I want to make games. I really, really love video games, and I think they can do a good deal more than they’re doing right now to communicate cool experiences. I know I’m not going to revolutionize the industry and I’m not going to make the mystical Citizen Kane Of Games™. But I have this stack in my bottom desk drawer, 3rd folder from the back, and this folder on my computer under Documents -> Misc Evil Schemes -> Game ideas, and each of them have everything from 1-sentence summaries of little ideas to dreadfully drawn-out campy scripts of ideas I’ve had. Most of them are terrible, but in the past 6 months they’ve been getting better, I’m sure of it. I like to think that I’m good at designing games, but I have a hard time figuring that out for certain because I seem to be rubbish at making them.

So I had this idea for a game, it’s a single-player cross between FTL, KSP, EVE Online and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, only unlike FTL you actually have to bring food & electricity with you (similar to the natural tension of building in Kerbal Space Program and the felling of Not Knowing What The Heck Anything Does and Will This Will Finally Get To The Moon?!! and the all-too frequent Maybe I’ll Just Use The Kerbal X Again Cause I’m Making A Total Fool Of Myself Right Now). In other words, the tension comes not from hoping you get the right events, but hoping your risky pack-too-much-cargo-and-not-enough-food strategy will pay off.

Ok, so the prototype should be pretty easy right? All you need is a menu letting you set the values of what things you brought, how many and what kind of crew, etc. and then calculate some results using spreadsheet-level math. I thought I’d mock it up in unity real quick just to see if I could get anywhere.

2 hours later, this is what I’ve got:

Screen Shot 2013-05-02 at 6.30.31 PM

These are all the tabs I’ve opened on the documentation, various support forums and motivational speakers’ webcasts:

Screen Shot 2013-05-02 at 6.32.52 PM

And this is the amount of actual code I’ve written (which doesn’t work because the ship name field is invisible because of this):

Screen Shot 2013-05-02 at 6.34.00 PM

This seems to happen every time I try to make a game. I get about 2 hours into it, get tired of the constant bogging down scouring support forms for what should be basic, easy stuff, and give up. I might open it again a little later and try to pick it back up, but I wind up just poking what I do have until I realize I have too much paying work to do to be doing this anyway.

I’ve read a lot of stuff from game developers about how you have no one to blame for not making games but yourself, that the first steps are always hardest, that game development has never been easier to break into, and I’m sitting here thinking “Is it me? Am I just not cut out for this? Am I really just incredibly lazy and/or inept?”

I know game development is hard, and that no one needs my ideas. There are plenty of people who are much better at drawing, coding, project management and PR that also have good ideas. Probably better ones. And they worked hard to get where they are. I know that my ideas aren’t going to change the world and I know that I’m no one special; I don’t deserve to be listened to just because my ideas are super brilliant.

But I have these ideas. I really, really like these ideas. I’d really like to make them into games. Maybe rubbish games, but that’s how you learn. But I can’t seem to get over the first hill. I can’t seem to make my brain work with code. I’ve done code academy till I couldn’t type one more console.Log, watched every single Unity tutorial, I’ve even bought a book about Unity filled with things I already knew how to do. Are my ideas too complex? Is Unity’s scripting language terrible? I tried to make Gamemaker work, but I didn’t know their scripting language and the last thing I need right now is to learn another language.

Maybe I should just suck it up? Tom Francis, a guy who’d never programmed a day in his life before he started tinkering in Gamemaker, is now close to making his first game. I played an early build and it’s quite awesome. If he can do it, I can do it, right? Am I undermotivated? Maybe this isn’t really how I want to spend my life? I don’t know; I just know I hate making games! I want to design them! And that’s probably wrong and childish, but I don’t know what else to think. I’m really rubbish at programming. I don’t get it, I can’t seem to make anything tangible work in it, and I’m really tired of slogging through it time and again. I’m not giving up, and I’ll probably come up with another idea and immediately try to prototype it, only to give up 2 hours later.

I’m hungry and cranky now. Where’s the cereal?