The Skill Gap

I received a survey from GameSalad recently, which prompted me to give some thought to why I hadn’t touched it in a while, probably a month and a half or so. While it’s true that I’ve been busy with other things, I feel that I’d hit a roadblock. In my last GameSalad-related post, I discussed creating a simple turn-based strategy, so I started thinking about the mechanics of it, and what sequence of behaviors would need to occur to make that possible:

  1. Select the character you wish to move (on touch)
  2. Spawn ‘movement’ tiles which display where a character can move to
  3. Upon touching a movement tile, moving the character to that tile and destroying the other tiles

Sounds simple, right? Well, there are issues:

  • Controlling what happens when you click the character more than once (keep spawning movement tiles?)
  • What if you only want to be able to move each character once per ‘turn’?
  • How do you keep track of ‘turns’? Global attributes you toggle on and off?

As you can see, it can get very complicated very quickly, and without any kind of guidance or best practices (e.g. templates), I often find myself getting stuck.

Try something simpler? A platformer maybe?

Well even that gets quite tricky and requires a lot of advanced behavior manipulation. There are hours of video tutorials that cover this, but essentially what I’d end up with is a monkey copy of someone else’s platform game with my own front-end, and by then, I may as well just buy a template and reskin it. So I decided to set that all aside for a moment and focus on what I could do, asset creation (artwork, sound effects, music). As I pointed out a couple of months ago, aimless make-it-up-as-you-go-along level design isn’t going to get me a cohesive  world. Perspective is also an issue, being that I was designing top-down perspective maps using 2D image manipulation tools, faking it by skewing and distorting 2D rectangular ‘wall’ vectors and and manual shading to create the illusion of ‘depth’. This seemed like a sloppy way to go about it, and that there were already lots of 3D engines available which could do a much better job. So what is all this leading to?

Simply put: I’m not a triple threat. Many years ago, I became familiar with this term through drama classes I took, and for those unfamiliar, it means the ability to Act, Sing and Dance. An actor who could do all three of these things well was considered to be highly desirable,  and a threat to other actors competing for the same part. Game development can be illustrated in the same way, being comprised essentially of:

  • Programming (scripting, coding, regular expressions, the ‘mechanics’ of the game)
  • Design (2D/3D artwork, animation, texturing etc.)
  • Sound (music, sound effects)

These three components are integral, and in a well-made game, they all fit together. So which of these things can I do?

  • Design
  • Writing and Story
  • 2D Artwork (texturing in particular)
  • Sound effects
  • Music

What do I not do well (or at all)?

  • Any kind of programming/scripting
  • 3D artwork (save for basic level design, but experience limited to 3D Game Studio)
  • Animation

It’s clear that GameSalad won’t bridge that gap, nor would I expect it to. I’m just going to have to accept that I won’t be a one-man development studio, and recruit help.

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IT Manager by trade, game developer by heart.

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