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Tubatic avatar 12:04 AM on 12.15.2012  (server time)
Play My Game: Article Of Loathing

For about 20 years now, I've wanted to make games. Up until about a year ago, I hadn't made much more than a simple ascii game in PASCAL and a hand full of levels in a handful of level editor enabled games. For the past few years, I've been actively trying to make my own games, from my own vision, of my own creation.

The results are not so romantic as the sentiment implies.

Using GameMaker Studio, I managed to make something last year that resembled an original idea and at least some parts that you've find in a game. I got great feedback by sharing that here, so I'm bringing something else to the table for digestion. At the very least, this new thing stands as a more complete package.

I give you Article of Loathing.

First off, I'll be the very first to say its not really all that good. Its ok. Have at it. Frankly, I just needed to finish this thing so I could move on in peace and not look back. But let me start at the beginning.

Post Partum Discussion

The idea for Article came about as just a really simple thing I could make and throw onto the GDC Pirate Kart for 2012. Play as an internet blogger that has to manage internet rage and channel their anger into their writing. What you see basically the game I envisioned it to be. The graphics are quick and ugly, the controls are a little grimey and play is shallow enough to pick up, play, and maybe just forget about so you can move on to the next thing. Its an idea that I figured I could finish in about a week, maybe two.

So 7ish months later here it is! The process of making Article was not a straight line, and I dropped and picked up the game many times while tinkering with other things. But that was the thing: I was doing more tinkering than finishing. As great as game jams are for flexing creative muscle and shaking out new idea, I had participated in about 2 or 3 Ludum Dares and managed to finish nothing at all. On top of having other game making projects mulling around, I was fast becoming a father for most of this year, and have been a father for the last few months. I really enjoy working on my own personal game ideas, but if I'm not going to finish anything, what's the point? Especially with my freetime as a new super premium, I've got to teach myself to wrap a bow on these things and give people something to actually play!

So as of the last month or two, I've been thinking of ways to close out Article of Loathing. Where was the UI? What's the end game? What's it like to play this thing? I did a few very good things that I'll probably hold onto going into the next leg of my game designing life.

Build the UI. Just do that.

Pretty straight statement. I'd run Article in debug as just a critical path to the gameplay mechanics, I'd yet to build out how UI even really would work in Game Maker. Just in the last month, I created the title screen, drafted up the How To Play and that snazzy Game Over screen. Once that was in, it really seemed like I was making some sort of product rather than just messing around.

Keep it Simple

The scoring system as it is is kind of ridiculous, but you should have seen it before. I was calculating Respect which was separate from Skill which was a factor in deciding Quailty of an article.

What the what?

The scoring was far too complicated to be appreciable (and it may still be, tbh). I did what needed to be done and in the last months here, I broke and remade the scoring system into a more simple Heat x Followers = some addition to your score. For what this game actually is, I feel like that says more than enough.

Communicate to the user ALL THE TIME!

Something I learned in the last year about game design is that games are as much about communication as they are about presenting fun play scenario. If you want a player to know something, its got to be stated. Certainly not everything should be spelled out completely. But I've got to tell you at least vaguely what needs to be known. Sound design, Article Score display and the coloring of the stats all say something worth being absorbed. While I can't necessarily get the user to grok all the ideas, I've got to at least say something, which I wasn't doing until I told myself I was ending this project.

If you've played the game, I would not be surprised to hear it wasn't even worth these paragraphs of very brief introspection. But Article represents something that I've so rarely actually done in most any project I've started in my lifetime: a finished work. The feeling of being Done can't be underestimated and I'm glad to have it out there.

I have more ideas coming up and I've got a pretty cool series of games in mind that should turn out honestly special. But for now, please check out this game and let me know what you think. I love and trust Dtoid as a straight up, honest community, so please have at it! I leave you with a handful of random facts about Article of Loathing.

*** The player character used to be a white guy, pretty much as an arbitrary asset grab from another project. Based on twitter conversations about black women in games I decided months ago to make a black woman the player character. The original “Drew” sprite is now the guy with the redshirt
*** Jim Sterling was the main source for the basic scenario. While watching him deal with a raging "fanbase" for his writing on a regular schedule, It dawned on me that the ratings of reviews didn't matter, so much as how strong his assertions were. Having a strong opinion is the thing, not the quality of the subject.
*** The game is technically endless, as the only way to get a “game over” is to get caught by a troll. However, its written in such a way that they will be simply impossible to avoid. I'd love to know your high score! I generally topped out somewhere in 6 digits.
*** Jane McGonigal's Reality is Broken and Anna Anthropy's Rise of the Video Game Zinesters have been inspirational in both wanting to make games and wanting to increase my output, though this game arguably misses the point of both books. Highly recommended reading!

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