Machine

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Machine

You know there was a time when I could do some work and just be happy with it for a while. Like Sunday, I finished laying out the first half of Stage 3 in ThiefEd and yesterday I could have, and probably should have, been happy with the fact that I finally got that thing in the can as it were. Yet, I wasn’t. The idea that it wasn’t finished but almost was drove me crazy. So I went back, once more into the breech (which sounds dirty if you know what a “breech” is). Once again the hours slipped away. Reload after reload, tweak after tweak, life after life, I was possessed. The part of me that thinks silly things like, “I should sleep now,” or “No really, I should sleep now,” and “We’re good, we can stop,” was silenced. I was in the zone. I was a Machine – a scripting robot that could, and given the opportunity – would , destroy Tokyo with a bombastic blend of scripting prowess, wicked beats and raw programmer machismo.
So yeah, level scripting’s done. It still needs all the pretty picture things and playtesting, but the heavy lifting is all done. If need be, art could be installed and it could be done.
I’m staggered. I mean, at about 1 AM when I realized what I’d accomplished in just 2 days I was actually struck silent. The words were simply not there. I’d built most of an entire level. I only have 3 left. At this rate, I can do that in a week. For the first time in a while that big assed thing over there => looks possible, and more impressively, ravagable. I know we can do this. It’s not a matter of managing to cross the finish line, but what method of Silly Walk we choose to employ for effect when we do.

-Okay then, with that self back patting out of the way, now onto the self deprecation/flagellation. There’s a concept, well a saying anyway, that says, “Familiarity Breeds Contempt.” It actually fails on some level, as I science has shown that with people and with ideas the opposite is true, but the saying holds up in terms of private works (see there, I avoided using the term art). I’ve been playing some form of this game for a very long time now. New levels that I build are played until dead like an overworked horse. Nothing in the game is new to me. Consequently, all the parts that are and were designed to be “fun” don’t work on me. I don’t see the fun, I only see the mechanics and the engine. I don’t see the puppets, I only see the strings.
Over time one begins to lose sight of the good parts of what they’re building, the act of creation usurping the act of play. What I’m trying to say is, I can’t have fun playing Thief anymore. Well, maybe not. I’m sure if somebody else built a level I’d be all over it. But as it is, I can’t,
This is an odd thing for me now, since new stuff will be new, and hence to me – fun. But that doesn’t mean that the mechanic is sound or even good. It’s just new. Normally when I design games I can trust my internal instincts to guide me to the golden land of enjoyment. Now, after 2 years, the instinct is dulled and I can’t trust it anymore. It loathes the old and demands something different, in spite of how wrong that demand may be.
This is why there are principals of game design. A solid structure to fall back upon when the instincts don’t hold anymore.
“Let’s make jumping a variable thing!”
“No, let’s not, consistent player input requires consistent output.”

“Let’s make platforming more scripted and set up.”
“The computer should never have all the fun.”

“It would be cool if The Thief could do blah, blah and blah.”
“The Core Mechanics are Law. Everything should support the Mechanics. Anything that doesn’t gets the chop.”

…and so on.

-In totally not game news I got to playing something called Bookworm Adventures 2. Oddly, it’s a game that I can only play as a team. My brain works oddly and hates scrambles. It tries to discern a word and then, once it has a word, it’s all I can see. The problem is it’ll do that even if the word is misspelled. Then I’ll start thinking about how the word should be spelled. Like here’s an example:
pelamxe
I have no idea what a “pelamxe” is. Is that some kind of ancient Chinese custom? Some kind of fight to the death with wiffle ball bats? I’m pretty sure I saw a movie once with Let Li were he fought somebody in one on one pelamxe at the epic conclusion. Ah, wait, no, it’s just the word “example.” I hate it.
So yeah, I play Bookworm with the Wife. She’s good at scrambles but bad at spelling and I can spell like the 2nd place spelling bee contestant of the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grades that I am. So we play together, she finds words that she thinks are there while I try to do that same and then I confirm the spelling of said word.
In the game when you spell a word it attacks an enemy, dealing damage based on the word’s length and the letters you’ve managed to use in it. I find I like words that are ironic or appropriate for the concept. “Attack,” “Ruination,” “Destroy,” “Stabbed,” and so on. I laid waste to a fool with, “Hemorrhage.”
Of course that’s secondary to the real point of this post and my personal joy in the game. We were doing verbal battle with a boss, I think it was the King of Hearts, and we were doing well, throwing out 5 and 6 letter words like they were 4 letter words (which aren’t in the Bookworm dictionary oddly). Then once he was down and hurt a little, my brain found a word so ironic and powerful, I had to use it for the story that would ensure. So I entered the word and sent the attack flying. On that day, I killed the King of Hearts with “Penises.” Tell the kiddies. Like Beowulf, that’s a story for the ages.

Ah, speaking of irony, when I did the spell checky to make sure that my stupidity is somewhat filtered, it turned out that I misspelled “misspelled.”