So this is kind of a followup to the last post on switching to Unity. Basically I’m now making an actual game in Unity, instead of making an engine for a game in C++/OpenGL. It’s massively changed what I’m doing day to day; instead of implementing new engine features (collision detection, graphics pipeline, etc) I’m adding new game features. I can see pieces falling together so much faster, but of course there’s a massive catch; what if I’m not as good a game developer as I was an engine developer? It’s not unlike moving to a completely new role at work. I was quantifiably good at writing game engines – my code worked, mostly followed best practices, very few bugs, appropriate optimisations… all of the desirable qualities. But I’m not an engine programmer any more, I’m a game developer or something!

Here’s a good example – I recently completely removed a collectible resource from my game – water was identical in every way (turned into biowaste by people, replenished by food synthesisers) – so there was literally no point to having it. Was that the right thing to do? Would it have been better if water acted differently – if it was turned into sewage that had to be treated separately? What if there was a slight drain so the player was always under some pressure to get more? I have theories about how these alternatives would play out, but I chose what I thought to be the best option. I will literally never know if that was the right choice. At least with engine design I could quantify my options – one method uses X more texture lookups but needs Y% less CPU cycles for example.

The answer is probably in making smaller games, or even game jams, as an exercise in understanding game design and development. I find these super hard to work on though, particularly as I just can’t art so I feel that everything I make looks shitty, which evolves into thinking the game itself is shitty. I probably need to just get on with it and stop complaining!

I guess I’m just scared because whilst this is new territory, I’ve been on the sidelines looking in for the last decade and I think that I should know exactly how it all works. Or maybe I just know enough about game design now to also know how bad at it I am? The really scary part is that I’ve defined myself as a game programmer for a couple years, I can’t imagine what I’d think of myself if I sucked at it.