Realigning the Azimuth

Stuck in Eternal Iteration

As much as I don’t want this to be a I’ve-not-written-much-because-of-reasons type of post… it really is one.

I’ve been finding myself in quite the creative block over the last few weeks with developing Pivotus - for a number of reasons.

The biggest is simply the fact I would work on a number of levels, and get them to the stage where I was fairly happy with them, then proceed to release a public build, or take it to an event or someplace & demo it there to get some feedback. That’s normally meant to be a good thing, right? Show the game, get some feedback - make it better.

But to be honest, at least for me - and what I’m working on, I’m not finding it to be the case. On one hand, I wonder if it’s just a generational thing - the types of games which I grew up with, are quite different from what my friends & peers have played. The result? When I’m demoing, I feel like I’m trying to handle two separate responsibilities: Communicating the ideas/goals behind the game, yet at the same time, try to process any feedback I’m getting to work out the core message behind what’s being said.

The result of that typically tends to be going back to the drawing board on wave designs - and doing that always results in feeling like I’m treading water, or going backwards. To be on the cycle again of having to iterate on the same patterns again - not moving onto the next set or on being able to focus on features, or focus on other systems becomes a source of energy drain as you go back several times.

Maybe it’s another symptom of the general problems I feel I’m having with working on my own projects. I have this small, somewhat refined vision - and I struggle, and iterate (perhaps too many times) in trying to get it out the door. But when I finally do, the result still feels flawed. That’s certainly something I experienced when developing Pocket Dogfights, and I’m feeling the same with Pivotus.

Which of course, leads to one thing? Was I wrong in trying to be public with the development process? Recording development updates in video form? Making test builds available as I’d been making progress? It feels like both that, and the develop in secrecy until the game’s mostly complete which I of course employed with PD both don’t work for me. Which ultimately leads to the big question - should I be trying to continue the public side of things? Or should I switch to just developing in private, with the occasional dribble of screens/footage on the development blog?

Of course, I can’t help but wonder if perhaps this isn’t the right project for me to be working on? Designing waves in a video game isn’t rocket science - so the fact I’ve needed to go back & forth this many times to create something which is really only fun for myself feels like a sign that perhaps it’s more complex a problem than first thought.

Perhaps the problem lies in other areas - such as the visuals? I’ve been a fan of the low-polygon look, and without being able to hire someone for the asset workload (due to present circumstances), it was my attempt at trying to do something within my means. Plus, it’s a useful skill to have - being able to create custom grey box art - especially when you look at events like the Ludum Dare (or other jams).

Right now, I feel the best option is to work in secret a bit (only showing details to a few close friends), focusing on some of the issues I’m aware of (bugs, levels & amongst other details), before I try and demo again (or complete a diary video) in public. Hopefully by doing this, I can save some of the energy I’ve used on trying to publicise updates or videos to direct it back towards the game instead, and making it a better experience.