Working on Climbeleon

Originally Posted 2/2/2016

What is this about?

I’ve been working on a game called Climbeleon lately, and figured it would be good to take some notes down for anyone else who is a beginner hobbyist developer.
Climbeleon is an action game where the player has to match color-coded obstacles while climbing to score points. Going too slow or incorrectly matching a color results in a Game Over.
You can find my project write-up for Climbeleon in my projects page.

Why Climbeleon?

Although I’ve worked on a number of projects before, I decided to make Climbeleon my first full project for a number of reasons:

  • Simplicity
    • Climbeleon, as far as modern games go, has a very simple rule set. A less complicated game means I can focus less on design, and more on implementation
  • Iteration on an established genre
    • There are a number of games with a similar premise as Climbeleon; my favorite of them being Escape. By adding features I felt were missing, I know my feature set very well and how it will play out
  • Easy to Prototype
    • The main game play prototype for Climbeleon was completed in less than two days. I have spent several weeks on other projects and do not have anything remotely playable. Climbeleon is a great experience for learning what and what not to do

In addition, it was a game I had been thinking about and I really wanted to explore its possibilities!

A Work in Progress

The following are a few whiteboard designs and some early screenshots from development:

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So what have you learned?

I’ve made a ton of mistakes during this short process, and I couldn’t be any happier about it! Although I could have told myself several of these things at the beginning with my experience as an Engineer, its good to have confirmation that these issues will creep up on my personal hobbies as well. A few things to keep in mind, whether you’re just getting started or have come across these issues before in the past:

  • Keep It Simple, Stupid!
    • The KISS adage is tried and true no matter where you go, but this mistake will always creep up on you. The excitement of making great progress on something you have passion for is going to leave you with a ton of ideas in your head. Make sure you know what your gameneeds before you start implementing what you want. Having more things than necessary going on is surely going to confuse the players and yourself!
  • Make a plan
    • Day in and day out you will hear about various methodologies on how to work efficiently. Whatever it is that you prefer, make sure that you have some sort of plan, even if it is simple. Not having a plan (make sure you stick with it as well!) will cause you to go off track (see: KISS) and you’ll find yourself undoing work that never actually contributed to the game
  • Track your work
    • A gold star on a calendar, or a notebook full of crossed off items. Whatever you prefer to use to track your progress will help you keep motivated and see both how far you have yet to go, but also show you just how far you’ve gone. Knowing what you are capable of and getting that sense of accomplishment is great. I recommend a service such as Trello
  • Have a customer
    • If you are lucky enough, the only customer you’ll ever need is yourself. Since most of us aren’t lucky, you’ll want to have someone else make you keep yourself on schedule. Find a friend and provide them your deliverables. Pick a date for your ‘release’ and make sure things are ready by then (even if you miss it!) It doesn’t matter as long as you can keep yourself aimed at a target and heading towards your goals
  • Have Fun!
    • And finally, make sure you have fun with what you are doing! I didn’t complete my old projects for a number of reasons (experience, time, poor planning) but most importantly it was because I was not having fun working on them. In the future I will definitely revisit them, but I have developed more skills and knowledge doing something simple that I liked instead of something complicated I didn’t

Of course this list is just the tip of the iceberg. I plan on discussing more in the future on my progress and will definitely share more of what I’ve learned.