Failures and the Future

First off: I hate the new way that the WordPress website makes you write posts now, so I’m writing this in full screen, which offers up a terrifying amount of white space. This only strengthens the fact that I will inevitably run out of steam before I have beautiful thought processes spilled out to the point where I have to scroll down.

In short, this is weird, and I’m sorry it’s been so long. Actually, no I’m not. Screw you guys.

(EDIT: I found the link to my dashboard after writing this. Go figure. I did however enjoy writing in fullscreen, it felt so much more free than writing in a small box.)

If you’re one of the three people who know who I am and am aware of the various ideas/projects I have running at all times, you’ll know that work on the script of my video game, Yet Another Top Down Space Shooter (or YATDSS), stalled almost a year ago, and I haven’t even thought about going back to it. The reason behind this is simple; I got too close to the end, and I started to question the beginning. And when I question that, suddenly the whole venture seems to go up in the air.

Well, that and I ran out of interesting ways to fit “fuck” into a sentence.

The problem was that I sat back and looked at what I was writing, and I thought “how does that fit into a shmup?” And the answer is that it doesn’t. It fits into Lylat Wars (Star Fox 64 if you prefer), but only because, when you actually sit down and think about it, Lylat Wars didn’t have that much action going on to really get in the way of the speech. Your typical shmup, at least by modern “bullet-hell” standards, is a lot faster paced and filled with at least a hundred bullets on screen at any one time. And when you’ve got that much going on on screen, and then some dickhead’s making jokes about your character being a virgin, you have to question how the protagonist will respond, given that a) he’s being faced with an onslaught of shiny pink bullets, which means b) he’s likely to die at any given moment.

The fact is, in my original concept, if the player sucked at the game, then either the protagonist would be communicating from the grave (although my idea of cloning people may negate that, but even that’s pushing it a bit) or the conversation would be cut short constantly. I was writing a fair amount of character development in there, as well as bad jokes about sexuality, racism and familiarly named cowboys in space, so it just wasn’t going to work out.

Ignoring that, I also had the numerous cutscenes I was penning, which lasted longer than each action sequence. Now, I love games like that. If there’s plenty of interesting dialogue going on, and the action is good when you get to it, then that’s fine. But that’s me. A lot of gamers will reject this concept, preferring instead to blast alien scum (which is something that they also should avoid doing if they want more story, given the pacifist nature of the game). I’ve recently been playing Deathsmiles, a shmup where each time round usually takes up about a half hour, max, including three cutscenes and an end sequence. My script was reaching half an hour in cutscenes. It’s just not how game works.

Could I have adapted it to a film script then? Well, yes, but that’s not what I wanted to do with it. My idea is to bring a funny, interesting story to a video game, a medium which I love and want to see evolve beyond being a bunch of ideas that are “just a game” (that said, I do enjoy these types of games). Story in video games has improved dramatically over the years, but we’re still seeing the same worn out stories of lone gunmen saving the world by themselves, or the hero getting the girl, or whatever. I want to do something a little less simplistic, but still quite “game-like”, if you will. Which makes me sound like a tosser, but there you go.

Also, since YATDSS was being written as a game, adapting it into a film would mean having to blend the obvious gaps I was putting in place to allow for different enemies cropping up, so you couldn’t have ten minutes of the film dealing with space cowboys and then the next ten minutes dealing with space ninjas. I think the concept could work as a film, sure, but I’d need to re-work it all in my head, and that’s no mean feat.

There was also the case of length. YATDSS was aiming for ten levels, along with a the bonus level at the end if you decided not to kill anybody. As an amateur programmer (sure I made Lunar Lander in C, that doesn’t mean I can make games), this is pretty much way too much. And even then, the amount of art required for the twenty or more cutscenes I’d written is ridiculous for a first time project. My idea was to rely on the wonderful sketching hand of my girlfriend Jen, but she lacks knowledge of animation, and there would be no way in hell I could convince her to devote her time to drawing SO much when she’s already got an art degree to think about.

What I’m trying to say is this; YATDSS is dead.

But!

I have a full summer ahead. I love the story, the characters and the twisted reality I have constructed for YATDSS. It’s silly but honest; it’ll throw a fish in your face but at least it’ll warn you before hand. Space penguins? Was I high when I wrote that? And how did I invent any semblance of a backstory for them? Granted, that and every other idea is based on the same tired ideas I want to avoid, but I always like parodying things in such a grand way.

So instead of simply ditching the idea completely, I decided to go back. It seems strange that the Space Army has a Pacifist division anyway, right? So how did that get started? Why don’t we follow that story?

I present to you… “Pacifists… In Space!” (working title). The prequel to the unfinished original.

I’ve started penning the script already, and by that I mean literally writing it with a pen. It follows the birth of the Space Pacifist squad, right from the moment Captain Claire Voyant (can’t. stop. using. awful. name.) decides “fuck it” and deserts the army on a mission she’s on the frontlines for. It’s much shorter and better paced, or that’s what I hope. And the dialogue doesn’t happen within the action, so there’s no way the player will miss important information if they’re busy flying into the direct path of a wall of bullets. It still retains some of the ideas from YATDSS (ship rotation, attacks from all sides, getting paid, upgrades, shields) but loses some of the stuff I explained away with sci-fi magic (in particular the cloning; what the fuck was I thinking?). Although, stuff like space cows are still around. Can’t be too serious.

I don’t want to say any more, other than I really hope I can get even a prototype of the first level working by the end of summer. I’m not aiming for a finished version any time soon, since there’s a lot of shit I need to work out first programming-wise, but if I can have a working demo by the time I go back to uni I’ll be chuffed.

I’m also thinking of keeping the blog going with progress of the game, thought processes behind the concepts surrounding it (why pacifism, why a female lead etc.) and other (hopefully) interesting things so that I can annoy my friends on Facebook and Twitter whenever I write a new post and link to it. I’ve attempted a dev blog before (you won’t remember it, don’t worry) when I had my first “genius” idea, but maybe this one won’t crash and die quite so fast now that I have a tonne of time on my hands and a much better grasp on programming. Seriously, learning C and Java has been an excellent experience and I hope to put it to good use.

So that’ll hopefully keep me busy. I’ve also got my kind-of secret comic project still in the works (which I’m also stuck on, but hope to break out of that rut sometime soon), as well as the prequel novel to that (hah! cos that’ll happen) which I’m planning in my head. Couple that with some exciting adventures to Shropshire and Scotland (twice!) already planned for the coming three months, and it might well be the best summer I’ve ever had. Oh, and writing scripts for sketch ideas that I have, so that when I return next year and if I have a camera me and my housemates can begin a quest for Internet celebrity. OK so maybe not, but I’d like to shoot some funny stuff and share it on the Internet. Just need the camera first.

Anyway, it’s fast approaching 3am and I have a whole day to get through before I get to see Jen again, so I’m gonna go to bed/write something else. I hope you made it this far and are looking forward to seeing where this summer takes me.

And, most of all, I really hope I continue to write blog posts. I’m tired of stopping and starting in life.

-Ric

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