I’ve recently decided to re-shelve the idea that I was trying to work out with Gather.
The notion behind the game was to somehow represent the physical and chemical reactions in the brain that make us behave in a way that ensures survival. This was my cornerstone design goal. Well, it turns out educational games are bloody hard to make. My problem, I think, was that I kept trying to address this somewhat complex series of interactions in the most simple and abstract fashion. Instead of specific chemicals that I would have to research or make up a chart for, I chose to design using Color Theory, so specific colors would cause reactions in the system. And since I wanted to show off electrical signals as well as chemical reactions (which is kinda technically the same thing when talking about “gated” cellular interaction), I decided to map “energy” to color warmth (warm colors had positive charge, cold colors had negative charge), which could have worked if I didn’t keep getting bogged down with making cellular functions make sense on the color wheel.
Another major aspect to the idea was to indirectly affect a relatively autonomous system until it built itself up and then you ultimately make a decision about what do with the final output. The idea went through a lot of rapid evolution in my mind while I was working on the prototype. Basically, I could never figure out in definite terms what my game was about mechanically; I didn’t know what the “fun” part about it was. I think I just wanted to make an ant farm that I could check on and fuck with from time to time, kind of like Simcity in a way, and there may be something to pursuing that.
I wanted to write this essay for two reasons though; first, it’s good to put down on paper why something failed, and second, to address why my decision is to move on instead of keep working out this idea. The second question comes from a friend of mine who remarked that I spent about a month and half on this game already. I’ve wanted to figure out how to make an educational game that teaches neuroscience for about a year and half now, and it’s because I’m so intensely interested in being successful in this endeavor, that I don’t want to attempt to tackle it before I can do it justice. And frankly, I’ve got enough other coals in the fire already that I don’t need to waste significant amounts of time on a flustering idea.
So, is everything I’ve done a waste? I don’t think so. Gather was probably one of the most beneficial failures I’ve had recently. I only even started the project to learn pathfinding and turret behaviors in Construct, so I was successful as far as that went ( most valuable takeaway: don’t call ‘find path()’ while the object is already finding/moving along a path). More importantly though, I learned something about my own ideas and how to address some of them. And I think a lot of my design ideas are going to find their way into other games eventually.
And for the record, “Gather”, as a name, has nothing to do with what the game was about and everything to do with my complete lack of fucks to give about names.