Author Topic: The Projects We Lost On Our Way  (Read 1056 times)


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    • WHAM worked on one or more games that was nominated for an AGS Award!
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!

Re: The Projects We Lost On Our Way
« Reply #1 on: 29 May 2021, 11:35 »
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.

Me too. Your post was a good read.

1. He Watches
I've played the demo but I can't remember the details. Looks pretty.

I've often been guilty of what Fernewelten calls furnishing the rooms before the walls have been erected.
It can happen when you try to do teamwork for a tight scheduled competition.
You often start the game with only a basic concept hoping that you'll get more ideas later.

My failed attempts are sketchier than WHAM's but I'll share some of them nonetheless:

Quis separabit

A roman comedy-drama. The art was made by Godzillu. We got pretty far and produced a couple of demos. Yet the the story was convoluted and the game changed its tone a couple of times.
One day I watched the movie Pompeii from 2014 and realized that we had planned the same cliché ending for our game:
Spoiler: ShowHide
The title couple of the game is surprised by the eruption in the middle of a kiss.

Therefore we decided to change it for a more light-hearted and nonsensical one:
Spoiler: ShowHide
They dust off the ashes and resume their kiss.

Poor side of town

It's about an ex-Napoleonic soldier suffering PTSD. I made the graphics with Diablo II assets notably. I had planned a story with different ramifications and realized it would take too long to develop. It was very linear without much challenge.

Middle east project

Started with Blondbraid. A middle eastern city plagued with war. Some time travel involved. We probably swallowed more than we can chew and only had a vague idea of the plot.

Cultists project?

I mostly drew what WHAM asked me to so I can't really tell what the game is about  (laugh)

« Last Edit: 29 May 2021, 21:24 by Creamy »

Re: The Projects We Lost On Our Way
« Reply #2 on: 30 May 2021, 22:09 »
I think I've started 4 different "Jimmy the troublemaker 2" projects....:D

Found some pictures from my last try...6 years ago haha

« Last Edit: 30 May 2021, 22:15 by Mouth for war »
mass genocide is the most exhausting activity one can engage in, next to soccer

Re: The Projects We Lost On Our Way
« Reply #3 on: 03 Jun 2021, 09:28 »
This is the Curious Dig.

Spoiler: ShowHide

It is one of the first AGS experiments that I can recall, and still have lying about. I am fond of it, and I learned a lot. The player is a professor leading a (badly funded) expedition to dig up a lost tomb. You dig up valuables to get score. You analyse and combine them in the workshop to get more score. You break open the main vault, have some sort of final encounter, and you win. It was the general plan, at least.

Of course, it was difficult to make the archaeology-em-up gameplay work, or at least make it work for a tidy little project of this scale. Solving puzzles and finding extra goodies were more fun than sifting through sand and what-not. That, perhaps, is a different experience for a different game.

I am still fond of the idea, mind. Of course, I am wanting for a sort of framework to explain the vagaries, and I have gotten a better idea of how to make the gameplay work. I wanted Time Team rather than Indiana Jones, but the latter simply works for a game in a way that the former cannot.

The Emperor's Cure.

Spoiler: ShowHide

I think this was a prospective MAGS entrant. I forget the theme, but it was about the emperor on death's door due to illness, and the hapless junior alchemist summoned to whip up a cure, as the master apothecary suddenly died. It was effectively an alchemy game. Crush, calcinate, mix, and do not die, and do not poison the emperor.

It was quite fun, and this time, I learnt a lot about cut-scenes and GUIs and multiple endings. I also discovered Eric Matyas's excellent music archive!

It was, of course, impossible to finish within a month. It was also far too much framing around what was ultimately a basic colour mix-matching puzzle, despite the vast amounts of ingredients and different states. As with the Curious Dig, I may have tried to simulate alchemy too far at the expense of gameplay. Still – a learning experience. I became rather fond of the Regency-esque fantasy theme, and of Mr Strom, endlessly bumbling himself up the steps. He will be given future opportunities to serve his emperor, I think.


Spoiler: ShowHide

A game about bomb disposal, in which you are a technician called to disarm bombs left around the city by a mad bomber.

As always, the problem was in the gameplay. It is difficult to build satisfying puzzles all around bombs – or at least with a reasonably realistic approach to bombs. I came to hear that an Ulster bomb-squad had to 'unlearn' some of their techniques, since the contraptions were a lot less fiendishly clever than the training had supposed. Unplug the detonator, and you are done. Which meant having to invent more and more outrageous types of bombs, and the needs of the gameplay clashed with the style.

Still, an idea with a lot of potential. Bombs could be only part of it. Sabotage in a more general sense would work for more variety in the puzzles. Breaking into a compromised reactor to mend it before it goes critical, for instance. Anything that relies on correctly pointing and clicking.

I like the design for this. The best description is that it is Stålenhagian, a sort of futuristic visit to the past. On the one hand, it is quite satisfying to see someone have an identical vision for something that you have. On the other, it is somewhat distressing that they are vastly better at expressing it, and you know that you will be under that shadow, and be a 'rip-off'. Still, a pleasant walk among memories, most certainly.

One idea I liked was to change the game saving system a bit. Rather than having it available all the time, the player would need to click the panel on the NatTech van to bring up the saving dialogue. Which makes the disposal part a bit more tense, with the right music.
I also wanted it to be timed, but timers in AGS are a bit complicated for me. The next best thing is to have limited actions. Every action that takes time to do deduct some from your time meter. If you run out, the bomb explodes.

I shall have to make a demo of this, some day. Might not hurt with some more perspectives on it.


Spoiler: ShowHide

This is a GUI-test, mainly. I wanted to make a sort of unified GUI that made sense within the context of the game, and I was quite happy with how it turned out. Also, I liked the idea of an android on board a starship taken over by space monsters. The usual space horror affair; twisted creatures stalking the hallways, flickering lights, walls being consumed by kebab, crewmen twisted into fleshy polyp aberrations, and so forth. While the android face it all with the indifference of a machine.
Of course, the player's agency makes him go beyond his programming routines in order to complete his mission, which one could call emergent behaviour.

An idea I shall keep working on, I think. I liked the humour, and the GUI learning experience was invaluable – I found a general style I could use.

I say, I like how a pattern begins to come forwards when you put old project pictures side-by-side like this. I really like the Sierra-template, as you can plainly see.

While these games have not been made, I must say that they are still quite valuable to me. All the things I learned, all the ideas they prompted... Time spent well, indeed. Most enriching. Of course, I shall have to make something good enough to release, one of these days.

This thread is most intriguing - and a damned good idea!

Re: The Projects We Lost On Our Way
« Reply #4 on: 03 Jun 2021, 09:56 »
Reiter, your projects looks very interesting! The alchemy reminded me about something, and I checked: Your MAGS winner Escapist Literature (or something nearly like that) doesn't seem to be in the database. Please also add these smaller games.

Re: The Projects We Lost On Our Way
« Reply #5 on: 03 Jun 2021, 13:22 »
It comes as no surprise that I have countless projects which I started but never finished. 90% of them barely got past the initial stages.

One project I do regret not finishing was ’A Window Cleaner’s Apprentice’. Creamy may remember this one, as he kindly provided the character designs and they were very good (not the one in the linked post - that was my own abomination). I had the game fully written, all the puzzles were pretty much implemented and the game was almost completely playable from beginning to end. However, I just didn’t have what it took to finish the backgrounds. And in the meantime I became increasingly dissatisfied with the story (it was shit, and with 2021 vision was likely problematic in a number of ways - sexy cougar housewife stereotype, anyone?).

But I was proud to have gotten as far as I did with that project.

Another game I’ve tried to get off the ground (and still hope to one day) is my reimagining of ‘How To Be A Complete Bastard’ titled simply ‘Bastard!’ At one point I think I had this game pretty much fully mapped out on paper and in my mind and had started working on some coding and artwork. But I’ve never been able to get any momentum going on it.
« Last Edit: 03 Jun 2021, 13:27 by Stupot »