It takes more than one game to become a successful game studio. A portfolio of games is required to spread risk. This is even more the case for Jarrah Technology, as on current trends Concealed Intent will not be a financial success. I am committed to a 1.1 update and have started work towards that goal. However, realistically any time spent will not reap a corresponding financial reward. Thus with the little time remaining to me for working on games full-time, I need to come up with new games quickly. Luckily, ideas are not the problem. There are exceptionally few “ideas people” in games, because everyone has tons of ideas. Choosing which potential games deserve the risk of developing with limited resources is the real skill.
Over the last four years I’ve compiled a list of three dozen “maybe later” game ideas. They are of variable quality, but there is no standout, clearly a winner, concept. So how to choose? After Concealed Intent I have a few requirements for my next game. First, it must be simple. Simple to develop and simple to play. With only a few months left available for unrestricted development, any game I start must be finished within 9 months or risk never being finished. Realistically, with Concealed Intent work and other distractions, 6 months is the maximum time. Thus since I also repeatedly underestimate effort significantly, I want games that I think I can create in about 3 months. So an order of magnitude smaller than Concealed Intent. This has many implications. For a start, no story, that takes too long (or at least, it takes me too long). Also, my next game will be 2D or 3D with a fixed camera. Having a fully mobile camera in a 3D world adds a host of UI and control problems. The next game needs to be relatively cheap to make (not including my time). Being able to reuse existing assets is best, otherwise I need to be aware of how much extra cost is required and factor that into to likely earnings. It is a fuzzy line.
The game should be simple to play. Definitely no complex internal simulation models. It should be clear what is happening on the screen and quick to learn. This is for two reasons: it is easier to develop; and, it widens the market of the game. Concealed Intent is complex to play, and difficult to learn. There is a lot of maths happening “under the hood”. This greatly decreases the number of people willing to play. The vast majority of potential players (and press) will only play the game for a few minutes. If after that time they are still going through a tutorial explaining mathematical game concepts, most will stop and never start again. Thus, my next game will just have a couple of simple game mechanics.
So those are the criteria for evaluating ideas: quick, simple, cheap (and fun!). With that in mind my long list became a short list of 4. So I decided to prototype them. Two on paper as the technical complexity is low, so the gameplay elements are most important. Two in code as the most challenging part would be the programming. At this stage I don’t want to talk too much about what each idea actually involves – it is too soon. Instead, here are photos of each game in progress.