Dev Diary #4: The Plan

So, things have been a little busier recently than I thought. I’m doing some vacation work in another state and I’ve been fairly busy preparing for it – working out what to pack, where I’ll be staying, and so on. That means I haven’t had quite as much time in front of the computer as I would have liked over the past few days. (Perhaps that’s a good thing?)

Of course, once I’m there and settled into work, I’ll be able to work a little on Ambience in my spare time – it’s just been a little difficult in the lead-up to it. But, that being said, there’s no reason why I can’t write up a game plan before I go… so, here’s a rough plan of how the next couple of months are (hopefully) going to work out, Ambience-wise.

Stage 1: Planning.

Most of the work I’m hoping to do when I’m away will be in terms of writing, story, and just raw implementation of my ideas. I already have a lot of ideas about how Ambience is going to play out story-wise, so this stage is already almost done. However I’d like to pin down the whole big idea and some of the finer details into a “master document” if possible before I start work, just so I can keep check on the direction that Ambience‘s story will take. It’s also a nice gentle task to begin with as I’m settling in.

Stage 2: Basic implementation.

Again, most of the story is already in place in my mind – it’s just a matter of crunching the code and actually putting everything into the game. I’m not really concerned with all the finer parts of story writing at this stage – in other words, I’m not hoping to end up with a literary masterpiece (at least just yet). In fact, perhaps the most time-consuming part of this will be actually generating the cutscenes rather than writing the text that goes in them. Of course, I need a good idea of what the characters will say first before I can implement this – but even so, my emphasis is more on laying the groundwork first before polishing everything up. Of course, this part will take a fair bit of time, possibly right to the end of my work period. So I’ve split this up into smaller stages as well as per the overall story line so I can more easily keep track of my progress. It looks a little like this:

  • Stage 2a. Events after first major boss.
  • Stage 2b. Second major boss and aftermath.
  • Stage 2c. Events after second major boss.
  • Stage 2d. Minor boss and third major boss.
  • Stage 2e. Fourth major boss.
  • Stage 2f. Events after fourth major boss.
  • Stage 2g. Fifth major boss.
  • Stage 2h. Sixth major boss and framework for a “neutral ending”. (I won’t reveal too much about this yet…)
  • Stage 2i. Framework for an alternate ending. A final boss.
  • Stage 2j. Framework for another alternate ending. Another final boss, aftermath, etc.

Now, this looks like a lot, and I admit it is a little ambitious. To be fair, I definitely don’t think I’ll be getting through all of this by the end of my work period – and in particular, work will definitely be taking priority over this! But all in all, I’d be fairly happy if I completed up to and including stage 2d. (It’d be even better if I could knock out stage 2e as well, though that might be a bit much. We’ll see how things go.)

Stage 3: Writing.

I may choose to do some proper writing in tandem with my work on stage 2, but this may depend on whether I’m feeling up to some heavy coding, or feel more like taking on a more creative pursuit. Also, it depends on how clear a scene is in my mind. If I know exactly how a scene is going to play out, I may want to put my ideas straight into the game and see how it works out. Sometimes though I decide jot my ideas down elsewhere, then look at them later with a fresh mindset to see if they’d work.

Stage 4: Graphics, music, and pretty stuff.

I’ve decided to leave this on hold until I get back from work, since it’ll be easier to handle when I’m at home (with my own desk, keyboard and mouse – and with more time!) It’s also why I’ve been doing as much creative/graphical work now before I leave since I think it’ll be harder to do that when I’m over there. In any case, I’ll need to have the basic scene frameworks ready before I can add pretty things like nice graphics and music to “spice them up” and improve their impact.

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So that’s the basic plan for now! Next week I should be well underway in my vacation work, and hopefully making a start on some of my Ambience plans as well if I get the time.

Oh, and one last thing.

Now I think about it… one of the reasons why I’ve decided to make my plans so open – and also why I keep this devblog – is for two reasons. Firstly, it helps me to keep track of my progress, and there’s also a level of accountability involved as I report my progress and dwell on what’s been happening and what challenges I’ve encountered along the way (“Gamedev Grievances”, as I’m fond of calling them). But I’d also really like to include other people – maybe gamedevs, maybe players, maybe other people entirely – in this humble and sometimes crazy journey.

I don’t know… maybe there are people out there who actually like reading the chronicles of a solo indie gamedev who never learned how to sprite.

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