When Pet Projects Demand Attention: Sneak Preview of My Untitled Game

A cropped screenshot from my game project
The past weekends I’ve been spending some time on a pet game project. Writing a small engine, building a storyline and creating visuals. When it comes to 3D games there’s a lot to consider, from aesthetics through software architecture to AI, and naturally, my curious mind has been venturing ideas in all these areas. Lately I’ve started to think that maybe the whole thing is worth more than just random jabs of code and color.

It all started as a temporary venue for my creative outbursts, which regularly occur when I have an otherwise tough and monotonous schedule. But my interest and the project itself has grown steadily. Moreover, the diversity of the project is teaching me a heap of new and necessary things. And what’s most important is that it’s really fun.

The Basic Game Concept

The idea started simple: create a small 3D, first-person puzzle game. Two to three rooms where you have to click around to figure something out. I recently mentioned Myst is one of my favorite games, and that is the base concept I have in mind for gameplay … but of course with a bit of my own spices and homebrewed lager. A game like that is perfect for a short term project as it requires minimal stuff like animations and physics programming.

I want it sci-fi themed as well, and I quickly realized that a sci-fi short story I drafted a while back would make a perfect setting for an intriguing and exciting puzzle game. I’m not comfortable with disclosing any details yet, all I’m saying is that it involves intriguing architectures and what I think are somewhat innovative concepts for puzzles.

3D Game Platform

jPCT logo, 3D cubesWhat little experience I have in 3D, and other related cookie jars, was accumulated when I made my brain’s MRIs using jPCT (I was so happy to get my brain online that I designed and donated this logo to the engine). So it seemed an obvious choice for what was supposed to be a rapid-prototype project. However, now that my interest in the project continues to grow I’ve been considering whether I should explore other engines.

In-Game Screenshots

I’ve spent about 6-10 hours on the whole thing over the past four weekends and much of that time has gone into things you can’t actually see on-screen (object interaction, importing and interpreting models, etc). But I figure the latest in-game renderings are good enough to show. All models and textures visible in the screenshots were made from scratch, the textures in Photoshop and the models in Google SketchUp.

What to Do With Pet Projects That Want to Grow Up?

On whether I’ll start investing regular time in this brainchild of mine: Not yet. Although the idea has me captivated and I’d like to take the project to the next level, so do many other ideas and I only have so much time. A curse and a blessing is that I have a constant flow of ideas and am occupied with at least one long term project (usually more), and several smaller short term projects at any given time. The way I cope is write them down, that’s the rule of thumb: Write the ideas down and allow them to fester a bit. See what sticks. Other times, like this one, I feel a need for a creative venue and just start working with no care in the world of whether I actually finish it or not.

The ideas keep coming but some ideas I give more thought to and gradually build on. Others whither away. This process naturally fleshes out what’s important to me and guarantees each idea a good amount of boiling time, makin it nice and well done if and when the time comes to have it for dinner. This works especially well for big ideas — if I know it’s going to be time consuming I give it a longer period of consideration. If I’m still interested and enthused after a long enough period of time relative to the time required to implement it — then I’m more certain it’s a good idea.

This game project is still underdeveloped; the time I’ve spent thinking about a mature version of it is unproportional to the time required to implement it. Thus, I’ll continue doing what I’ve been doing. Gradually add one texture here and one wall there, until maybe I end up with a demo that looks so hot I’ll have to take the project to the next level. Time will tell. And we’ll have fun in the meantime.

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7 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. This is great stuff, Hrafn. Those screenshots are beautiful stuff – all made by you? Awesome!

    You’ve got all these ideas … why not start with something small and fun first?
    Creating a Myst on your own is one helluva thought.

    I wish you the best in this project: damn it looks cool.

  2. “I have a constant flow of ideas and am occupied with at least one long term project (usually more), and several smaller short term projects at any given time.”
    … Plus you maintain this blog! I really don’t know how you do it, but I’m glad you do.

    Let me know if you ever need any beta testers for your game! And Good post! I can truly relate.

  3. Hrafn

    Thanks Eli!

    You’ve got all these ideas … why not start with something small and fun first? Creating a Myst on your own is one helluva thought.

    Ooops, I should’ve mentioned more details. Adding the italicized to the post:

    The idea started simple: create a 3D, first-person puzzle game. Two to three rooms where you have to click around to figure something out.

    So, yeah, the plan was never to make a full scale game the size of Myst. Like you say, I’m starting small and fun — I just want a couple of small rooms with similar gameplay :) Of course, now that the project has started to take shape I want to make it larger, but like I said — can’t jump on that. Better just to work on the small stuff and see where I end up :)

    I was even hoping I could make it small enough to put online in an Applet like I did with my 3D brain, but I’m currently pushing 3.6mb with 1/6th of the game ready. So unless I figure out great ways to optimize it seems unlikely.

    @John
    … Plus you maintain this blog! I really don’t know how you do it, but I’m glad you do.

    Gets hard at times ;) Glad you enjoy it, makes it worthwhile.

    Let me know if you ever need any beta testers for your game!

    I’ll definitely need testers if development continues at this pace. It’ll probably be some time before it reaches that point, but I’ll keep you in mind!

  4. When I got my Apple Performa (years ago, obviously) it came with Myst. I loved it. If you’re ever in need of inspiration, browse through Robyn Miller’s blog Tinselman. Of course, going for the purely sci-fi side of things would be cool too.

    I get to be ‘creative’ a lot in my job (luckily) but I don’t think I could ever find the time to do something like this, as well. Not to mention that I lack the talent and the skill.

    Good luck with this, and enjoy.

  5. erric snow

    Bro. u gotta show me this game once ur done with it.

  6. Man that looks hot buddy, I wish I had half your programming skills. I do all the wimpy programming stuff but you do the hardcore, fun stuff. Very jealous :)

  7. Hrafn

    @Nils
    Cool. Thanks for the link! I wonder whether his brother blogs too. I remember I used to enjoy the Making of Myst video almost as much as the game. Looked so fun to create.

    @Eric
    If it gets into presentable shape, I’ll probably put it online for everyone :)

    @Mike
    Hah. If it were tradable, I’d give you some of my programming skills for a bit of your webdesign talent! ;)

    Thanks for the comments and praise, guys!

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