While an illustration student at Sheridan College, Matt Hammill created the hand-drawn top-down game Gesundheit!
, which was a finalist in the Independent Game Festival Student Showcase.
An artist with no prior programming knowledge, Hammill spent about seven months developing the game and learning along the way.
In a new postmortem at Gamasutra sister site GameCareerGuide
, Hammill discusses the process of making Gesundheit!
, including what went right and what went wrong.
Here, he discusses how early solidification of his primary gameplay mechanic facilitated the rest of development:
"Because I was working alone, I couldn't afford to spend too much time on things that didn't directly serve the end product. I needed to have a simple and easy-to-make game mechanic that could provide a reasonable amount of gameplay on limited assets, because I could only generate so much artwork. Even though I originally only wanted an excuse to make graphics, I knew the gameplay had to be settled first so that I could focus on assets that would actually be needed.
"I had a pretty good idea from the start about the kind of game I wanted to make. I had loved Lemmings for its cleverness, cuteness, and goriness, and I liked figuring out some of the overhead puzzles in the 2D Zelda games and God of Thunder. I was mostly thinking of those kinds of spatial puzzles when I did my first prototype, but I guess a little bit of Metal Gear Solid snuck in subconsciously.
"Not being a programmer, it's hard for me to toss off gameplay tests, so I was lucky that I liked my original concept for Gesundheit! well enough to see it through production. And tweaking the gameplay, far from being a chore, was actually quite interesting and enjoyable."
However, his lack of existing programming experience was a hardship:
"I had never done any programming whatsoever before starting with AGS script. I didn't know what an "int" was, and all those curly brackets and semicolons were very confusing.
"Instead of spending a couple weeks going through some basic programming tutorials, I decided that I'd learn by doing, and I just jumped into scripting my game. I had the AGS help file, and as long as I could get stuff working, then what was the problem?
"Everything went pretty smoothly at first, but before long my amateurishness started causing problems. The script became long, badly written, unorganized, and difficult to change. My learning process is now forever entwined in the game script, and because I wrote the core parts of the game first, it's the core parts that are the worst.
"In my free time, I'm still working on expanding the game, but the scripting process is slow and painful. By investing a bit of time learning some programming before starting the game, I could have made my life a lot easier."
The entire GameCareerGuide feature
is now available to read.