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How I Prematurely Killed My Second Game

It was the brink of financial collapse. Traders and their minions from various banks and financial institutions are fighting fierce-fully for their job security. The trading floor became a warzone of self-preservation. There were casualties, debris, and sometimes, victories. Traders, Fight!

Trader Fight BackgroundThis was an idea that came to me when I was working at another game, AirKill – an arcade game inspired by the famous Hudson River Landing. The game was called Trader Fight, inspired by the financial meltdowns of 2008 that brought a blanket of fear and insecurity across the financial industry, among which I had a job in. In fact I got the idea at the height of the meltdown, early 2009. You can see the mock background screen of Trader Fight to the right.

Trader Fight was meant to be a turn-based arcade-battle game, following a genre similar to Microsoft Gorillas and World Worms Party, where finance traders – people who buy and sells stocks, bonds, futures, and various other financial instruments – are engaged in a fight among each others throwing various stationaries and office equipment to each other. It would use stock exchanges as battlefields, likely the NYSE. The player would fight as a trader from factions that are parodies of well-known banks such as Barleys Brothers, Credits & Cheese, and Overly Chinese Behemoth Conglomeration. In-game weaponries would be just as hilarious with mega-weapons like the “Subprime Nuke” which is a shower bomb of crummy straw shack houses.

But alas I had to kill off the game before it came to fruition. Why? After completing AirKill and having a few deep thoughts, Trader Fight didn’t look competitive. Gameplay mechanics wasn’t new and was taken from a long line of rehashes that includes Worms, iShoot, and recently Angry Birds. Nor can I compete in fancy artwork or extensive marketing push – as an independent bootstrapped indie developer – I simply don’t have that kind of budget (if a good custom icon design costs at least $400, a complete set of game artwork can easily costs 10x that). So that’s one lesson for me: if the game mechanics isn’t good, it’s likely not worth proceeding.

Another lesson I learn is to prototype the gameplay instead of the screenshots. Mock screens are okay for database-driven forms applications, but a lame fit for any interaction-intensive software like games. I made the mistake of drafting screenshots instead of writing a quick-and-dirty prototype that shows the important elements of the game. At least with prototypes I can use it to pre-market the game and show it to friends for quick feedback. Like what 2D Boy did when developing World of Goo. But this was in 2009 and there weren’t any easy-to-use game prototyping tools except for Adobe Flash (which costs about $500 back then and didn’t have any built-in physics engine). Thankfully nowadays we have tools like Codea that should make it easier to code these prototypes. Now if I could only find time to learn Lua….

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