Idea Fairy Visits – 2022

At an IGDA meeting this year, we got to talking about all the ideas we couldn’t finish. It can be challenging to see a project through to completion.

In fact, Micha created a game about just that, called “Crunch Time.” – https://ghostmaple.itch.io/crunch-time . It’s based on a web comic about game dev, where it seems like ideas multiply way faster than you can implement them.

You can read more of those comics here: http://www.themeatly.com/comic-roll

I decided to quantify how many idea fairy hits I had this year. There are separate categories for different types. Usually what happens with an idea fairy visit is that it ends up on a post-it note. So I took them all off my wall to type them up rather than save post-it notes forever.

I don’t own any of these ideas, technically, since you can’t really copyright ideas. If you take one of these ideas and choose to implement them, let me know! It will make me feel like the idea fairy visit was useful and not a waste of time.

1.0: OVERTHINKING IT

The biggest idea fairy hit I had this year was ideas for talks about very specific game dev problems and the way that you can solve them in different tiers, depending on your programming skill, focus on aesthetic, and amount of time you’re willing to dedicate to the feature. I have always been bothered by tutorial videos that simply say “THIS IS HOW YOU DO <X>” without breathing room for the broader range of solutions that you could do when implementing that feature. Every instructional video would start with “Tier 0”, asking the important question: does your game actually need this feature?

Here’s the collection of  ideas I had for this.

1.1: Doors

This idea came from watching Vox’s special on Video game doors, as well as my own experience. Give the People What They Want‘s (GTP) original version was supposed to have doors that could be pulled open and closed in VR. But it was so challenging to communicate to people playing in VR we scrapped it for the handscanner door open method we used. I’d like to revisit this and show the different ways you can do doors.

1.2: Volumes

There’s lots of ways to do triggers in games, especially to make them generically useful, like what we did for GTP. We used generic-style “Is the hand held here for how much time and after that time do a thing” that was an infinitely useful script. But it can be challenging to make something both generic and solve specific problems.

1.3: Tails

Lots of “Mascot Platformer” type of characters like Rachet from Rachet and Clank have tails, but creating a solution of characters with tails is a non-trivial task. You have to make a lot of complicated decisions to determine how realistic you want the tails to operate, and it has to be treated in a collection separately from the body if you want it to look realistic. I’d like to visit a bunch of different solutions in games and see how they address the problem.

1.4: Loading Screens

It hit me the other day that I don’t think The Girl Who Sees has loading screen transitions going into battles. It was one of those design things that I just missed mentally because I was so focused on getting the battle setup process to work. It’s easy enough to do a SceneManagement.Load(“Scene Name Here”), but if you don’t have flair around it it might feel jilted and unnatural. I’d like to cover the different levels of this

1.5:  Head Tracking

Learning about how animation masks work was one of the big “a-ha” moments I had on GTP. Because I was so scared of implementing head tracking, the customers in GTP don’t move their heads, they just rotate to follow you. Revisiting this would tell me more about masking and implementing more complicated animation technical aspects of understanding the rig of a model.

1.6: Credits

There’s so many ways you could do credits screens, and the initial solutions are so simple, but there’s a lot of nuance in how you do that.

1.7: Pick Random from List

Ah, the generic problem I have to implement so many times. There’s a variety of branches this one can go down, it should be really good to explain.

2.0: GAME IDEAS

I’m a game dev, of course there’s going to be lots of game ideas. There is no way I could ever implement all of these. This year I did hit one Idea Fairy idea in the mecha game jam, about a game where you repair a mech in VR.

2.1: 100 ways to pet the dog

In GTP we implemented a dog-petting feature, but tried to implement in the simplest way possible for us, since we weren’t going to create custom animations. These is such a meme game feature I’d like to make a game where it escalates in complexity for all the ways you could do this. What a wild collection of minigames this would be. I think this would be a wild collaboration project if I can get enough interest for it.

2.2: Space B.A.R.

A visual novel where you play as a human studying to take a BAR exam to become a space lawyer.

2.3: VR Action RPG but you’re a warrior in a wheelchair

100% inspired by Oakwyrm’s “Ni no Kuni vs. Disability Tropes” video. In his video, it talks about the missed opportunity to let the character exist as he is in the magical world with his disability. I remembered there was a game for this and thought “Yeah, why not?” I definitely want to revisit this someday, perhaps when I have a better design sense for VR that doesn’t make people feel sick while playing. This is just such a bonkers design challenge I can’t help but be intrigued by making it work.

2.4: Game with position in Vector4

After thinking about a game dev lesson to teach vectors, what if you made your own engine and recorded position in a Vector4? It would be one of those mind-bending things where the challenge is communicating that to players

2.5: VR Chat Model of where I live

I love the place I live, and if I wanted to learn about 3D modeling and putting something in a virtual space I think it would be fun to make a model of the place.

2.6: Roguelike where you are a props manager and you have to delve into the backrooms of the theatre to get your props

…explanation has it all.

2.7: Game where you destroy a bird nest

Based on real events.

2.8: HAL Simulator

You play as a ship trying to manage the schedule of humans who are kind of hapless at times. Great chance to learn how to build a scheduling system

2.9 : No right-hand man (VR)

A VR game where you force people to only use their left hand.

2.10: Bird space SCHMUP

Where you use bird sounds for all the weapons effects. Because I was listening to a bird once and went “you know what that would make a cool laser sound.”

2.11: Solar system created from files on your computer

The “NFT game” craze made me think about how to give people game experiences that were unique to them. I love the idea of giving people a game that isn’t just randomly generated, but something personal and unique they could share with others if they wanted to. And as your files on your computer change, the game world is going to change too.

2.12: Co-op Bee VR game

Co-op FPS VR game where you raise bees to use as ammo.

2.13: War With the Newts grand strategy game

I read War with the Newts recently and thought it could be a cool template for a grand strategy game. It will turn to public domain in a few years.

2.14: Stealth fox bird Market

You play as a fox who wears different bird masks, and your goal is to cause a systemic breakdown of bird society by eroding trust and causing economic stability while working for a mysterious benefactor.

3.0: GAME-RELATED IDEAS

Not necessarily overthinking it videos, but also not strictly game ideas. A bit of a grab-bag.

3.1: Commission a gender-neutral voice pack

While looking for voice actors for GTP, I used a voice pack that strictly divided actors into male and female: (https://dillonbecker.itch.io/sdap). It made me wish there was voices I could use for either to make my life as a coder a little easier. But I couldn’t find anything in my search.

3.2: Game-Break Systems

What happens in a game when it does a complete 180 degree turn from the reason to play the game? This idea came as I was doing the middle-game of Dragon Quest Builders 2. In a game all about building really cool things and attracting people to your village, suddenly it decided it needed a 2-hour stealth and story section where it took away your building abilities. Is there a way to make this feel right in the game?

3.3: Dragon game analysis

One of my personal projects I’ve been working on since 2017 is a game where you play as a dragon, and oh my gosh there are a lot of design challenges I don’t know how to solve. Surely there’s other games out there that have tried to tackle these challenges. What are their solutions?

3.4: “Let’s Game it Out” analyzed as effective exploratory testing practices

The videos by Let’s Game it Out are a great example of what “Exploratory Testing” is in game dev. It’s testing where you try to imagine what could possibly break a game and then set out to do it and see what happens. This type of testing can’t be replaced by AI, simply because it requires immense creativity and thinking outside the box. I’d like to go in depth on a few videos and show how there is a logic to the exploratory testing madness.

3.5: Calculus for slop calculation

How do you determine if something is on a flat surface or not? Oh hey, that’s what you learn in Calculus, derivatives of slopes! It can be hard to connect higher level math to game programming principles sometimes, so I’d like to dive more into this.

3.6: Pearl and Peridot as Programmers

Watching the Steven Universe series I felt a connection with these two characters, seen as the primary “builders” of the series. I think delving into their different styles and personalities and especially how they change over time could be interesting.

3.7: Mid-tier Platformers

More than student projects, but less than AAA titles, I saw a lot of these while shopping on the Switch store. It made me wonder where these “mid-tier” platformers are coming from. They are reasonably polished, and they followed a template where their title marketing art seemed to hide the fact they were platformer games, instead focusing on the stories that might be told there.

3.8: “Googled It”

I actually did some of these. I ask google questions and sometimes don’t get the best answers, so I figured I would type up some of these for answers on my blog.

3.9. Linked-System frameworks for open-world games.

I’ve always wanted to dive into design architectures for large open-world games, how to ensure that you don’t get overwhelmed by complexity while still creating something that is intricate and engaging. Also relates to Multi-tier game architectures.

3.10: Using Unity’s new input system (terribly)

New programmers getting into Unity can be really daunted by the new input system. It’s the “recommended” system, but getting it set up is a nightmare of an onboarding process for someone who hasn’t used unity before. I want to create a video that shows how to use the new input system, but implementing it to replicate the way the old system worked (along with all of its flaws.)

3.11: Research into Decoration Fulfillment Systems

Also brought from Dragon Quest Builders 2. They have a really interesting system to determine what counts as a room, along with various tags and types of ways to indicate a room. Other games do this do, such as the Sims and Animal Crossing. I’m interesting in exploring the design challenges behind those systems

3.12: Visual Novel Make it Fashion

I had a close relative who was a fashion illustrator living with me for a while, so I had an idea for a short tutorial series on how to create good-looking clothes for visual novel characters based on her illustrations.

3.13: Fungus Animated Portrait System

Fungus doesn’t support animated portraits out-of-the-box, you have to come up with some creative solutions to get it to work that I explored in Cicada Town. I’ve never contributed to an open-source project before, but this might be a nice idea if it wasn’t so gosh-darn challenging.

3.14: Make a game with Trench Boom

Heard about this tool and wanted to explore it more.

3.15: Kronk as Game Programmer

When watching The Emperor’s New Groove for…some reason…I really empathized with Kronk talking about “Kuzco’s Poison” like “Oh yeah, that’s me when trying to figure out how to design poison effects.” A collection of short clips relating to hapless programmer trying to work with a producer/designer to implement things and all the challenges it brings. Lots of great lines here.

3.16: GBStudio Game Boy Game

New tool I saw out there, I think limiting myself is best when it comes to my designs, I think this could be fun to explore in a game jam.

3.17: Programming Architecture Designs for Beginners

I think a lot of programming architecture can be daunting for people who haven’t programmed much. I’d like to demystify that for new programmers as well as designers when talking about their ideas.

3.18: Photopea

A free photoshop solution. Might be a good replacement for my current staple: Paint.net

3.19: FLStudio

I was never able to use Ableton well, and I was hoping to learn how to do music editing with FLStudio, but I’m still struggling. Would be nice to learn, but it would take time away from other things. Idea fairy problems.

3.20: The Pesticide Paradox

An idea that the more you specify your tests, the worse they get. I’d like to learn more about this and see how it applies to my projects.

3.21: Rule the galaxy with 3 buttons

An analysis of Starflight for the Sega Genesis and the monster of a challenge they had UX-wise in trying to make it work on a very limited set of buttons.

3.22: How bad is bad Unity practices

I often express skepticism when people give unsolicited Unity optimization advice they learned from some non-citable source. I’d like to put a lot of the grapevine theories to the test to figure out through data the impact of those bad practices. When I teach Unity to newbies, I often use non-optimized shortcuts because they are easier for people to reason about. And maybe at some point in the future, those programmers will get an “a-ha” moment where they discover optimization naturally, causing those lessons to actually stick in a place where they are valued. But that has to be balanced with how much damage I might be causing someone’s designs if they’re using the non-optimized approach. Can I quantify this?

3.23: Empire at War vs. Force Commander: Design impacts of multi-tier architectures

Two real-time strategy games with very different approaches to the Star Wars universe. I’d like to look at how they approached the player experience differently with the same set of world lore.

3.24: Unity Developer Certification

I’ve been using Unity for a while, and thought it might be good to do some study to ensure I was saying the right things about the fundamentals when talking to people about it.

4.0: Personal Goals

These are things that are more like personal goals I never got to.

4.1: Animation Meme: “Window Shopping”

I watch some youtube videos where people post what are called “Animation Memes”, animations following a strict format based on a set of audio. I think that the song “Window Shopping” from GTP would be a fun way to practice animation. It would follow a structure where the first part of the meme would be looking at others’ art, and the second part would be attempting to replicate those styles with your best effort. Challenge is I’m not too great at digital art tools, which is something that I’ve always wanted to improve.

4.2: Crash course of Industry standards and open-source: the Audacity Problem

Audacity got in a kerfuffle recently over implementation of automated data logging by their new owners. No software tool in existence works effectively without automated crash reporting (nowadays0, but that doesn’t gibe well with open-source principles.

4.3: Go to more open mic nights

My schedule has been so packed, but playing live music used to bring me joy. It would be nice if I could make room in my schedule for this again.

4.4: Echoes

Try recording an album of covers from songs that inspired me throughout the 10+ years I’ve been playing guitar.

4.5: Animatic with Catabolic Seed based on Arctic’s side of the story in Wings of Fire

I felt that Arctic was underdeveloped as a character in the one place we got to see him. I was thinking of a 3-part series with the three songs from that album. I actually finished sketches for the whole thing, but never got around to finishing the thing; I couldn’t get into a good digital art workflow I liked, and I’ve never felt comfortable enough with my drawing ability to pull it off.

4.6: Spring Landscapes with Acrylics

I wanted to do some painting, but didn’t get around to it.

4.7: Star Animals

A book about android animals loosely based on my experience playing Stellaris. Just could never get momentum to feel confident in my writing to pull this off.

4.8: 4 Dragon Paintings

Based on my dragon game idea.

5.0: Education ideas for game dev

These are just ideas of “If I could teach this, how would I do it?”

5.1: Localization

I’d like to get GTP in different languages to explore this.

5.2: Distributed automated testing

I talk a big talk about the importance of testing in game development. I should put my money where my mouth is and show how this can be done even for indie devs.

5.3: Procedural Generation

Always meant to get around to reading Procedural Content Generation in Games

5.4: DevOps for games

Converting my local Jenkins pipeline for The Girl Who Sees might be a good time to visit this.

IT’S OVER!

That’s my idea fairy board, all written down. A total of 57 idea fairy visits. While I think that it’s healthy to always be getting more ideas, you still have to maintain discipline to make sure your ideas don’t take over your ability to deliver what you are doing currently. It’s a challenge, you have to make room for creativity and exploration, but that means putting it in a box in your closet sometimes when other things need to get done. I’ve long since learned that most of my ideas are not “change the world” type ideas. I focus on “move the needle” ideas that can perhaps change things slightly, so I’m not worried about sharing those ideas for other people to implement if they feel so inspired.

From now on, I’ll be trying to do this every year to recognize that these might be great ideas, but I have limited time and have to decide where I can best spend it based on my current responsibilities and time that I have. I will be posting my games played in 2022 list on this blog soon as well.

If you’ve gotten here, thank you for reading.

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