waveform_delta (waveform_delta) wrote,

LJI Week 5: The better mousetrap

"Hmm...what if, when Reyna's caught picking her pocket, Georgianna holds her, so she's still in place when the guards come...and she squirms, so the player can try to get away, but can't move..."

Making a video game is an interesting experience. I'm currently working on a demo for a small JRPG type of game, with a feature where the player can pick other character's pockets. It makes sense: one of the main characters is a street thief, and I thought it would be a novel feature to let the player choose to be a thief and decide to steal things. Of course, this can't be allowed to continue for long, so if you do it enough, the 'cops' start coming after you...

What's interesting is how, once I get started, I keep wanting to add features to the game: what if, instead of yelling for the guards, a character decides to fight the thief? What if she gets dragged into intrigue by dint of something she steals? What if, instead of just stealing from characters, she steals from the store, while the shopkeeper's back is turned? How would the player know if his back is turned? I keep thinking of new things to try, and then see if I can do them.

It's kind of like writing a story, in that I get to think up new things that happen to a character and write them out. But it also requires writing code: I have to make the 'back end' that responds appropriately as the user does things. That's not really a problem, of course: writing code is what I do for a living, and I enjoy it.

I know that what I'm making isn't the most original or novel thing, though. One time, when I explained this project to a friend of mine, she explained to me it wasn't a real game. Her boyfriend worked for one of the big game studios, working on the next Call Of Duty killer, or whatever it was--that was a real game.

It's not entirely unfair. A guy who builds birdhouses in his basement shop for a hobby, and a guy who frames two houses a week for a living are both, technically, carpenters. And yet it's not really fair to say they're both doing the same thing. But it's also not fair to say that the guy building birdhouses isn't doing anything 'real'.

Sometimes I feel an urge to create...and yet it's hard to get started: I want to control how it works out, predict what will happen. I often do my best work if I can let go of that altogether--trust the process, let things happen by themselves. It's enormously hard for me to do, precisely because of the 'birdhouse' issue: Sure I've made something, but is it real? Was it worth the time? And if it wasn't...what was the point? Why didn't I do something that would have been, so to speak, more profitable?

The answer is easy to forget: the process itself is its own reward. Yes: I may not have anything really valuable at the end of all this work. But I felt pleasure just while doing it.

Sometimes building the house matters more than who ends up living in it.
Tags: lji, week 5
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