Sometimes The Heart Does Not Know What It Wants

So the next game, ZORBA, is basically done at this point. I handed it over to the people I hand it over to when a game needs testing and they did their usual excellent job. Actually, it had far fewer bugs than I’d anticipated (knock on wood blah blah), just one really bad one that Rilla found almost the instant she touched the game (she’s good at that). I’ll “release” it on Wednesday, is the plan.

However, one side effect of being finished with the game and getting a couple of bits of particularly perceptive feedback, is noticing just how much the game isn’t what I wanted. In particular, the version of Z_ORBA_ I made contains the game I wanted to make, but also a lot more. Basically, the game was originally just meant to be the opportunity to dance against Zorba himself in a kind of impossible-to-win DDR affair…

But somewhere down the line I kept adding more and more to the game. First a practice mode. Then a phony online multiplayer mode where little AIs would pretend to be other human players you were connected to, which I added as a straight-up gag and for no other reason. Then after an enthusiastic suggest from a couple of students I also added a local multiplayer where you could square off on the same keyboard. And I added a bunch of statistics tracking to go along with the aesthetic of online game-ness that ZORBA had acquired. The “Zorba” mode, the original game, languishes at the bottom of the menu system now.

So in fact I feel strangely regretful about the way the game has turned out and I find myself wondering why I complicated everything so much. The best answer I’ve been able to locate isn’t exactly satisfying: I did it because I could. While coding up the Zorba dance aspect of the game it was pretty obvious I could just slot in a different “AI” that screwed up the odd dance step and so on and have a different experience. It was a pretty short step from that to “oh, I could have a fake online version!”. And from there to needing a practice mode, statistics, and local multiplayer. It all just ran downhill from that initial insight into how easy it would be to make different game modes.

Except you shouldn’t always just go pelting downhill. Sometimes you’ll get to the bottom and you won’t like the view as much as you did at the top.

7 November 2011
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