The Anarchic Kingdom: a Simple Idea for a Game Jam
Wednesday, 2nd June 2021
Last year I had hoped to develop a strategy game in a month, for the DOS Fall Game Jam 2020. I chose a wargame project I'd implemented on the Psion, The World at Strife, thinking that reimplementing a game I'd already written wouldn't be too difficult a job. But I found in retrospect that it was hopelessly ambitious for a one-month game jam. That game is still in development and will eventually become Barren Planet.
For the DOS Spring Game Jam 2021 I learned my lesson, and chose a much more simple model for my game. Game jams spawn programs in a range of complexity, and the simple gameplay of Demesne would fit right in. So I decided to take up that project as my contribution to the new jam.
Naming games is always difficult. I liked the name Demesne, but someone else had adopted it for their game in 2016. After a not insignificant amount of time I settled on the name Baronies, but wasn't completely happy with it. So I thought again and came up with The Anarchic Kingdom.
Normally I get inspiration for my game designs by creating a graphical mockup first. But in the case of The Anarchic Kingdom I knew how the game would work, and knew that the gameplay could work initially as a scrolling text game. So I set to work on writing a scrolling text version of The Anarchic Kingdom, with the intention of replacing the text interface with a graphical one once I got the gameplay working. This approach might not work for games with more complex interfaces, but it was perfect for The Anarchic Kingdom.
After getting about 80% of the gameplay written I had an epiphany and ended up rewriting all that code (in a day). I have become pretty attached to modern object oriented techniques and try to use them in every project, even when writing in C which is not an object oriented language. For bigger projects that works for me, but in a small game like The Anarchic Kingdom it was adding extra overhead that made the project more difficult than it needed to be. Realising that I was effectively fighting the language, I scaled back the object oriented approach, after which making progress was much less arduous.
At first the game was to have some kind of play-by-email or play-by-file-swap option to replace the infra-red features of the Psion version. But in the end I decided that the gameplay was too simplistic to warrant the development effort. I expect that most people would play this solo as a coffee break game. For that reason I dropped the idea of saved games too.
Once I got the gameplay working with a text interface, I got on with replacing that interface with the graphics from the final game, a process I'll describe next week.