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Free Sky: Ambition

This is a part of "Free Sky".

Series contents:

  1. Free Sky: Series Intro
  2. Free Sky: Ambition
  3. Free Sky: People
  4. Free Sky: Structure and Story
  5. Free Sky: A Sample Throughline

So, there’s this computer game I’ve been working on for the past three years. The working title is Free Sky, and the concept is very ambitious. Too ambitious, in fact. I have had several aims with this project, with varying amounts of success:

  1. Explore the possibilities of interactive storytelling. I want to tell significant stories that engage the player. I want to require hard choices of them. I want them to shout with elation when a job goes as planned. I want them to grow immediately wary when things are too easy. I want to make them cry when the price is higher than they expected.

    • I have nothing to show for this except lots of interesting ideas, and some half-formed implementations. This is a hard problem. Chris Crawford has spent his entire career chasing after this, and the rest of the game industry is just now catching on that it might be possible.

    • Based on a lot of research, reading, and dinking around, I have:

      • plenty ideas of what won’t work

      • a few ideas of what might work

      • a continuing interest in pursuing it, despite the setbacks.

  2. Write a game that I would enjoy playing. I want to play an sf CRPG that isn’t dumb. I want Elite with an awesome story and a coherent setting. Really, I just want to play Firefly. Another hard problem, because good game design is hard, even when you’re not trying to present it in the form of an interactive story. Some people would argue that “game” and “story” simply can’t be merged, merely amalgamated. I have a hunch that those people are wrong.

    • The first lesson I’ve had to learn that a good game is not the result of kitchen sink design. I’d like to thank Mike for his patience with me while I took the time to realize this.

    • I still have not written a successful game. Mainly because I’ve always gotten bogged down in implementing the kitchen sink before I’ve even had a kitchen.

    • My Pyweek adventure back in March came close to being complete. The game was fun for a few minutes, but it didn’t go anywhere. We all quickly lost interest in it once the week was over.

  3. Learn how to program a game in python. Yes, that’s right. I’ve been learning how to program, even as I set off on a severely ambitious project. No starting with Minesweeper or Arkanoid clones here. However, I’ve met with great success here:

    • I know python backwards and forwards, and have mastered the important techniques and idioms. I simply love python, and find joy in its simplicity and readability.

    • I’ve become a competent programmer. I can read several languages now, and recently learned a new language, javascript, for my job.

    • I’ve learned how to structure a large project, although Free Sky has suffered from this learning process. I found that in starting a new project for the Pyweek competition in March, the project layout was second nature. This freed me and the team for the real task of writing a game from scratch.

    • I’ve written a large and sprawling library of code. This has its drawbacks, in that much of the code is half-baked, poorly documented, and largely untested. As I’ve taken the time to refactor, however, I’ve extracted many diamonds from the rough.

    • I’m ready for what’s next.

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