Several years ago, I began work on a project called Space Havoc 4, but never completed it.* During SH4‘s development, I had a relevatory experience.
You see, around that time, Bungie had just released Halo Reach. Being (somewhat of) a Halo fan, I checked out the reviews and screenshots to see whether the game was worth my time. It looked good, but my heart sank when I saw screenshots of Reach‘s space-based missions.
It took a little bit of introspection to figure out why. It was a silly thing: what I felt was a bit of jealousy combined with the disheartening feeling that whatever SH4 would turn out to be, it would not compare to what a major game company could produce.
In any case, I got a copy of the game. When I finally got to the space combat missions, I was pretty excited to see if they would live up to my expectations. To be perfectly honest, they didn’t. While the graphics and mechanics of play were polished (as always), it wasn’t terribly fun for me. This is probably because I was expecting epic space battles with tons of battle cruisers and hundreds of ships — while I have no doubt that Bungie could have delivered on that front if they had wanted, they chose not to.
So, in a way, hope still remained. I felt that I could produce something more fun, mostly only because the gameplay of Reach‘s space combat didn’t blow me away. In other words, there was room for improvement, and I didn’t feel “threatened” the way I had before. To be honest, I suspect that this will always be the case: the unique visions I’ve had for any of my games (either completed or not) have never been duplicated in any commercial games I’ve ever played. Is this just dumb luck, or is it because no two games, even with the same genre and similar appearance, are ever the same?
While I can’t speak to how many hobbyist game developers might have given up on a project because they feel they’ve been “scooped”, I’m sure many have experienced the same feelings I have regarding this issue.** I’ve since realized that these emotions are entirely uncalled-for, if only for the simple reason that no one — big-time company or not — can make the exact vision of what you want to see come true except for yourself.
Don’t put existing games up on a pedestal. Don’t be intimidated like I was. Challenge existing games and find ways to make them better. This should be a constant exercise. Nothing is above criticism. Everything can be improved. Your vision is unique, and the world needs to see it come to life.
* Fun fact: little did I know that this failed project would become the precursor to Gateway.
** For the record, Space Havoc 4 was never completed not because of the Halo Reach incident, but simply because I couldn’t figure out the mechanics of various aspects of gameplay, namely the space gates, how they work, and how to destroy them — a problem I’ve resolved in Gateway.