When approaching the steps beyond an idea, the creation and execution of design and function, we turn our eyes back on the concept of simplicity.
During the stages of planning and pre-production, the process of shaving off unnecessary bulk, the simplification of an idea, what ever that may be, is an art of its own, but as stated before, good and simple ideas aren’t necessarily in short supply.
With this entry I am not going to try to explain why most ideas never go past that stage in their life, or why we choose the ones we do. I will merely touch on the reasoning behind the direction we take after our ideas have been refined.
The art of simplicity is a tricky one.
Where does one draw the line between simple and complex? Where is the line between simple and the product of lazy production? Did I leave off this feature because it was unnecessary or because I felt like I couldn’t do it? Did I skimp on the art design because it was taking to long? More and more often these line are blurred, and the questions ignored.
In an age where content is easy to produce, you are likely to find a lot of crap, and when crap is the only thing to buy, a lot of crap is also sold. The unfortunate result of this is that people start to believe that crap is good because its being bought, and so they start producing more crap that is similar to try to play off the trend.
The result? A bottomless pit of crap.
As stated in Choosing a Game Idea: Part 1, we have approached each level of our production with the “Apple” approach to things. But it goes beyond mere simplification. Being simple in and of itself is easy, but being simple with an air of elegance? That’s gold.
The idea of a single button game is a fantastic idea, and the fault doesn’t come from the idea, but the execution of it. In a game where one button is being pressed, and only two to four events are happening at any given time, one would expect that maybe the time not used in the typical grind of complex coding would allow for more time and resources to be plugged into art direction, among other things. When the time isn’t put in, the laziness shows through.
This is the heart and soul of the problem with the various “indie” style games in the App store, the Android market place, and the games for XBLIG and WP7.
True, unadulterated, elegant, simplicity is not usually quick, it is not usually easy, but neither does it require a great deal of thought or mental dexterity. It is merely a product of purposeful, directed thought. A product of a vision and an ideal, constantly applied and remembered, instead of a drive to try to capitalize and make a quick buck.
So why do we do things the way we do? Why don’t we jump into production without simplification? Why do we need our “indie games” to have a simplistic elegance?
The real question is: why not?
Why should we not strive for the best product possible? The care and craft we put into it is directly reflected by the product. It shows we are not a group of assholes popping out games based on a bad joke told at a dinner table the night before. It shows that we care about maintaining a certain amount of dignity and quality even on a “minor league” level.
My answer to all these questions is this: because we care. We care about our product, we care about our customers, and we desire to provide them the best. And we hope that our games reflect this honest care in what we do.