30 Day Writing Challenge Learning From My Failures

Learning from My Failures: Game Development

This wasn't just one failure, but a series of closely related failures from my youth. I could write an individual post about each failure, but for the sake of not spamming my blog with well over a dozen posts, I'll summarize the highlights.

What it was

I've been interested in game development ever since I played my first game. Even though I was young and very naive, I still gave each idea my full effort. I don't think there has been a single year since 2008 that I haven't tried making a game. Needless to say, each game failed, but we'll talk about that in a minute.

The earliest memory I have of a game idea was from when I was 8-years old. During those days, I played Club Penguin religiously, so naturally, I was inspired to create something similar. For the sake of simplicity, let's just say it was Club Penguin, but with frogs. (I was literally 8, give me a break). Since I obviously couldn't code, I designed all of my games on paper. Character sprites, user interfaces, and level designs were all compiled into a notebook, which then was pitched to my relatives for them to "invest" in.

Somewhere between 2008 and 2013, I finally realized that if I wanted to make a game, I needed computer skills. I started going crazy. Within those years, I created so many unfinished projects that I lose count. Here are some screenshots from the games that actually reached the point where artwork was necessary.

(Concept art - 2012)

Concept art for a space game

(First sprite sheet - 2013)

SpriteSheeeeeet

(Animation - 2018)

Roguev7 Blue

I used 3rd party engines like GameMaker, RPG Maker, and Unity, but also tried developing custom engines using Java libraries like LWJGL and Slick2D. I tried making games for Android phones, Nintendo DS's, and even the OUYA console.

What went wrong

You may notice a common theme, which is that none of these games were even close to completion. Only about half of them were playable, and even less had a real objective that was "fun". Sadly, back then, I was just an "ideas" person. Something about the process of planning and designing a game was more fulfilling than actually coding it.

Here are some interesting screenshots I found from an old Google Group. Apparently, I recruited my two brothers to join me on one of my many game development excursions. One of them even commented on how my organization was unnecessary for such a small team.

C++ bros
C++ bros awkward

I think that comment summarizes my previous mindset pretty well. I was so focused on planning and organizing that I neglected the most important part, programming. As I became more technical throughout the years, I put much more emphasis on coding but was still never able to complete a game.

Game development is hard work, and I clearly wasn't up for it. It's as if game development was a game to me.

What I learned

To the observer, the number of video games that I've never completed might seem depressing, but not to me. There is something oddly romantic about reminiscing on the game that never was. Each idea held insane potential (in my eyes), so the fact that I at least tried means everything to me. Every failure presented an opportunity to learn how to use a new IDE, a different graphic design tool, a new programming language, you name it. My passion for game development is without a doubt the reason why I have computer skills today.

Am I still an "ideas" person? Yes, that hasn't changed. But thanks to 10+ years of technical trial and error, I've learned to compliment my vision with work ethic.