Author Topic: The Projects We Lost On Our Way  (Read 189 times)


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The Projects We Lost On Our Way
« on: 29 Mar 2021, 14:25 »
I mentioned this idea in another thread back in the General area, and finally got around to making it. I'd imagine there are quite a few projects that have been started on the AGS forums over the years, and sadly many of them are still unfinished, and in extreme cases, are completely abandoned. I felt it might be interesting to look back on some of these projects and share them with people, hopefully encouraging others to also share their lost projects. Who knows, maybe going back down memory lane will encourage people to dig up their old project, or at least help others pick up on common issues, hopefully learning to avoid them.

(This is by no means a full list. I know I have many more of these, but these are the ones I had imagery for.)

1. He Watches
Let's get this out of the way, and start off with the most painful one for me. He Watches was my first serious effort at making a really big and complex game, with multiple characters, branching story paths and a fully explorable mansion as the main setting. I had plans for things like having the NPC's move around the mansion around the player, and ways for the player to call out to them to draw them into specific rooms to have private conversations with them or to secure their assistance with puzzles or obstacles, as well as a sort of parallel reality ghost world version of some rooms, where the player would be allowed glimpses into the past events that took place in the mansion, which would provide clues for later puzzles. A point of pride was the overlay based lighting system that would let the player use a lighter and candles to light up rooms in order to create safe areas from the shadows that haunt the mansion later on, as well as allowing them to spot hidden objects. The design document was a mile long, and I had a ton of art and animations and even a playable demo, which I think is still out there somewhere.

The mansion exterior

The main entrance hall, with Sarah, the protagonist of the game

Sadly the project died in the dumbest way possible. For one, the project was already massively delayed due to the far-too-ambitious scope of it all, and the more months passed the more challenging it became to work on it. The final blow came one day when I had a cold and a bad fever, and I had the bright idea of updating the firmware on my SSD hard drive. I messed my computer up big time and ended up bricking all the hard drives I had, including the backup drives, and this was in the day before I had cloud  backups or source control, so I lost literally everything except some of the art I'd copied to my work computer. All the code: gone.

2. CJ Zombie Escape

This was a MAGS project I once built. The concept was fairly simple and inspired by 28 Days Later the movie. The player is some dude stuck in his apartment, waking up from a massive hangover, when he discovers a zombie apocalypse has begun. An evac chopper could pick him up, but he has to draw its attention with coloured smoke, which means puzzling it out to craft a homemade smoke bomb by using supplies stolen from the crazy man mixing up explosives in his bath tub upstairs, all the while doing time based puzzles to block zombies from intruding too soon. The game borrowed a lot of ideas from LaSol, an older MAGS entry of mine, where time-based puzzles where key to making an otherwise dull puzzle game more interesting.

The bottom of the stairwell. The player had to pick up their lost cellphone or something from their mailbox.

Bedroom, with what was a sort of functional computer through which the player could chat with NPC's to gain hints.

Most of this game was done. All the backgrounds and animations were finished, along with all the characters, but I just ran out of steam on the project. The zombie idea was too dull and my initial ideas of trying to turn a mundane apartment and stairwell into an interesting puzzling environment just felt flat and boring. I dropped the project but preserved the graphical assets in the hopes of reusing some of them in some future project.

3. Space King

Inspired by a really cool platformer demo someone had built on the AGS forums I tried to build my own from scratch. I used the Megaman games as a template for things like jump height and air time, and even based the test animation I had on Megaman X sprites. The concept worked all right, and I had a playable one room demo which could even support things like breakable objects and moving platforms. The concept was a sci-fi space opera where the player takes on a role of a super soldier serving the eponymous Star King. The game would have been split into two halves, with one being a vertically scrolling space shooter during which the player could damage enemy forces and collect powerups, and a side scrolling platforming shooter with enemies to shoot and light puzzles to solve. However, the more I tested my keyboard movement engine out, the more janky it proved to work with, and even trying to program things like moving enemies with their own movement patterns or any other kind of projectiles than hitscan was, at the time, well beyond my ability. As such I gave up on the project and set it aside, deeming it a fun side project to toy with, but unfeasible as a one man game project.

Character concept art

Test animation for the player character

4. Civil Unrest

I've always loved board games, and the idea of designing my own has always tickled my brain. There was also a point in time in which I considered trying to make a sort of digital board game, and one of the themes I selected was a sort of riot police versus anarchist setting, in which players would try to control regions of a city while managing escalation levels and media attention, trying to make the other side look bad and unjustified while using as much force as possible without looking too evil themselves. The game borrowed heavily from the much praised Twilight Struggle in its card and influence mechanics, but I ended up scrapping the idea of a digital board game of this nature due to challenges with enabling multiplayer, as well as it just not feeling right due to lacking physical pieces and cards to play with.

I actually still have the rough rules document for this, and have been toying around with printing my own cards and making some simple pieces and boards out of cardboard so I could prototype this as a physical board game rather than a digital one.

The game board drafted with placeholder art assets

5. Infiltration Strike Insertion Squad

This was my second attempt at taking a board game concept and turning it into a digital game. This time the model I went after was the Games Workshop game Dungeon Quest, which I modified into a single player sci-fi dungeon crawler with influences of Space Crusade, Aliens and more. The idea was for the player to assemble a team of 2-4 characters, gaining cards for their deck based on those characters, and then venture into a randomly generated tile-based dungeon representing a space station or a colony or a ship. Here the player would explore new rooms, collect keys and loot, and try to complete some final objective that would trigger a new boss encounter and allow them to beat the level. The idea is still perfectly valid, I think. I made a rough draft of the game with a fully working map generation function as well as card decks representing doors, encounters, secret passages and basic weapons and health packs, but tried to make the combat work with a sort of quick time event system that was just utter rubbish, so I scrapped it and instead began to expand the idea of the game being a deck builder as well as exploration game.

Out of all my scrapped projects, and especially with my recently released MAGS game One More Fathom sharing some ideas with this, this one feels most likely to be worked on against in the future.

A test view of the main view of the game. I already had the map generation in place, and rooms would get randomly assigned doorways, floor sprites and wall segments to make them look unique. The placeholder character sprites are concept art from some Aliens -themed mobile game, I think.
Wrongthinker and anticitizen one. Pending removal to memory hole. | WHAMGAMES proudly presents: One More Fathom!