobody actually wants to play – there’s already a thousand such things released every day?”

Revised, the ambitious goal became “a minimum scope game that at least a MILLION THOUSAND HUNDRED people would like to play“. On a scale of 1 (“A Remake of Pong“) to 10 (“Star Citizen combined with Grand Theft Auto V“), Operation Balalaika was upped to about 2,5.

As Planet Jone is a hobby-level low-priority side-thing peeking out of the shadows of an actual job and family to raise, it has no financial targets to reach. So no need to care if the audience is small, as long as it’s happy. If over 50% of the 100 players experience mild positive emotions after playing the game, I consider the project to be a raving success.

Niche stuff for small audiences: just as creatively freeing and fun as not wearing any underwear!

The niche Planet Jone is squeezing into is “story-driven”. I like stories, and characters. And text. So I’ll put them in the game. What if people don’t like pixel art? Well there has to be 1.36986301369863e-8% of the population of Earth that are fine with it, and only half of that need to like it. How about humor? Funniness is subjective anyway, it’s enough if it makes me snigger. Somebody will be tired enough to snigger along.

So, Operation Balalaika will be a humorous, story-driven (driven is a strong word, let’s say there’s some story in it) variable one-button game, with about 30 minutes of solid fun to be had. Contrary to current trend in commercial games, it has a beginning AND an end, so in a sense, it’s disposable. But not like a coffee capsule, like in a good way.

…Wait, was that a status update or just an old guy talking to himself?

Umm. The status: with a three-level vertical slice demo, I now have confirmed I have all the tools, tech, pipelines and understanding I need to finish the development. No showstoppers in the horizon. For the 30 minutes of solid fun from the game, I am triangulating that there’s gonna be about 47 levels *) to make to get it done. Then, slap on some menus, some sounds and music, check that the art scales correctly, beta-test a bit (maybe with Google Analytics) and we’re good to go!

Estimated time of release: before Summer 2016.

Estimated happy people after game’s release: 51.

Estimated people who read this far: 1 (I did it mainly to look for typos.)

*) In this case, creating a level means creating the mechanics for the level, the art, and the story-bits. The speed of level development can be modified by turning the dial between “more reused content” and “more unique content”, which also affects the happiness percentage, which, as you just learned, may not fall below 50 units. YES, THIS IS PRECISE SCIENCE.  

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