And The Winner Is…

I recently developed two adventure game prototypes, one an AR-based game, and the other a more traditional 2D engine.

As I eluded to in my post about why I’m not using an existing engine, I have decided to go the 2D route.

Here are my pros and cons for both:

AR Adventure Game

Pros

  • Unique selling point: updating an established genre to use a hot new technology would be a good marketing story
  • Playing with interesting or cutting-edge tech, especially ARKit, location services, and SceneKit
  • Novel storytelling potential: visiting real world locations to meet with imaginary characters is a kind of immersion that I find exciting—the game becomes part of your day to day life, making the characters feel that much more real

Cons

  • I don’t have a lot of experience with 3D modelling and character rigging
  • I also don’t have a lot of experience with AR technology. Despite Apple doing a great job with making ARKit accessible to novices, for a game like this to work I would need to understand some advanced concepts.
  • To give an immersive AR experience, it would need voice acting to make the interactions with characters believable, which is expensive to do well.
  • With that voice acting comes the requirement of lip syncing.
  • Using real world locations means that testing would be incredibly time consuming and, as I discovered, limited by daylight (low light is a problem for AR).

Conclusion

I believe that an AR adventure game has a lot of potential and would like to attempt it one day (perhaps with a small team). Right now, though, I need to be a little bit sensible (you know, within the insane context of trying to make a living as an indie game developer).

2D Adventure Game

Pros

  • While many games (including updates of classics) now feature impressive casts of voice actors themselves, indie games are still given a lot of latitude in this regard with many recent hits being text only (e.g. Night in the Woods, Kentucky Route Zero)
  • Animation is made easier as mouth movements of characters in text-only adventures don’t have to sync with the words, a not insignificant saving in animation time
  • I have more experience with 2D drawing tools and workflows.
  • I have some experience [developing 2D games][1] and working with 2D space than in 3D
  • Storytelling is easier when you control the entire scope and context of the story (with the AR game, only the most abstract idea of a location could be considered—for example, the idea of ‘coffee shop’ runs from the Starbucks Reserve in Seattle to a little coffee shack under the Bangkok MRT).
  • I can develop a working version and begin iterating quickly

Cons

  • It is a crowded marketplace—thanks to special editions, I’m competing with the classics as well as the latest releases!
  • It’s also a more limited marketplace—the novelty of a new AR game would be more likely to attract players who’ve never tried an adventure game before, something a traditional 2D adventure wouldn’t be able to do.
  • I worry that I can’t handle all of the asset creation that will be needed, or that what I create will not be polished enough and therefore easy to dismiss.
  • The storytelling becomes that much more important—the novelty of an AR game would give me some latitude if the narrative wasn’t the greatest work of fiction. Whereas, because of the competition and history of the genre, a more traditional adventure needs a much tighter story.

Conclusion

I have a lot of experience working in 2D. Even if it’s not all in games, just understanding the limits of the devices and the laying out of elements gives me an efficiency advantage over creating something in 3D.

I also think I will be able to create something small but (hopefully) noteworthy relatively quickly. This will either help me build confidence or, more likely, allow me to fail fast before I invest too much time and money into this new endeavour.

So, with that decided, it’s time to rip apart the prototype and start developing it into an engine that can handle all the intricacies of a full adventure game. Onwards!

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