When you’re making games on your own, finishing a project is already a pretty big milestone. But chances are you had to cut some corners to get it done. There are usually a few features that fall by the wayside depending on time, energy, or technical complexity. But how do you decide to either write off those ideas or keep them stored away for a potential version 2.0?
Since Reconquista was my first 3D game, I had to cut a lot of corners, so when I finished v1.0 I did not feel fulfilled. There wasn’t much to do outside of make a beeline for the temple, and the enemy AI was pretty rudimentary – it didn’t really reward exploration or experimentation. So when I released the game, I knew that I would someday revisit the game design. And I did.
I came back for three reasons; I wanted to:
- Pull the visuals towards a cohesive style so it would reflect my professional aesthetic better
- Add a puzzle to get access to the temple, pushing you to explore more of the island and giving purpose to an existing mechanic
- Improve the enemy encounters to reduce confusion and/or frustration
Originally I wanted the enemies to be present from the start, just patrolling, and the gameplay would focus a lot more on stealth. But that really would have been too much work for a simple experimental exploration game. And in the end I think it actually works better; I had to come up with solutions to make the island not feel empty at first, so I added random shrieks and rustling bushes in the distance, turning the enemies more into unseen wild animals, or some sort of spirit guardians, always lurking just outside of your field of view. It creates a much tenser atmosphere.
I’m glad to have been able to implement almost everything that was still on my wish list, and some cool spur-of-the-moment things like motion blur and rain too. Ordinarily I would have let those ideas collect dust on their Trello board, passively shaming me with their incompleteness, but now the list is empty, and I can flush this project from my mind.
So I guess if you have a completed project that you’re not happy with, make a cost-benefit analysis. Will your ideas add something substantial to the experience, or will they only make it a little cooler? Can you implement these ideas in a manageable amount of time, or would that time be better spent creating something new? Does the game have so much potential that you’d be doing players a disservice by not adding these features? I say: if you’re proud of the result, and there’s nothing glaringly wrong or missing, use your energy to build something new. You can always remaster later.