I haven't posted anything about Ex Zodiac for almost a year, so I thought I'd write a bit about what's been going on.
This post will probably be more like a stream of consciousness rather than something well-written, I'm not much of a writer :)
Progress on Ex Zodiac is slow. Much slower than I was hoping. Part of that might be unrealistic expectations on my part, but I think it's at least somewhat true.
I started what would became Ex Zodiac just under 2 years ago, although I can't say I've been working on it 100% of that time. There have been months where I've been directing my attention else where. Still, it's been in development for quite a while and I was really hoping it would be further on than it actually is. How much is actually done? Well, at the time of writing this I have a title screen, input customization, basic map screen, most of stage 1, the beginnings of stage 1's boss and the beginnings of a space stage. Oh, there's also some music composed for it too (not by me!)
That... doesn't feel like a lot for something I started almost 2 years ago.
Now, I know games aren't as quick to make as I always assume them to be when I first get an idea in my head, I've been making them long enough now that I know to expect lots of things to slow down progress, bugs, technical hitches, design stumbles etc. However, I still feel like this one is taking a lot longer than it needs to. Why? Well, my game is (obviously) quite heavily inspired by Star Fox on the SNES, and that game isn't overly complex, the models are simple, and so are most of the levels. I feel like building a game like that using today's engines & editors should be pretty straight forward. After all, there's a lot more tools at our disposal and many things have been taken care of for us, surely that should speed up development ten fold? Apparently that's not always the case.
I believe the problem is probably me. When I start a project, certain parts will be very clear to me, and I'll know exactly how I want it, these parts are easy to work on, and often get done pretty quickly. This is how the prototype started, and within a a couple of weeks I had something I wanted to continue with. But that's where the problems started. I knew a I wanted to make a Star Fox style game, but beyond the prototype I'd made, I didn't really know where to go with it. All I had was the rough/fuzzy/nebulous idea in my head of how I wanted the whole thing to be, but that's more like a very out-of-focus picture than anything tangible.
Getting that out-of-focus to become more focused is really difficult for me, like, really difficult, and so I end up playing around with ideas a lot more. This isn't a bad thing in itself, but so much of the project ends up being dealt with this way, it takes ages to make any solid progress. Every step feels like another thing to figure out, things that I feel should be simple and straight forward. Something as simple as an enemy path or behavior for example, I'll find myself playing around with it for days, and even then I'm not necessarily happy with it. Why? Probably because I lack confidence in my design decisions. This then leads me to go and see how other games tackled similar things (again, not necessarily a bad thing) but this often means I don't come up with my own ideas, or I always feel the need to find the 'right' or 'correct' way (even if there isn't one, I'll just accept that those game's design decisions must be correct).
I guess the confidence that I need would come after making enough games, which is probably part of why so many people partake in game jams, so they can in turn make better games. It feels a bit late for that now though, I mean it's not too late to start doing game jams or something, but I don't want to have to put off working on the project until I'm 'confident enough', I need to figure out something now.
And that brings me on to the subject of public play testing. Maybe that will give me the confidence I need? If people play what I've made so far, and give me feedback on what's good and what's bad, then maybe I'll feel more confident in my decisions or at least have an idea of what I need to get better at? I'd like to think so, then maybe development will be able to speed up a bit.
Anyway, sorry for the long and probably incoherent vent. It's something that's been on my mind for a long time, and I'm kind of in my own bubble with this stuff. I don't speak to anyone else who does game dev stuff, bar the occasional conversation on twitter, so it feels quite nice to just put my feelings on the subject out there.
Feel free to comment if you have any thoughts!