Devblog 15: Month Four

Perhaps the worst possible fate for individual and collective is a failure of imagination.  While mood varies minute to minutes and day to day, that range is usually not debilitating.  Unfortunately, I have brief and recurring periods where the lows are destructive.  These moments induce a complete failure of imagination, as the strength of emotion is temporarily drained.  This manifests either as a temporary loss of positivity, or a tactical victory for negativity.  Something is either missing or too much.

These moods are like stormy weather.  They come and go, and there’s only so much that can be done while there’s a storm howling outside.  For J.K. Rowling, her perception of depression was best explained by the metaphor of the Dementors which appear in Harry Potter; soul-sucking monsters which drain all happiness and energy.

The immediate impact of such feeling is an absolute lack of motivation.  All confidence is absent, and an uneasy distinction emerges between rational and emotional modes of thought.  It is possible in such a state to pause and logically deduce the absurd dysfunction, and quite possible to reason that this feeling isn’t realistic.  But it’s impossible to feel that.  And without feeling there isn’t any doing.

So that’s partly why there wasn’t a Month Three blog entry.  Another reason is that things always take longer and cost more than one anticipates.

The bad news was that work on deterministic code for the game’s multiplayer hit a wall.  The type of mathematical knowledge necessary (quaternions and four dimensional matrices) was beyond me.  I was lucky enough to find a freelancer who does have this knowledge, and is almost done working on that most essential task.

Concept art has also come a long way, and both characters and weapon explorations have been completed.  Today work begins on environmental concept art, which I’m excited about, because soon the characters won’t be abstract entities disembodied from time-space.

The pause from programming has provided fertile soil for new thoughts about game play, as the terrain and base building systems have to be refactored anyway.  This creates an opportunity to iterate ideas, making the final implementation even better, and to give players more dramatic choices.

Determinism has always been the biggest technical challenge, but progress is being made towards resolving this travesty.  When present deterministic challenges have been resolved (and I have no doubt there will be more somewhere down the line) work can resume, and focus will be on terrain and base building systems.

Refactoring unit code was a success, and has provided a solid foundation for further development.  When this template is applied to environmental systems it will mean that finally, the basics are complete.  The next tasks after this will include (in no particular order): computer player intelligence, group unit movement, art integration, fog of war, and GUI concepts.  Combat and networking have already been implemented, but will need more work too.

So there’s cause for optimism.  In the meantime, I’ve been reading Gerald Zaltman’s ‘How Customers Think’.  Like Daniel Kahneman’s ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’, it is an invaluable book that is unfortunately something of an educational ordeal and a slow read.  I hope the book will help me to better understand the desires and needs of players as I design game play and direct art.

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