Fleet Devblog #1: Prototyping is Hard

As hinted in my last post I’ve recently started work on a game. I intend to make this the first of a series of devblogs chronicling my work on it. Today, I’m going to give a brief rundown of what the game is (or how I imagine it) and the current state of the prototype I’ve been building.

Fleet

The working title for the game is Fleet; it’s a bit of a mixture between chess and Hearthstone with spaceships and RPG elements. Here’s how it works:

Overall, I want the game to be simple-enough for anyone to jump in after a tutorial and I also want it to be very open to casual play. However, I also think the strategic elements make it a prime candidate for serious/competitive play. I always planned on launching for desktop first, but had hoped I’d be able to open it up to mobile as well (I’ll be developing in Javascript so that’s particularly easy) but I’m starting to think that the amount of information necessary to play will be hard to fit on a mobile screen. That’s a ways off though.

Prototyping

So here’s the problem: I am terrible at prototyping. I’m the type of person that enjoys the design and architecture part of software development probably more than the actual implementation. I’d rather spend 10 days designing the perfect API rather than designing 10 iterations every day. This is almost always a bad thing; iteration is crucial. One article that I found particularly interesting against the idea of premature-abstraction was Casey Muratori’s post on “Compression Oriented Programming. The idea of not abstracting until you need an abstraction, rather than abstracting in anticipation of needing it, makes a lot of sense to me, even if it isn’t exactly what I’ve been taught.

So here’s my progression from being very bad at prototyping to being slightly less bad at prototyping. When I started working on this game, the first thing I started working on was the server networking architecture. And I spent at least an hour just designing it. This was terribly unproductive for a few reasons:

A lot of these realizations came after having watched Extra Credit’s excellent video on “MVP” I ended up scrapping a lot of what I had done and started working on a purely client-side implementation. The games would be between a human and an AI player so I wouldn’t have to worry about anything server-side. The next hiccup I encountered was the UI. The nature of the game pretty much requires a fairly hefty UI to represent all the information you need and allow you to take action appropriately. I originally had started out trying to do it all on the canvas, trying to roll my own basic layout library before I caught myself and searched for a better solution. I was working with web-tech anyway, so why not just use HTML for the UI for now? Within about 20 minutes I had a fully functional UI thanks to my existing HTML+CSS experience. That allowed me to finally get to work on the important stuff: gameplay.

Current Status

The gameplay is going well, and I have a few ideas for posts in the next couple of weeks about interesting things I’ve done so far. Currently, the game supports the following:

An example of current gameplay is shown in the GIF below. The blue hexagons are ally ships, and the red is an enemy ship. The green bars on the left side of hexes represent health and the yellow represent energy.

Fleet Prototype Gameplay

Against my best wishes because the codebase is a mess, I’ve forced myself to put all the code on GitHub in its current state. Try not to look at the client code because it’s a mess. The game folder is a bit better and more interesting.

Issues & Next Steps

I have these ordered based on how important I think they are, so if you think I’m wrong please let me know!

At this point, I’d say it would qualify as a “game”. From there, I’d need to add art, begin adding multiplayer, add much more content & items, etc. One step at a time.

I hope you enjoyed my first devblog; hopefully there will be many more to come. Until then, let me know what you thought on Twitter (@ganashaw).See you next time!

Copyright William Ganucheau 2014-2015