Let’s Get Physicsal! Physicsal!

Have started working on the next game now. To the left is a placeholder plane for while I’m messing around with the Box2D physics engine, trying to understand… well… anything at all, actually. No, that’s not fair, I’ve successfully made the plane drop out of the air and land on the ground, which is kind of an achievement. I have a ways to go though.

Importantly, although the graphic’s just a placeholder, I’m really looking forward to making a game that isn’t in a retro pixel-art style – or rather, and more specifically, doesn’t look like a remixed old-school Sierra adventure game. Instead I’m interested in going to a style more like some of my most recent (though not really that recent any more!) comic – heavy on the black and a hand-drawn line, a bit “naive” maybe (not entirely by choice, I admit).

Even looking at my little placeholder plane fall and bounce around on the ground made me feel an odd happiness. Physics is just inherently pleasing. It’s an extension of the joy it’s possible to feel when you finally make a little avatar walk around in a scene of your creation – reality awakens in the world of the game. Physics, if anything, pushes this a little bit further – so many subtleties are involved, and the fact that a physics engine basically does it for you once you rig it up is really great. In fact, using an engine is interesting partly because of the black box it places into the work: I don’t know how it does what it does. Rather, I  place a plane in the sky and, when the world starts, the plane falls down. Utter banality recast as a miracle.

A slightly different observation in the early stages of this game is the siren call of the familiar. After struggling for some of an evening with getting anything interesting to happen with Box2D, I found myself asking whether, perhaps, I didn’t really need physics after all. And in fact I don’t need it for the game, it’s more for visual interest. But without that extra element, the game just won’t hold my interest so much (and probably not a player’s either). Additionally, I found myself idly thinking about the game in terms of retro pixel-art – it just popped up that way in my mind. I had to wave it away angrily like an unwelcome hallucination. Once you’ve made a few games, it seems, there’s an incredibly strong temptation to visualise every game you might make in exactly the same aesthetic, and even mechanical, style. That’s not a bad thing, obviously, if you’re wanting to explore that aesthetic or those mechanics (or want to hold them constant while you explore something else), but it’s not what I’m interested in. It’s kind of killing me that to date my games are so pixelly.

Got to nip it the bud. Or the bloom, maybe, by now.

10 November 2011
← next words previous words →