Cormania Game Dev Diary (pt. 7) – Slogging Through It

This week saw me struggling to keep interest in my game. As to why I can’t be sure. It could be that all of the most interesting features of the game (the features essential to gameplay) have been added, and all that’s left are “nonessential” features (not that they are not needed, but that they augment yet don’t directly affect gameplay at all). Perhaps it was because I REALLY did not want to move forward on certain tasks. Perhaps it was general apathy, or a reaction to a lack of interest from others. The most plausible answer, though, is a recent increase in other distractions. I’ve been trying to get out of the house more and all week I’ve been going to concerts, dances, or to the arcade with my brother. When you’re getting home around ten every night, you really start to want to just go to bed and not go back to “work.”

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Nevertheless, looking back on the week, I did make some important additions to the game. First, I took some of the feedback I got from the person who played my game and implemented his suggestions. They did improve the game. I also tried to look in to a bug another player encountered. He had the game freeze on him when he tried to issue orders. This bug is a known issue; in testing, I too had the game sometimes freeze on me when a button was clicked. The trouble, though, is that this bug is very difficult to track. I can’t even reproduce it perfectly! I tried to go to the Advanced GML section of the GMC forums, and the only advice I got was that there could be a loop that isn’t exiting. Unfortunately, my buttons don’t use loops. In fact, one of the problem buttons simply changes rooms! This bug has always baffled me and at this point I’m simply ignoring it and pushing on with development. This may not be the wisest decision; I will have to tackle the bug at some point. But I’m tired of bug hunting, especially for one that is as sneaky as this one. I want to make my game.

Feedback has been disappointingly low. Only two people have played my game and given feedback. This means that I’m largely on my own. No one has commented on the core game design beyond stating they like the idea. If no one is going to play my game, so be it. I’ll discover more opinions later.

I completed two main jobs this week. One was to create a starting menu. The other was to create an options system. Both have few bells and whistles and I didn’t particularly look forward to either task. I’d say the reason why was because I had trouble even knowing where to start. See, my game is fairly sparse. My menus don’t need many choices, and there are not many options to alter. This may not sound like a problem (in fact, it may sound like a good thing), but my concern was having big blank screens that make players perceive my game as amateurish. I wanted my game to have screens that were engaging, particularly the starting menu, since this is the very first thing that the player encounters. But I was not sure how to fill it up, or even if I could feasibly pull off what ideas I had.

Plus the task of developing a starting menu would require something that, while sounding simple, I had been struggling with: choosing a name for my game. I’ve been using the name “Cormania” for now, but this is definitely not the final name I want. I wrote lists of names that I tried to relate to espionage, nuclear weapons, and Cold War politics, but nothing seemed to click.

I did come up with a name. It came to me when looking at the Bureau of Intelligence report. Clearly the player is closely associated with this office, and I thought of the name “Cormanian Bureau of Intelligence,” which would have the acronym “CBI.” This acronym is what stuck. No one will know what it means (unless they read this post), and in truth the CBI does not exist in-game because there is no Cormania: there is East and West Cormania, but no unified Cormanian government. But perhaps a name does not need to say much about the game itself.

As for the menu… it is somewhat sparse, but I made all the buttons large and the title of the game in big letters at the very top of the screen. The end result? This:


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It’s actually not that bad. It’s simple, and it looks like something you might see on an old government computer console, which is the visual theme of the game. And there isn’t that much unused space, since I made the elements of the menu fairly large. Entering the game also looks like a simple task. All in all, the menu turned out better than expected.

For the options system, I had to figure out what settings the player could manipulate. Clearly sound and music volume was one. Another may be the graphical setting. My game will use two shaders, one for bloom effect and one for a CRT effect. I want to give the user the ability to turn these shaders off. That’s all the system needed. I realized that the best way to implement this was to simply have an in-game dialogue box appear when the player wants to manipulate game settings. No room switching would be necessary.

At this point, though, my interest in the project was really starting to wane. I was getting home late at night and really wanted to do other things, or simply go to sleep. I did manage to do SOMETHING every night, but I was working less and less, and one night I basically felt like I didn’t want to do anything at all on the game only after a few minutes of work.

I was very productive Friday night, though. This may be because Friday night was the only night where I spent a substantial amount of time at home, leaving only to go to Barnes & Noble for a short while. When I got to work, I was able to tackle the vast majority of the work associated with the options system. Some further tweaking is still needed (particularly disabling all other buttons when the options menu is called), but I do have solutions in mind (found on the YoYo Games Marketplace) for handling this.

I may need to scale back on some of my ambitions for this game. I can really feel my interest start to wane, and there are features that not only am I unsure how to implement, I don’t know if I want to really go through all that work. Hopefully my game will be finished soon, and I can move on to publishing and promoting it, and maybe seeing if there is a way to monetize it.

Oh, and just for fun, here is a victory screen, one of the few victories I had without cheating. It’s good to know that winning IS possible.


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