Breaking It Down
Making fairly strong progress with War Game, though, as always, I have this nagging feeling someone more competent would have made what I’ve made in like 30 minutes. Still, the basic game now exists as a kind of rip-off of a hand-held LCD game, complete with a “boss” level, and stages of psychoanalysis. Well, that last bit isn’t really a rip-off of hand-held LCD games, to be fair. Anyway, with the “normal” game essentially complete, I’ve moved on to the other part, which is making the game break down over time.
The point of the game, or the picture I saw when I thought of it, is that as you kill people during your war and get injured and go through psych evaluations and are sent back to the war, the game gets more and more glitchy. It’s not a new idea for creating some kind of aesthetic portrayal of psychological difficulties, but I’ve been wanting to try out making a “glitchy” game for some time now, and this was the thing I ended up wanting to make. It’s not meant to be some big commentary on PTSD or war in general, but of course it can be read that was rather easily, so to that extent it is about those things (which I know bordering on nothing at all about). Oh well.
The actually interesting thing, however, is this question of how you intentionally make a game that’s supposed to “degrade” and have “glitches”. All these things have to go in scare-quotes, of course, because the whole “glitch” process has to be thoroughly under my control in order to achieve the aesthetic effects I’m looking for. So it’s utterly contrived. The process of working out how to introduce “glitches” on purpose has been kind of fun and, although I’m doing it a far less sophisticated way than one could, pretty satisfying. Speaking of more sophisticated, Doug (Wilson) brought up the idea of glitched-on-purpose games the other day at dinner and pointed out that the game could (or even should?) modify its own source code while running. Now that would be cool.
But that’s not what I’m doing in the slightest. Instead I’m doing something I’ve been pining to do for a while in Flixel/Flash, which is to use the wrong sprite-sheets in the wrong ways for aesthetic effect. So that’s basically been the approach. For now the two kinds of “glitches” I’m operating with are: 1) using the incorrect PNG sprite sheet for a particular element in the game (e.g. the tank in the game could be loaded with the spritesheet for the alphabet, say), and 2) breaking down the distinction between game modes by allowing them to overlap during play.
Having implemented a bit of this stuff and taken a look, I’m actually fairly impressed with how’s it’s come out visually. Also interesting from a “ludological perspective” (or whatever) is that the game really does feel pretty damn similar – you really don’t need the graphics to keep playing. So in that sense the “glitches” really aren’t as disorienting as I might have liked. But them’s the breaks and I really don’t think I can handle spending more time to introduce more thoroughly mechanical “glitches” into the game, so screw it.e
So anyway, progress continues!