Sunday, October 23, 2016

A Homeward Bone

Dark Souls changed the way I looked at videogames forever. First an awful gash that leaves a scar which keeps you from enjoying most other games, later transforms into an expanded perspective on all things videogames. If the Planet Shrine achievement in Lovely Planet wasn't enough of a clue, I've been a fan for a very long time now. Earlier this year I convinced myself I could make my own version of it.

Praise the Sun

The game development process I've employed, like most other developers working with a similar scope, involves taking your favorite game and reducing it piece by piece to arrive at its core. From there you wrap your own layer, as many layers as you can manage and bake it in the oven for delicious videogame. Lovely Planet was a result of a similar exercise that started with your average military first person shooter game and ended up in happy-land with cute head-face baddies spitting purple cubes into the sky.

Starting with Dark Souls on the chopping block was a less fruitful effort albeit a more interesting one.

I tried to borrow individual elements from Dark Souls only to find they don't quite stand on their own. You can tell from studying a game at a surface level that elements which depend on each other won't contribute meaningfully when implemented independently. From there you can carefully pick and choose a handful of elements without cutting any wires and walk away with a closed circuit of game mechanics that work well each other. Unfortunately, this procedure doesn't prove effective when applied on a game like Dark Souls.

Every time I hit compile and nothing worked, I put this on.

I'm convinced that Dark Souls cannot be reduced, at least given the tools in my belt. I've never seen systems operating on separate wavelengths being able to communicate with one another so gracefully. The rules are woven intricately into a kind of fabric which cannot be undone. What I'm trying to say is that Dark Souls flaunts a degree of internal consistency that, to my knowledge, is closely rivaled only by a very few games. Every comparison is selling it short - if Dark Souls is a symphony, Call of Duty is like the click track of a mechanical metronome. If reducing the generic military first person shooter is like cutting a pear, this game is like deboning a freshwater trout. That's a big step if you're just learning to use a knife and chances are you'll either cut yourself or be left with very little fish at the end of it.

Credits Wikipedia.org

Everything fell apart after I carelessly pulled out what I didn't realize was so neatly tied together. I wanted my next game to be inspired by Dark Souls but it took next to nothing from it in practice. The level design paled in comparison and the combat was replaced entirely with platforming challenges. None of the depth from the game ever translated into my prototype and I was only loosing time. That's when I decided to throw away all of my work and start from scratch.

One day I will write my love letter to Dark Souls. Today is not that day.