Numbers in words. Part 1.


Greetings to all who chose to pay attention to this philosophical “wall of text.” Some time ago, our programmer Michael “kornerr” Kapelko shared his thoughts about how to develop games as a hobby and how this process can coexist with the world of Open Source. This time I decided to share my thoughts on this subject.

I will begin with an introduction. My name is Ivan Korystin, but on the network I prefer to be called by the nickname, so you can call me Kai SD (Note: SD – not an acronym, it is an emoticon). The development of computer games for me is both hobby, and main job. I have started my game design career about 8 years ago, and i’m still working in this direction. When a hobby coincides with the main job, it is both a great advantage (congenial employment) and a disadvantage (how can you rest from your work, if your hobby is the same). So sometimes i have to force myself to rest from a hobby.

Anyway, among the game developers, this situation occurs quite often. At least among those who have not yet “burned out”.

I do not want to bore you with very long texts, so I’ll break this tale into several parts. Also, I’m not going to tell you about the game publishing at the Desura, because this issue deserves a separate article.

Well, I’ll start, perhaps, by telling about why and how it all started in the first place.

We built, and we built…

For me, this project started twice. For the first time – when I found a Michael’s forum post, full of youthful maximalism. His message received a large number of different responses, from naive and enthusiastic to sarcastic and hateful. Despite the naivety of the text, I felt that Michael is serious about developing something. So I decided to share my experience with him and his team.

I joined the project from the beginning. People had Napoleonic plans. We had half a dozen volunteers who wanted to participate, but only four people started doing something other than talk. So, we created a website, set up a forum, spawned a bunch of topics … As expected (and for me it was obvious from the beginning) – the process stalled pretty quickly.

But still there were several people who wanted to continue working: people with a sincere desire to do something complete, which could be shown to people. If you ask me, this point was a real start of this project.

In the course of discussions, we came to the decision to make several games, moving from simple to more complex. As the first game, we chose a simple mahjong solitaire. I’ve described the gameplay, and added a couple of references to analogues, we would like to measure up to. Six months later, Michael showed a working prototype, which was able to load mahjong layouts, select and remove the paired tiles. We took the format of the layouts from the KMahjongg, since it had a lot of layouts available already. Michael already wrote his article about how the work went on, so I’ll repeat the same story very briefly.

As the engine we used Lightfeather, but it had some technical issues. This led to hours-long disputes about whether to continue to use it or replace it with something else.I looked towards the Horde 3D as a light and modern. Michael preferred to keep using Lightfeather. This continued until he acquainted with Ogre 3D. For a couple of months, he completely rewrote the prototype of mahjong with Ogre. We have decided to continue working with this engine. After another couple of months a prototype has been developed to the state, in which it started to look like a game. Visible result is always a good motivator, and from that moment we started to work with renewed vigor. We wrote a new Vision and compiled a list of basic tasks. We started using Google Issue Tracker to track the resolution of these tasks. I can’t say that the work speeded up after that, but it definitely has become more clear and visible. These steps allowed us to improve the prototype to a state of an almost completed beta version in about 3 months. It received a version number 0.6, and we decided that this version is good enough, so we can begin to draw attention to it.

And we succeeded to attract some attention to the game. We posted a message offering to download the game on about 16 different sites (we mainly chose the developer forums, blogs, and Linux games databases). We got about a thousand views on YouTube and about one and a half thousand downloads in the first two weeks. We have received many responses. Most of them were very warm and friendly, but there was also a lot of criticism, mostly constructive. We have attempted to take into account these criticisms and suggestions in the further work. However, apart from the wishes of the players, we had our own list of desired functionality, some ideas were born on the fly, in addition we expected a lot of bugfixes …

To be continued…

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