Hey there! I'm a games developer from the Netherlands! I mainly am working on space games, as space is my passion. For the rest I have a daily job as software engineer at a trading company. I have a lot of traits of both genders in my body and personality, hence the 2 names listed here.

Blog RSS Feed Report abuse Developing a game - The path so far

0 comments by dirtbag007 on Apr 14th, 2010

Hey all,

this is a blog about the past development of Star Apocalypse.

I would firstly want to recommend this for everyone to read. It's quite a lump of text, but it is worth it!

Also, I would like to thank Ninjadave for his help on making this article easier to read.

Well, Star Apocalypse has had several stages, all taking place during the pre-alpha state of games.

Here are the stages which Star Apocalypse has gone through already, or is going through now. I use names which I made up myself for these.

- Pool-of-thoughts-phase
- Rough concept
- Refined concept
- First results of development
- Structured results.

I will go through the several stages here.

Pool of thoughts phase

 (2004-2005)

This phase is one of the most critical phases of making your game's concept. I had played various space games back then, which formed a part of my source of inspiration. This is the phase which will form your main game ideas, and finding the right mix is critical.

You can't do this phase on your own most likely. You will need friends who can tell you what's good and what's not good about your thoughts. This can give you fresh views on what you are planning.

Once you've picked out the good ideas from this, you can go to the next phase. For Star Apocalypse, this took 1 year.

Rough Concept Phase

(2005-2006)

This is where you actually start forming the core gameplay of your game. It is very important to keep an eye on what's fun and what isn't. Combine the enjoyable parts, and remove the annoying parts.

This stage is also critical, and your friends will still play a big role in this. You might have a superb idea about a certain gameplay elements, but the majority of your friends says it's not enjoyable. This can give you an idea of how your market is going to be.

For example, you could ask your friend like "Hey, what do you think of including the ability to be able to retrofit a ship to any other ship?". If they respond like "That sounds awesome!" you know they like it, but if they say "Well, how is that going to work?" they aren't convinced immediately. You need to explain then why you pick that system for things. Make sure you can explain it very well then. You could go like "Well, this enables you to turn merchant shipping into a sort of makeshift battle vessels.". This is an example like how this is with Star Apocalypse.

Star Apocalypse had the ideas solidified fairly quickly, but when the knowledge was updated, the concept was also updated. This caused this process to take fairly long with Star Apocalypse. It might have improved the general concept though.

Once you have a rough overview of your game written down, it's time to go to the next phase.

Refined Concept Phase

(2006)

This phase is where you lay down the exact details on how your game is going to be. This is not the easiest thing to do, but it makes things far easier later on.

During this phase, you can start working on a basic rendering & sound effects engine (or look for one which fits your concept).

During this time, you also start looking for people who can help you in your project.

Star Apocalypse's problem was that I didn't have any clear programming skills. My only skills were in PR. This is a SEVERE PROBLEM (note the capitals). Don't think you can stick it out long without having any skills which actually can give clear results in development. That was the main fault which I've made in Star Apocalypse.

Alas, I got some people on board, and we went to the next phase.

First Results of Development Phase

(2006-2008)

This phase is actually a phase which can be very enjoyable. You start getting the first results of development, being basic rendering, sound effects, graphics, etc.

Star Apocalypse had a team of about 10 people working on it. And we had results rolling in steadily for a while. This isn't causing the problems. What causes the problems, is if you hit some hard times.

This is what happened with Star Apocalypse around 2008. We were facing a tough choice (I can't recall what it was about) and no one knew the direct answer. Infighting in the team started once several members wanted to change things completely. I wasn't quickly enough to intervene here, showing my weakness. Skilled devs started to leave the team.

By march 2009, the team was practically empty, save for a few artists. This is the point where many developers quit their development. I didn't. I was still filled with energy, willing to bring the concept to a full blown game.

At this point, you really need to feel how strong your self-motivation is. If you can feel it, you can stick it through. If you can't, you lose a wonderful set of chances. I started looking to what I needed, and I found the answer: Coding skills.

I knew a fair bit about Delphi by this time, but I needed a more refined language. This is where I started working on my C# skills (by june 2009).

In the meantime, I practically got kicked back to the refined concept stage. It doesn't feel good or motivating to be kicked back, but if your drive is strong enough, you will stick it through (as I said earlier).

I also had decided not to bring new people into the team for some time, and keep the artists on standby. This has improved the survival chances of the project drastically. You can follow your own plan, and have no one asking "When do you have the next prototype ready?" or questions like that. Your only responsibility is to yourself.

After my C# skills up to good levels, and the first results started streaming back in, I finally managed to get to the next phase.

Structured Results Phase

(2010 - ? )

This phase is a phase where you really get a real engine pieced together. The results can be very satisfying, like can be seen on the video at the bottom of the article.

I don't have experience in working as a team on this phase. Working on my own here has been very satisfying though.

The game is starting to get really shaped, and this provides alot of moments which stimulate your will to stick it through.

In short:

  • Never start a project without the proper skills needed for it.
  • Never hire too many people on a team.
  • If things start to go wrong, intervene!
  • If you prefer working at your own speed, don't hire people or join a team!
  • Don't stop when you have some setbacks!

This is it, thanks for reading! Feel free to watch the video below, showcasing my render engine for Star Apocalypse.

Report abuse Supreme Commander video

0 comments by dirtbag007 on Dec 3rd, 2009

Hey all,

I've created a Supreme Commander video.

Watch it here below.

Cheers,
dirtbag007

Report abuse Choices

0 comments by dirtbag007 on Nov 19th, 2009

Hey all,

after having finished up my first game (done with the help of a tutorial), I'm standing at a crossroad.

It's about what game I should make next. I ain't really sure what to do now. That's why I'm asking you the question!

If you want to help me, vote here in this thread: Moddb.com

Thank you in advance!

Report abuse Progress of Star Apocalypse

0 comments by dirtbag007 on Sep 28th, 2008

Hey all!

Here is a little update about our current progress of Star Apocalypse.

Currently, we're still trying to simplify the underlying mechanics, while not decreasing gameplay depth. It is not going as we want. We have found some mechanics, but not enough to simplify the design up properly to make us able to make it. What we really need, if we want to make this, are better skills.

This is not the easiest thing to get, but I've been considering a few options. The most useful option is to create a small game in between, to gain experience. I'm already writing the concept for it.

It will be a simple arcade-like multiplayer shooter, heavily focussed around teamwork. It will have fast-paced gameplay. It is a mixture between a RTS, FPS and RPG. 2d, top-down view.

I've already thought about how many functions can be expressed in code, and it seems that most of the functions are quite easy. That isn't the case with Star Apocalypse. That's why we're likely going to develop this game before Star Apocalypse.

Expect more details about this game soon!

Cheers,
Dirtbag007

Report abuse Revival of Star Apocalypse

0 comments by dirtbag007 on Jul 26th, 2008

Hey all!

Last blog was about us stopping with Star Apocalypse. I explained there why we stopped and what the future would be like.

The future I refer to was making a different game. All started as expected, but after alot of delays during february to may, we finally had a very basic concept done by the end of may. Eventually, our coders grew dissatisfied with the concept, and left the team.

I must admit that it's partially due to my own fault that we didn't get a concept really done in time, but it was also due to lack of information about what the person in our team (who came up initially with the concept) wanted in detail.

After the coders left the team, I talked with the other devs what to do. The best course of action would be returning to Star Apocalypse, since we had a clear and detailed concept already done. We just needed to simplify the game alot up development-wise.

We started discussing about some very simple mechanics which would still provide great depth. One of these mechanics is the income mechanic described in one of the latest news posts. More mechanics will follow, and we hope to have improved the concept sufficiently by october-december 2008 to start recruiting new people and put them immediately to work.

By that time, I hope that I have learned at least one decent programming language, so I can help with coding.

Hopes are back that Star Apocalypse will be developed further!

Cheers,
Dirtbag007

Report abuse new chances

0 comments by dirtbag007 on Dec 18th, 2007

Hey all!

 We had some tough months in Darkmatter Development in the last part of the year. The main coder fell inactive, rendering most of the coding out of reach. We tried 2 months to get a replacement, with no results.

Last week we decided to leave Star Apocalypse for what it is, and wait till we got the skills and experience to finish it. It was a tough decision, because we already worked for 1 year on the project. The post-mortem article also had influence in the decision. It also offers us new chances.

Firstly we can start with an entirely new concept, without having to stick with the Star Apocalypse universe. Secondly, we can now create a far more simple game coding-wise. We will also be able to finish a game far sooner now, because Star Apocalypse would have taken several years if we continued to develop it.

DD will announce their new project in January or february. We are now making a new concept within the team. 

Keep an eye on us in the future ;) 

Cheers,

Roberto 'dirtbag007' Moretti 

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