Project Origin #02

Making mistakes

So here we are. Months have passed since the last update and decisions has been made to change the direction of Project Origin. I ended my last update with the solution that would make this game possible, pixel-art. My final words were that I had to prepare for this type of art-style, and so I took a deep dive into these types of games. It was like taking one step forwards and falling into a deep, dark hole. Making Project Origin a 2D pixel-art game would limit game mechanics and creativity to the point where it was no longer in line with my visions and identity of the game.

What does this even mean? I’ve been invested in this project for so long I can close my eyes and see what the game looks like, feel what it’s like playing and imagine what I’ll be doing in-game. It’s all in my head and all I must do is to create it. I thought taking a 2D approach would make it easier to create, but I could no longer see, feel and imagine Project Origin. It wasn’t at all the game I’ve dreamed of making all this time.

As you probably realize, my relationship with this game is very deep and personal. I’ve so much care for Project Origin that it really hurt having lead it to this dead end. Project Origin 2D was scrapped and I stood at the bottom of the deep, dark hole with no way out. What I did next might have changed the entire course of my personal life. Having attended two universities and one college with nothing to show for it, my life was already full of dead ends. It was time to take a step back and review my options. I could choose the safety of a degree in programming or pursue my dream of making games. I’m aware of the obvious solution here. I could simply get my degree in programming and get hired at a studio programming games.

This is where it gets a little complicated for me and I’ll explain why in very carefully chosen words as to not start a heated discussion. Know that I consider myself a programmer more than anything else and I love to code. But I don’t consider programming as making a game. The game is made by designers and handed off to programmers so that they can build it. I’m fully aware that this statement might spark some controversy, therefore I must make it clear that this is nothing but my own opinion. Both parts are equally important and require the same amount of creativity and problem-solving. The fact is my current skills and knowledge makes me much better at designing games than building them. I love to code, but my passion is design.

So, there is no obvious solution. I could finish my degree and after years of experience maybe get hired by a studio, building their games. But I’ll abandon the opportunity of putting my creativity and passion for design into making unique game-experiences I care deeply about. I’ve made this choice once before, the summer prior to pursuing a bachelor’s degree in computer science. I wanted to take a normal job and work just enough to earn my living, giving me enough spare time to develop the skills necessary for creating games. However, I decided to attend the university because it felt like the mature and right thing to do. Following the honeymoon-period that is starting at a new school and making new friends, this decision felt less right with each passing day. Every assignment presented new, interesting problems to solve and upon completion, gave a tremendous sense of achievement. It felt good, but not like the thing I was destined to do.

Project Origin 2D wasn’t a failure because I lacked experience developing code. I arrived at a dead end because I lacked the experience needed to make well informed decisions for moving the game in the right direction. Much like in my personal life, I wanted to make it easier for myself and failed in the process. You might think to yourself that this is an unnecessary dramatic outcome following a small miss-step in what could potentially be an otherwise healthy development of a great game, and you’re right! This isn’t so much an update on Project Origin, as it is an update of my personal life. I started this post saying it’s been months since the last update and now you know why. As you can see, developing games tend to have a huge impact on an indie developer’s life, which is why they become so personal. The decision of becoming an indie developer takes sacrifice, devotion and a huge amount of passion and is therefore not easily made.

“So, what? You scrapped Project Origin, but decided to devote your future making games anyway? This doesn’t make any sense!”.

What did I do next? Yes, I never really explained that part. The grand conclusion that lead me to writing all this. Well, I did what no reasonable person would do. I put all responsibilities aside for a while and took a deep dive into role playing games. The Witcher, Assassin’s Creed: Origins, Skyrim, Kingdom Come: Deliverance and, most recently, God of War. This made me realize that management- and city building games weren’t the only ones lacking some major features. It is safe to say that Project Origins will from here on out be influenced by role play mechanics. Keep posted for the next one where I’ll be explaining Project Origin’s new direction.

Project Origin #01

Many years ago, I had an idea. Not many people have heard about it, but I now feel ready to let the world know. As you’ve probably guessed, it’s a game. A huge, epic game. A game that lets you control your own human population from the very beginning of human history, to the end of our current era and beyond.

Being a massive fan of management and city-builder games, one thing has always bothered me. You’re never given the opportunity to create your own personal, intimate settlement. One where you decide architecture style, what laws to follow, religious believes and culture. All the factors that differentiate populations around the world are usually already defined. You’re left with a plot of land where it’s up to you to build skyscrapers as fast as possible.

Well, what about the small, but strong communities? The ones where you have a personal relationship to the mayor and the guy running the local grocery store? You’d think there was one game that let you build a massive empire, or just a farm in the outskirts of that empire if that was your thing. A game giving you a whole world as a sandbox. There’s no shortage of that last one, but those usually only let you build block by block. I’m dreaming of a game whereas I’m able to rule a whole kingdom one moment and taking a break from everything because I just felt like making something small and personal. Where nothing’s off limits. I can create anything regardless of how large, or small it may be.

Introducing Project Origin. A game where you start of by managing a small population in the stone age and help their development throughout time. Any management aspect is available for you to take fully control of. My admittedly highly ambitious project which I’ve been developing for the last 3 to 4 years, and I’m finally going to tell the world about it! This idea came to me a few years back while at work. I was employed at the home care services, driving from home to home, usually taking care of elderly people too healthy to stay at a care facility, but still in need of help. I often worked 7 days a week and spent what little time I had left hiking or playing games with my friends. At work however, I spent much time in the car alone with my thoughts. I’d often ask myself what was next. What am I to do with my life? I had two passions: Software development and gaming. This naturally eventually led me on the path to game-development.

On a sunny, but cold Friday while on my morning round, it suddenly hit me. This game which would combine all the best parts of my favorite games: Exploring the human history like in Empire Earth and Civilization. Having a simple, but beautiful art-style like in Legend of Zelda (2D games), Stardew Valley and Kingdoms and Castles. Being able to customize buildings like in Sim City (2013) and Stonehearth. Advanced governing like in Urban Empire. A simple, but tactical combat system like in Advanced Wars. Smart and creative game-mechanics like in Factorio and Don’t Starve. All while maintaining a limitless sandbox, like in Minecraft and Terraria. Is such a big game even possible?

I’ve been wondering about that for many years, designing one game-mechanic after another, getting closer and closer to a solution. Then it finally hit me. What if the game wasn’t made using 3D models and realistic graphics? Like most indie developers I eventually realized that I must shrink the project down to a realistic goal. Being unwilling to get rid of game-features, the only choice left was to decide upon another art-style. Pixel-art. The go-to choice for indie-games. Reusable, modular tile-sets. This is genius, I thought to myself. This will allow me to start developing the game immediately, and so that’s what I did. But before we get to the fun part, we must first prepare.

Welcome to the development blog-updates of Project Origin. Stay tuned to learn more.