Lesson Learned: Beware of prioritizing aesthetics over design.

So last night I finished up my second Pirate Kart entry, MachineHead. Compared to BoomBox, which I think is quite fun and addictive, MachineHead is a complete dud. After thinking a lot about why it sucked so much, I got to the root of it: I was letting aesthetics dictate the design.

The basic inspiration for the game, in addition to the awesome Bush song and Lost Highway, came from images like this:

Now that looks pretty cool doesn’t it? Surely it would be cool to play as a game! And I think I succeeded in creating that same sense of speed (pro-tip: randomly jitter the highway and use UV scrolling).

(it looks cooler in motion) OK…but what about the game play? I wanted to do some kind of avoid/collection gameplay, since that goes pretty naturally with speed, and I think that was a sound foundation. Plenty of games use it to great success. So why does my game suck?

There are many reasons, but the basic reason was this: I was too married to the look. For example, one thought that came to mind was to make the red/green streaks sparser, so you weren’t just being constantly bombarded with them all the time, and it would give you time and space to think and strategize. But I immediately shot down that idea because that would kill the look! That, right there, is the reason this game fails. Who knows if that would’ve fixed the game, but the point is, I was shooting down ideas because I was prioritizing the look of the game over trying out new mechanics.

Once again, here we see the value of making small games. I could have learned this lesson over the course of many months, working on a game of moderate size. Hell, some studios learn this lesson over the course of years and millions of dollars. But on MachineHead, all I paid for this lesson was 4 hours of my time. That, dear readers, is the value of making small shitty games. PIRATE KART FOR LIFE.

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