Matthew Gatland

Fast Follow

June 07, 2013

I woke up today at 1:06 PM, rolled over to look at my phone. One unread message:

1:04 PM: Hey, it’s Cleo. I’m just outside.


OK. OK, brain. Wide awake. Make a plan. Execute.

I called her and apologised for being asleep, quickly put on some clothes and let her inside.

Our flat had an empty bedroom. I showed it to her; she wanted to move in. She’ll be an awesome flatmate.

Well done, Matthew. Nice save.

But, after the crisis was managed, I reflected on my life.

I can’t live like this. I can’t be late to 1 PM appointments at my own house.

I didn’t do any game dev today. This has to change. I need a routine, a bedtime, and hours set aside for working.

I played Gunpoint, a new indie game by Tom Francis. It’s awesome.

The concept is similar to Introversion’s cancelled game Subversion.

They’re both games where you infiltrate buildings by hacking the security systems, tricking the guards, and occasionally shooting people.

The difference is, Gunpoint has simple 2D game mechanics that feel great. You rewire things by drawing a line between them with your mouse – it’s about as easy and intuitive as you can get. And the whole game, the way you run and jump and ride elevators and smash through windows, is carefully polished and balanced and super-fun.

In Subversion, developer Chris Delay kind of just kept throwing in new ideas until he had a massive crazy mess – that’s basically how he described it. You could cut the individual wires on an alarm, type numbers into keypads, aim at different body parts of a guard… but had no gameplay motivation to do any of these things.

Also, there was an amazing city generator which didn’t connect to the actual game in any way.

Subversion took years, wasn’t fun and was eventually cancelled.

It’s interesting for me to see the same concepts explored in a much simpler way, with much more success.

How do you avoid the temptations of over-engineering and the second system effect? How do you tune your brain to look for simple ideas?