Help Wanted

I've got some ideas for three games that I'd like to see made (heck, games that I'd like to play), and I've even tried to make them myself. The problem I keep running into is I'm not really a game programmer. I don't think right. I think like a web application developer (and I'm fairly good at that), but that's really almost entirely the wrong skill set for making games. Put simply, I suck at it.

Two of the three games in question I have some fairly well-defined designs in mind for. The third I've only just formed into a logic ball in my head (so to speak) because I really don't want to put in the work to flesh it out just to have it sit there, untouched, like the other two. This is what I mean by "help wanted" -- I need someone who is a game programmer, or who at least can think like one, to turn my designs into code.

So, if you're interested (or think you might be interested), give these short descriptions a read and then let me know:

Guns: The Tank Game

This is the best-defined design I have. I've even worked on writing it for a little while, with some help, to the extent that there is a github with some code and a website for it. The code (what there is of it so far) is Python, and for this fairly simplistic game that should work just fine.

The concept is fairly simple: build your own tank to whatever shape you desire, using certain components that have some limitations and such, and then fight people and their creations in multiplayer. It's a little like a poorly-known game called Stratosphere, and also a little like this Captain Forever thing I found a while ago, except with more free-form construction and an actual build phase separate from the battle phase.

It sounds like something fairly simple to do, and it's pretty much pure 2D goodness, but I don't seem to be able to manage to do it all by myself.

The Train Game

This one isn't as well-defined as the tank game above, but it still has one or two pages written about it on my wiki. The challenge for this game is less of gameplay and more of interface and AI.

If you're not a train nut like me, you don't know (and possibly don't care) how the railway system works in the real world. If you are, then you've been as annoyed as I have by the infinite depots in games like OpenTTD, and the simplistic orders system, and the permanently-coupled trains, and... I could go on. In the real world, trains are formed and broken as needed, and the only actors that can take orders (conceptually) are the engine drivers. And the drivers are given orders along the lines of: "take these cars from these tracks and form them into a train" or "take the train on this track to this other track at that other place".

So the challenge, as I previously stated, is the AI that needs to be able to follow orders like that, and ultimately should be capable of creating the orders in the first place. So the train game, instead of thinking in terms of, well, trains, thinks in terms of classification yards and industries and rolling stock. The player's job isn't to set up orders that say "go to X and load, go to Y and unload", but to build functional classification yards and tracks leading to industries, take contracts for delivery, and ensure enough rolling stock exists that the contracts can be fulfilled.

It doesn't sound simple. It barely sounds doable. But it definitely sounds like something original and fun to play. I, personally, am certain I can't write it.

The Colony Game

This one's just a concept ball in my mind right at the moment. It's currently incorporating a couple of inspirations: firstly, a game called Outpost 2: Divided Destiny (and its predecessor Outpost, to some extent), and secondly... Minecraft.

Outpost 2 is a fairly straight take on the strategy game genre: you collect resources, build armies, and use them to crush your enemy. Its predecessor was a city-building game in three dimensions, wherein you would dig into the ground to build your massive colony and harvest resources for... some purpose or other. A bit like Dwarf Fortress's fortress mode, actually. I've been wanting to combine these two concepts, and from that reference to DF, you can guess my first thought was combining the purely-2D Outpost 2 view with the DF one-layer-at-a-time view.

The problem with that is it's kind of painful to work with, in particular when you're dealing with hilly terrain where you literally cannot see what's on top of the hill and what's on the bottom of it at the same time. This is where the Minecraft reference came in: you could easily(ish) render the surface all at once using a proper 3D engine, so you could actually see the top of the hill and the bottom at the same time, and then if you needed to look into the underground for building or whatnot, you could switch to a cross-section like what Dwarf Fortress shows you.

Some other ideas suggest themselves at this time, like the vehicles that do the work being larger than just two blocks on top of each other, and then the mines should actually dig through the ground to extract resources, and the buildings all have underground sections to them because this is a colony on some uninhabitable planet, and... it could easily build from there. I don't know yet, I haven't really explored the concept. But I know I could design it, if someone were willing to write the game.

So I think I like these ideas, but are you going to pay me for it?

For sure! But you may not like my way of going about it. You know how all these big games nowadays have to worry about pirates to some extent? I've decided we shouldn't care about that. In fact, we shouldn't care to the extent of having the code available for anyone to see (or... maybe just people who buy the game? I dunno). And if someone wants to submit patches to us? We'll take them, happily! We'll even give them free copies to give their friends, if that's what they want, or credit in a highly-placed location on our website, or something.

Which is not to say I want to give away the game for free. See, what I'm looking at nowadays is the Minecraft modding community. The Minecraft code is theoretically closed-source and cannot be changed, redistributed, whatever. In spite of that, we have this MCP thing that deobfuscates and unfucks all the code in an existing minecraft.jar, to the extent that while it's not as good as having the source code, it's close enough that some really impressive things have been written.

So if the Minecraft mod developers can do this amazing stuff without even having officially-sanctioned access to the code, what could our mod developers do with it? You know, assuming we ever have that kind of popularity. So we need to let our players see the code to let them build awesome things on top of it. But that doesn't mean we can't charge money for our game -- it's our work, after all. We can ask people to pay us for it. In fact, people will be perfectly willing to do so if they think they'll get something awesome out of paying us.

And the pirates? They don't matter. Sure, someone could just come along and give our work to people who haven't paid for it. But if they want bug fixes and updates and the chance to play online with people who have paid for it, they will have to do so, too. For that matter, if the game is good enough, they will want to do so for the very best of reasons: because they want to reward us for our work.

Now, call me idealistic if you wish, but I really do think it can work that way. I'm not sure if we can call it "open source", but it sounds to me like a much healthier attitude than "you cannot has this game unless you're willing to prove you're not a scurvy pirate dog".

It's scary, though, to be trying something new like this. I'm willing to do it, I think it'll work perfectly, I think it could make us the next Valve or the next Mojang or something. I even think we could make serious money this way, which is why I say I am more than willing to pay you for it. But I can't guarantee it, and I can't pay you out of my own pocket while we work on this.

If that's a show stopper for you, and I expect to most people reading this it is, I'm sorry I can't offer you something better. I'm not clairvoyant, and I'm not independently wealthy, and I can't just do the work myself to prove that it can work (or, alternatively, prove that it doesn't). I need your help, but I have no safety net here and I can't offer one to you, either -- except inasmuch as, if this doesn't work out, we won't have lost anything but time.

So are you still willing to try going on this adventure with me? I won't blame you for saying no. In fact, I don't really expect anyone to respond affirmatively to this question. But I'm asking anyway because if you don't ask, you won't receive. If you are interested, contact me and give me some way of getting in touch with you. I'll definitely respond, though the reply might get eaten by spam filters, so feel free to try some of the other contact methods on my about page. I want to hear from you, if you exist, person who is crazy like me and who is willing to do this.