Deck & Conn, Log 1 – In The Beginning…

So, I’ve (as always) got quite a few projects on the go. I can’t NOT make things, apparently. From dioramas to wargaming scenery for a friend to an app idea to a pretty sizeable game project.

Something I decided I want to do, for mental health reasons, is to finish something. And quickly. Not, like, ‘in a week’ or something absurd like that, but to do what I’ve often found is useful in the past – pick a small, manageable project, and ship it.

This means several things:

  1. The game design must be pretty solid
  2. The game design must be pretty simple
  3. I must be passionate about it, or I will lose interest over time
  4. I will make it with the simplest tools I can

This will be (partly to keep myself accountable) a development log of my journey making it.

What the Fuck?

What is this project? Its title, for now, is Deck & Conn. It is, in short, the bastard stepchild of Star Trek (the 1971 unix game) and a WW2 submarine simulator such as Silent Hunter or Silent Service, and with an overall world theme more in keeping in the Aubrey/Maturin novels, which are set during the Napoleonic wars.

I am essentially taking the core mechanics of Trek, but tack on a Silent Hunter style meta-game, where you are issued a command, deal with crew, along with repairs and upgrades while in port. In short? You manage a wartime career as a space captain in a fictional scifi universe.

For simplicity, I am going to pick an art style I love and never got to fully work with. Back when I was making Objects in Space, I did the first prototype as a pixel-art iPad game. In the end, the game got bigger and became 3d. I still love the art style I developed with my artist back then, however, and plan to take inspiration from that for how this will look.

How the Fuck?

I am going to make this game in LöVE, a LUA-based cross-platform 2d game engine. The reasons for this are pretty simple:

  1. It’s very basic – it won’t let me get mired in implementing too much of my own stuff
  2. It works across the platforms I most care about (desktop, iPad, iPhone)
  3. The main language is Lua, which I do not really know very well – it’s an excuse to learn it properly

I am going to design the graphics myself to start with, using Aseprite. These won’t be final art, though. I’ve found I’m okay at doing basic mechanical shapes in pixel-art, but bad at colours. So what I’ll be doing is not intended to be final – just workable prototype-level coder-art.

Links & Status

Want to see what this Star Trek 1971 thing I’m talking about is? You can play either Super Star Trek, a slightly later version, ported to javascript, here. Or, you can play EGA Trek, the DOS EGA version from the ’90s (and the first version I played as a kid) here.

As for the submarine partrol element, I’m basing this partly off the Silent Hunter series’ metagames in the later installments, and partly off the book Silent Running by James S. Calvert.

As for where I’m at right now? I’m not going to write a full-featured design document – that seems like a step too far. I did, however, spend yesterday writing a 12 page design brief, which I will no doubt release at some point, defining all the core elements of the game.

I also got both iPhone and mac versions of LöVE compiled, and began coding basic graphics tools for the game, while also creating some sample art for your ship’s conn.

I plan to give periodic updates here as I go, and also over on my Mastodon account.