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 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…