That’s a quote from Voltaire, and I’m just going to ramble on the pros and cons of that statement in regards to programming and games.
First and foremost, the statement is absolutely true in the sense of the usual interpretation that “Good” means “Good Enough”. When completing something; if “Good Enough” is the goal, then Perfect/Excellence/High Art/Awesomeness will not be close at hand. Also, the converse is true. When we strive for perfection, good enough will not be our stopping point.
I would love to write perfect code and find the perfect artist to help me create my perfect vision of what a Casual Download game could be. I would love to clone myself, so that the other copy of myself could spend a couple of years creating the perfect programming language, just for me, that would help me create that perfect game. I’d love to clone another copy of myself just to spend years to become the perfect technical artist that can do more than just Bevel a box and call it an interface. Ok, so now I need a third clone so that I could do professional recording of my own music in all my games. And, while I’m at it, I need a fourth clone (and please don’t tell him that he’s just my minion clone) to do all the little tasks that are really kind of annoying, but still need to be done right. Oh, and maybe one more clone that does all this blogging as well as story design and final text.
“Perception is everything, reality is incidental”
“The interface is everything, the implementation is irrelevant”
“A difference that is no difference is no difference at all”
Those are three of my favorite quotes from a friend of mine, Malcolm Michael, who I learned quite a bit about choices from while making my first shareware game called “Modern Problems”. (What a sentence that was. Where is that cloned better writer guy when you need him?)
A computer game is first and foremost “an interface to an activity to provide entertainment”. Some folks would be shocked to hear me say that, but for me, that’s the bottom line. Clutter is entertainment in the form of a game. It has puzzles within it, and solving puzzles is part of it but it’s mainly an activity. You can get better at the main activity and you can choose to enjoy the puzzle aspects of it (or not), but it’s mainly an activity to provide enjoyment. The main activity is matching identical objects and although it’s not truly a Hidden Object Game (HOG), it appeals to that market demographic. Because it’s trying to compete in the HOG market, Clutter has to have a Story, Music, Mini-games, and a host of other requirements. (scoring, Full Screen and Windows, Sound FXs, simple install, etc…)
For me, “The interface is everything” means that the “game mechanic” is what matters most. This is the one place where I do seek “perfection”. The game mechanic must be so intuitive that players doesn’t really notice it; they just play. I think the main Clutter mechanic is close to perfection although a couple of the mechanics in the mini-games could be a little better. I’m going to allow dragging/flicking in Clutter II and I’m looking forward to perfecting that mechanic as well. If it’s not close-to-perfection the game won’t work.
As to the other elements, I settle for “good enough” with a small caveat that makes all the difference. That caveat is that I add as many personal touches and choices in the “good enough” areas to make them distinct from other games. The music in the game was hand-picked to remind me of Oscar Peterson’s Canadiana Suite – an album I loved when I was first listening to play the piano. Leon Poncelette’s story has many, many elements that were picked from my life. Even the advice side of things comes from a lot of personal experience. I’ve always wanted to write a self-help book and that was close. The sense of humor (which a lot of people seemed to get…while a lot of other people seemed to miss entirely….was just “Joe being Joe” as a friend of mine would say).
There is one other area where I settle for “good enough”….and that’s in the variations that I offer in all of the mini-games. I try to pick and choose the best variations and I think I mostly succeed in that area. I try to have easy levels that act as tutorials without being boring and then a couple of levels to challenge anyone and then a few levels that are very, very challenging (crossing the line from activity to really hard puzzles). I offer 5 styles and 5 difficulty levels per style for all the mini-games. The hardest part is to trim the variations down to just 5 (but luckily there is always sequels and more mini-games to come).
And that brings me to today. I’ve decided I’m going to release Rack’Em Too as a stand alone mini-game only on Puzzles By Joe. It’s not perfect, by any means, but I want to start the feedback process. I’ve put it off long enough, and today is going to be “good enough” for at least other people to start seeing it. I think the game itself is excellent, but it may be too much a puzzle instead of an activity (although the tutorial levels (level 1) are definitely just an activity). I think it will appeal to the Sudoku crowd but I may be wrong. The interface isn’t quite perfect, and some will complain…but I’ve decided to tweak that after I get some feedback.
So today, Good Enough triumphs. I’m going to predict that I can release Rack’Em Too before 2 PM today. I just have to add a button, move some code to let the keyboard work when not in development mode (so that people can pick a specific puzzle number), and then fine-tune the final 25 levels. (oh, and remove an option from the options menu that’s just for testing at this point). Should be a piece of cake.
Did I have a point here? Don’t know, I’m afraid to re-read this to see if it’s coherent. I told you I was going to ramble, and I just haven’t cloned the better writer guy yet. So for now, even this Blog is “good enough”.