Speaking Breakout


Over the last while I’ve been slowly managing to get back toward working on a new game, which is currently titled Indie Bungle 2: The Breakout Indie Bungle! As might be apparent from the title, it’s a sequel to the earlier Mumble Indie Bungle and heavily involves trading on the game Breakout again.

I’ve oscillated on the premise of the game a few times, trying to find out the kind of ‘truth’ of the idea so that I can move forward confidently with design and implementation decisions and at this point I’ve either found that truth, or have become so frustrated with the ‘beautiful’ ‘journey’ of ‘discovery’ that I’ve given up on it. You be the judge. The key oscillation has been between treating the game as quite a formal exercise in translation between Breakout and these other games, versus the more ‘narrative’ approach of adopting the pretence that the game has been created by a lazy cloning company that basically only has the technology to produce Breakout-likes. It may not surprise you to hear that the latter won the competition. In no small part because it’s easier. (And truer?)

With that said, this idea of ‘translation’ is still at the core of what I’m finding interesting about the project in general. If you take an existing game like, say, How Do You Do It?, how do you re-represent that game’s ideas, message, feeling, etc. in the language of BreakoutBreakout as a game has a very limited vocabulary – a ball that bounces, bricks that break, a paddle, a score, walls. The nature of the project becomes working out how to use these (or fudge them a bit) to ‘speak How Do You Do It?’ instead.

I kept getting stuck on ideas that ultimately revolved around just ‘reskinning’ Breakout to ‘look like’ the other game but maintaining the exactly same mechanical experience, but it felt deeply unsatisfactory, so I’ve given myself more liberty to change some rules and layouts etc. to reach for a ‘more accurate’ translation and it’s been feeling a bit better since then. As often with game making, it amuses (and infuriates) me to be taking this whole thing so seriously, to really, really ask myself, repeatedly, what another game would be like if it were also, somehow, Breakout.


15 December 2015
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