So we've brainstormed a bit about what we wanted to do and how we should approach this project. Maybe I was a bit too eager calling it a game engine as I don't intend to build stuff like level editors, but are we really able to create a playable game? What shall we call it, a tech-demo or perhaps a never ending demo? Both sound so sad :(

Making money, lots and lots of money

There are a couple of options on getting funds as an Indie developer even without outside investors. Preordering could be feasible if people have enough trust in you. This trust could be earned by releasing alpha releases on a regular basis (see for example overgrowth). We could also just ask for financial support as generous gifts from those with money to spare, but don't expect to get rich from that. There is absolutely nothing wrong with receiving financial appreciation for your hard work. Commercially successful indie games cost money, lots of money. Not as much as triple-A games, but its a misconception that just about anyone can be the next successful millionaire if you know how to make games. Even if you don't spend a dime you still need to feed yourself and pay the rent while you lock yourself away in a dark basement. I like to live outside reality and don't give a raptors behind about buying a mansion, a dark basement is all I need. I don't want to lose money of course, but I think I'll be happier with pictures of unicorns. So if it is okay with you people I think I'll ask for a unique drawing of a unicorn as payment. It will be up to you how realistic you want to make your unicorn drawing but at least this way I'll be motivated to continue my work. Maybe, just maybe, if I'm losing too much "real-world money" than I'll sell limited editions for a couple of pennies.

Ripping off other cool games

Zachtronics must be pretty angry at themselves for not realizing  the commercial potential in their game Infiniminer. I suppose it's their own fault for abandoning a project with so much awesomeness. It's funny how everyone these days call other games minecraft-clones just because it's the more popular one :). Being totally original is more difficult than you might think but "ripping off" has such a bad taste to it. I suppose that seeing potential, combining ideas and giving it your own touch is plenty of originality for any game. That reminds me of the game Syndicate (see image below). It was a game I played as a child that I thought was totally awesome. It involved controlling 4 cybernetic agents murdering anybody that stood in the way of global domination (and sometimes civilians just for the fun of it). We could upgrade body parts, buy weapons and attack neighboring countries. The 'remake' I was waiting for turned out to be a first person shooter (there weren't enough of those) and combined it with the thematic style of the game I used to love. Although I was a bit disappointed, I still think they made a buck or two out of this game. Its still a creative step (not a leap) if you manage to combine ideas into something that is fun to play.

The best indie games (in my opinion) all have one thing in common. They take something from gaming that most of us have forgotten about and make a game around this simple concept. Even when the idea is somewhat original its still a small new idea combined with concepts that have already proven to be successful. The lessons we should learn from this is to keep the core ideas simple while not being too original. It is very tempting to generate a huge 3D dimensional world with very advanced methods and awesome graphics just to get to that awkward moment where we realize that a cool looking 3D environment with a first person view is still a far cry from being a game. If you start thinking whether its going to be an FPS, RPG, Adventure Game or maybe an Offroad Racer when you are looking at a beautiful rendered scene than you are probably already doomed to fail. We could hope that some company will take notice and finds a way to make good use of your beautiful constructed engine, but that is just a way of fooling yourself. We can always say that we have learned something and that it will look good on our résumé, but in reality we have that nagging feeling of failure as we hoped it would turn into something more. We need a simple concept for a game, always. It is okay to change that concept during development, but we always need some sort of vision of the how the end product should look like. This is probably the most difficult part of the whole development process for someone like me. I will either forget about this or be too ambitious.

My totally awesome (not-original) idea

The game takes place on a spherical planet and you start with a top down view on a small part of it. It's will be a bit like settlers but with way less control over the indigenous people. The thematic style I'm going for is a colorful fantasy setting. You, a God-like creature, would like to see your people have global domination and get rid of all infidels, but they are too lazy to do it themselves. Fortunately it is possible to convince your people to build big golem-like statues that you are able to possess. With these golems you invade neigbouring territories and rid of all those who oppose you and take over their land.

See my problem here? Way too ambitious. I even like to generate the world with procedural methods where each biome represents a different emotion (happy, sad, angry,  fear, ...). Ah well, at least I have a vision that helps me at making good design decisions that support this idea. If it turns out to be more fun as an off-road racer I can always change it :P. I'm not joking here, even Halo, a multi-billion game franchise, started out as an idea to create a real-time strategy just to find out its much more fun to control just one of the guys.

So where to start

I should set up a simple XNA project that can render stuff I want, obviously, but then what? Should I focus on gameplay first and not fuss about procedural worlds, or maybe the other way around? Will people play the alpha releases if it looks like crap? I don't really want a retro look so it will probably look really bad when I don't put a decent amount of my time in this. Hmm, this is a difficult decision. If I start with gameplay (the biggest risk) at least it will be fun for people that do not care that a planet only has 12 polygons. Quick prototyping tells me gameplay is more important so I won't lose lots of time on an idea that isn't fun to play. On the other hand I really think it will be fun to make procedural content. I'll probably sound like a douche if I  just start generating a procedural 3d world first, so yeah, I should temper my ambition to start working on the technical stuff and create a game that is fun to play first. I'll just have to use my fantasy for now to envision what it should look like. 

I Changed My MindThe First Alpha