Favorite games I played in 2021

2021 didn’t have any stand out video game experiences for me the way that 2016 had Doom, 2017 had Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Night in the Woods, and 2020 had Tony Hawk 1+2 and Final Fantasy 7: Remake.

That is fine, but I kinda wonder if there was something really cool that I missed. With the amount of games being released these days, there probably was (I still haven’t played Chicory).

Anyway here are my favorites video games that I played in 2021:

  1. Resident Evil 8
    The perfect sweet spot between scary and stupid. The first half of 7 was a chore for me, because I found it so unnerving, but this was a fun ride from beginning to end.
  2. Psychonauts 2
    They actually pulled it off. I was wondering if I even wanted more Psychonauts, but a few moments in it felt like an effortless continuation of the original, and I had a great time until the end.
  3. Tomb Raider 1 (1996)
    Pretty blocky spaces! I loved how much more of en emphasis is on exploration here in the original. Also, I found the level design a lot better than I expected. Kinda feel like all the elements they added over the original run of 90s Tomb Raiders detracted from the simple joy of climbing and puzzling through the space.
  4. The Longing
    This is the perfect game to be sad with. Watching the little protagonist creature trodding slowly across the game world to the haunting dungeon synth score is pure melancholic comfort food for me.
  5. Deathloop
    The final hours were underwhelming, but I enjoyed the begining and middle a lot, particularly the sensation of becoming familiar with the environments and enemy placements really captured the time loop fantasy.
  6. Forza Horizon 5
    A comfortable toy to play with while listening to podcasts. Gorgeous arcade racing vacation. I never played the Forza Horizon series, but this was Burnout Paradise good. I wish there was less dialogue and fewer skinner box elements though.
  7. Metroid Dread
    It’s a new 2D Metroid! It felt amazing to play. I had a great time, but I wished it would have been bit a bit more open ended, the way the game keeps blocking the path behind you can feel annoying.
  8. Hitman 3
    More hitman! I enjoyed how they integrated more story elements into the missions, particulary the Berlin level. I played too little of this now that I think about it.
  9. Ace Combat 7 (2019)
    I haven’t played this series since the original Air Combat as a kid. The feel of maneuvering your plane, getting in range for a missile lock on is just perfect. The story is stupid, but I enjoyed how the bits of dialogue in each mission combine with the soundtrack to add a bunch of drama to the action.
  10. Minit Fun Racer
    Had a perfect hour beating this cute little game.

What do I want to do with my personal projects?

I am currently making very little progress on my personal projects.

I don’t have a plan for when I want to work on things. I am just as likely to get randomly motivated to open up my IDE and work on something, as I am to forget about it for months.

I want to figure out how to change that and start doing interesting work

Which projects do I have going on?

I have the following ‘active’ projects:

  • A 2D platformer written in C++
  • A 3D first person game written in C++
  • A 2D pirate jokey game written in Lua / Löve
  • A top down car game written in GameMaker
  • This website

(And then there is my 37 hour dayjob as a frontend web developer, which does take up a considerable amount of my thoughts)

Of those projects, I would consider the GameMaker car game completely dead. I started it when exploring GameMaker and I learned enough to get an appreciation for what it is. I don’t want to use it, but it was fun to experience the environment so many good games were made in.

I think I’m over the 2D platformer too. I decided to abandon it and do the C++ FPS project instead, which I started developing that in the same codebase. So it’s one framework that can do both some 2d and 3d stuff.

I used the platformer game as a test case for implementing the 2D features of my OpenGL renderer for the 3D game, so that I could reuse my UI system and debug console from the other game… So the two C++ projects are part of a shared engine/framework development project, that is in service of both these games, even though I probably only care about the 3D game right now. Although a part of me feels like I should try to wrap up the 2D platformer into a small finished thing, having spent so much time on it and solved all sorts of problems.

As for the Lua project, I started that because I wanted to learn Lua to be able to help a friend out with the language, and because I was annoyed that I had not learned it yet for Pico8 development.

I picked up Lua in a couple of days, and started a silly pirate game I had been thinking about making for a while. I find it extremely fun to work in the Löve framework. It’s a nice feeling not having to wait for my code to compile like with my C++ projects, and also not having to worry about memory management and engine architecture as much. And as for the game, I think I could really enjoy finishing up a little game, but I don’t actually have a design in mind, so it’s seems like a pretty time consuming distraction.

Then there is this website, which I think I should give some attention, because I can use it as a tool to reflect on my work, like I am doing right now.

Okay, what is the plan?

In trying to figure out what it is that I want out of these projects, despite consistently neglecting them, I keep coming back to the fact that I simply am very interested in making games, I keep thinking about it and I do find it very enjoyable.

I also think that it is very healthy for me to have a creative outlet. In the periods when I actually get stuff done, the act of making things become a very solid source of confidence. It gives me a sense of purpose and identity.

That is probably a very good reason to attempt to stabilize this part of my life. I should look for ways to more consistently do this thing that makes me happy.

Most of the time i have spend on the projects above was spent solving programming issues, underlying arcihitectural design decisions. I have not spend as much time on actual game design, on crafting moments of gameplay as I feel like I should. One of the reasons for this is probably abandoning projects or part of projects, when I actually finally make it to the design phase.

An exception was one time when I made a Doom map, which was all design work, I found this very enjoyable. In Doom level design, the gameplay mechanics are already defined. I was making something with a complete set of toys. When I am making the game itself, I have to come up with both the toys and the scenarios they are used in. This is a massive hurdle for an inexperienced designer, especially when I only have a vague idea of what sort of game I am actually making.

I suppose the only way to get through that big open phase, is simply, to stick with it and try stuff. So that would mean being more intentional, allocating the time, setting iteration goals and only focusing on that thing. I’m hoping that writing about my work can help me stay focused.

I am going to focus mostly on the 3D C++ project. It is the thing that I am the most curious about right, now. My goals are to continue to learn how to make a renderer for the OpenGL API, to explore some specific aesthetic ideas I have for a large lo-fi block based 3D world and to figure out what type of first person game design can utilize that worlds aesthetic and weird constraints.

That last goal seems like kind of a red flag. “Insert design here.”. I should focus on big picture design goals once I have explored the initial word/rendering ideas I have.

Okay, the plan?

  • Don’t work on the 2D platformer (Except indirectly as part of the shared C++ engine work)
  • Don’t work on the Lua pirate game
  • Don’t work on the GameMaker car game
  1. Make sure this website is ready for writing about my work.
  2. Work on the 3D FPS C++ game. Set goals and write about them. One at a time.
  3. Make small games in Lua as planned sideprojects, with very small scopes in fixed timeframes, for gamejames for instance, in order to finish things and pratice game design away from long term project…