In this fifth part of my diary chronicling the process and progress of the RPS game I'm making - using the newly-free Unity game-construction suite - I get philosophical as I discuss some of the issues I think Unity throws up, and look at how that might influence my aims for Build 03 and beyond...
Before I get into ShotgUnity, here's one for a dull Wednesday: Are bugs boring?
If you're only interested in things until you've got a basic handle on them, if you're less concerned with the details of things than the ideas, should you try to make games? It's a pretty common trait I think – letting your mind froth with potential is easy, dragging it down to practical matters is hard, but as a solo developer or small team practical matters are 99% of what you'll be doing when you actually get down to realising that froth. So does it have to work before it can be interesting? It's been said of me that I like things to be broken, awkward and difficult – most of the games I like tend to be – but is that just the worthwhile price for interesting ideas? Obviously it doesn't have to be, because there are innumerable examples of fascinating games, flawlessly formed, and that's the clear and right goal. But what about all the interesting stuff that doesn't work? We'd be a poorer platform without that, right? So is the opposite true? Would we be richer with more bugs?
The reason I'm traipsing over this fairly well trodden ground is that Unity feels like it has the potential to really lower the drawbridge of Castle Development, letting any old chap who wants in, in. Chaps like me. Now that the indie license is free I can see Unity becoming to games something like YouTube is to broadcasting, or what the web was to print. This is very exciting. There's this interesting idea in a William Gibson novel – or maybe one of his short stories, I forget – where a character reflects that generations of artists have been lost to the void, unknown because they lacked a medium, they weren't great painters or writers or musicians, but they saw the world in a certain way. In the story a new technology lets anyone record their own experience of the world and broadcast it, revealing genuine novelty and talent in unlikely, untrained places. Ah, but where's the skill though eh? The craft? I'm not sure I care. After a few weeks moving around in Unity-centered parts of the net I've come across scores of people demonstrating ideas with proto-games, sketches of ideas brought to life in webplayers because, really, it's been simpler to show your mad scheme than try to explain. I LOVE this. Even on our own forums with the ShotgUnity project we've had people posting mini-levels to showcase the functions of a piece of code. It's something you see all over the Unity forums and as the word spreads about Unity I can only see more popping up. Little spacial experiments that could only make sense as something you DO rather than watch.
There are obviously barriers to this - the ability to code, or model, or animate makes things different from YouTube where we all share, at least in part, a visual language - but as I've been pointing out in this series there are an awful lot of assets available for Unity that can just be taken, usually for free, and published. The Unity forums are littered with people offering up code that'll do what you need it to, or can provide it given some parameters, or at the very least set you along the road to working it out for yourself. If you're inclined to, third party art Packages for Unity from places like Frogames or Gearworx mean you can buy your way out of problems like a lack of dedicated artists, and Unity have a forum dedicated to bartering and trading for services - code for art, art for sound, anything for money...
So does all this mean we're about to see an explosion of amateur development? I hope so, do you? (We'll certainly see an explosion of interesting bugs - Jim)
Anyway, with that in mind and at the risk of destroying all I've said about the goodness of this new democracy, back to ShotgUnity and that poser about bugs.
I'm facing a pretty crucial decision when it comes to the progress of the game. At this point, do I stop trying to put in new stuff (for now) and just fix the bugs? Is it better to fix what we have before expanding it? Don't get me wrong, I actually enjoy the bug hunt - it's a big kick when you nail a fix - but what would be more interesting for you, reader, to see in Saturday's Build 03? Hopefully a bit of both, but I'm very interested in a quick RPS poll: What's more important to you, and more importantly why?