Friday, January 13, 2017

Where I've been, and Clearing my Guilt of Dungeon Clicker Heroes

So lets talk about Dungeon Clicker Heroes. But first, some background of the last year or so.

I started making Dungeon Clicker Heroes some time in November of 2015. It was my passion project at the time. I was making fantastic progress implementing tons of features and damn near finishing all of the core features. I ran into bad performance on the actual Android devices, and I was struggling to find a good solution. I was going to have to refactor how all of the sprites were loaded and stored in Unity to use asset packs instead of the Resources folder, because I needed sprite batching.

However, I both had no idea what I was doing, and I was exhausted. I was doing all of my gamedev at 5am every morning, so I could get it done before my day job at 9am. Then I would come home to a house in disarray, and a wife and 1 year old daughter that both needed my love. I was sacrificing everything for a few gamedev hours every morning. I kind of lost contact with my friends, family, and everything else. I loved the great strides I was making, but I was chronically tired. I wouldn't be able to keep this up forever.

Around February or March, Diablo 3's next season started, and a friend at work invited me to join him for it. I don't think I had the willpower to say no at that point.

I invited the gamenight guys to play too. It was a blast. We blasted through the season, and I was actually able to get the Conquest level completed for an extra stash space. I had pretty much given up on gamedev at the time.

I kept trying to do game jams from time to time, but they always conflicted with my wife's work schedule (meaning I had to watch my daughter), or I simply couldn't get the time needed to seriously invest. In the past, my wife has taken our daughter to IL to visit family, so that I could focus 100% on gamedev for a few days at a time. But there was really never an opportunity this year.

Starving creatively, I ended up starting a new project: making a YouTube family vlog. I recorded my daughter's second birthday in may, and then over the next few months, learned how to edit videos, and how to YouTube. We launched Fun with Frank in August. It was fantastic fun, and a really interesting experience. It was also brutally hard to keep creating and editing videos as fast as possible. I pretty much devoted all of my time to making new videos, just like I had before for gamedev.

We tried to start making daily videos, knowing that the best way to grow on YouTube was to really have a daily presence, but holy wow that was way too much. I was able to keep that up for a few weeks until Thanksgiving, where it was just too much to make videos during the holiday. We took a break for a week, and tried again with Vlogmas (Daily videos up to Christmas). I lasted about five days until my wife had to work about 40 hours in one week. That meant I had to get to my day job by 6am, just so I could get home by 2pm to watch my daughter. It killed our momentum, and our Vlogmas. I still recorded, but I haven't made a video since.

I'm getting the gamedev itch again. Dungeon Clicker Heroes is looking pretty good. And wow is it close to done. But I have some grievances I really need to talk about.

I'm kind of embarrassed of the game, because I copied a lot of it's mechanics from another game I really liked at the time, Dungeon Loot. Dungeon Loot is a super fun little Android game, but at the time I was starting DCH, it had several bugs, flawed mechanics, and just frustrated the hell out of me that it could have been sooooo much better. It was a really simple game, and I realized it was completely in my skill level. I decided I would be the one to make a better Dungeon Loot.

After already developing for a few months, I found that Dungeon Loot was actually already based off of another game, Dungelot. Dungelot was also a pretty good game, but struggled with bugs and mechanic issues too! AND Dungelot 2 had already come out, and it was just meh. The character of the game had changed and lost a lot of the charisma of the first one. So I got REALLY fired up. I was going to do this, if not for myself, then for others to enjoy!

But during development, I fought with myself on the honor of this. To wholesale borrow the block clearing mechanics, and RPG aspects to it. I still struggle with it today, and actually, this is the reason I'm making this post. I need to be ok with what I'm doing, and I need to feel good about what I'm making. Mechanics are not copyrighted for a reason, otherwise we'd literally only have one FPS or one RTS. It is totally viable to make a copycat game, especially for a new developer. But most importantly, I'm not copying their games. DCH will be a unique take on the genre. I have many changes that will bring a lot to player enablement and the gameplay as a whole. Also, I'm definitely not using any of their art/sounds/music/etc which would be stealing. I just need to get over this feeling of embarrassment that I'm copying similar mechanics to these games. Considering Dungeon Loot already copied Dungelot's mechanics, and I've found other games who have borrowed them as well, other's clearly don't have this problem.

So I'm writing this long-winded post because I need to get this off my chest if I'm going to continue working on DCH. Really, I just want you, dear reader, to understand why I'm making DCH, and to not immediately assume I was cloning Dungelot or Dungeon Loot, but trying to add my own take on the block clearing RPG genre.