There’s a very particular feeling that you get at the beginning of a good game. It’s taking the first step into a unexplored world, secrets hidden by fog-of-war, operating on rules you have not yet learned, filled with dangers you’ll only know how to overcome after they’ve beaten you the first time around.
“Strike the Earth!”
It’s very important to get the beginning of a good story right, and with our goal in Clockwork Empires being to have the player create stories through the gameplay, well. It’s an obvious point of importance (to say nothing of game design in general requiring a strong ‘hook’ – it’s just good design). Getting this right is going to be iterative by necessity so I’m not going to indulge in discussing our pile of speculation on approaching the problem just yet. It’s wrapped in some dreadfully unfinished UI anyway. So, rather, I want to talk about a personal approach to a very particular detail that I’m trying to slip into the game.
(Shh; Don’t let the other guys know about this. Daniel might insist on putting lutefisk into the bloody game again, and don’t get me started on Nicholas’ creepy poet obsession.)
To me, personally, getting the beginning right is a bit about capturing what I felt back when I was playing games as a kid with no knowledge of how they were made. Certainly my memory is flavored by a heavy helping of nostalgia but the experience was, I think, something very much more than the sum of its parts because the processes behind the game were completely magical to me. Before I knew how scripting worked, how computer graphics were made, how to program a UI, I could reasonably expect anything to happen after that first step into the game-world.
Though we may not manage quite that, the simulation-centered gameplay of Clockwork Empires is going to be a damn good attempt at enabling players to feel something like that when they make landfall at behest of the Queen onto an unknown and Perfectly Safe shore.
(Especially with the Fun we’ve been cooking up in the art room during the last couple weeks. Examples of key phrases: “stretchy tentacle rigs”, “like a malevolent blob of phlegm”, “head should come off about half the time”, “the glow needs to be more unnatural”, “figured out how to make it fold into itself”, and so on. )
As for my own little indulgence, it’s this:
(From a standpoint of technique I’ll only say that it bugs the hell out of me that I did the correct perspective on the paddlewheel while somehow botching the giant drive-cog by doing the exact wrong thing. So, it’s wonky; let’s all agree that the matter is settled and that there was a gross error in Mr. Ambrose Dorian Chainsly’s — not to be confused with the Lower Bilgestreams Chainsleys with their indecorous ‘e’ — patented process as detailed in “A New And Curious Method Of Arrangement Pertaining To Gearspring’s Cog Manufacturing Autodynamo”. We shall send a strongly worded to Mr. Chainsly immediately, but for now you’ll have to make due with these landing craft, self-annihilating drive-wheel vibrations be damned!)
It’s surprising what you can find stewing in your head for eighteen years.
(Also: not a half-bad punchline to the old “An Overseer, a Selenian Polyp, and The Cog Pope walk into a pub … “)