Unemployment, life plans and Ave Imperator

It’s been a while since I mentioned Ave Imperator, or wrote a blog post for that matter. So to keep my readers (consisting primarily of my alternate personalities) happy (and because I’d a weird and clearly portentous dream about it) I’ve decided to post an update on this. Also I complain about stuff (so a usual blog post then)

So when we left Ave Imperator back in May last year some decisions were just getting nailed down (and because it will become relevant later – I was employed). I continued to develop the mechanics and world for the game for the next few months. Nailing down the combat system, the economics, the setup for the empire in the game, etc. I just realised I’d some draft posts covering those written but never posted for some reason. At the same time as I was doing this I was in theory also boning up on my C# skills. Unfortunately while the game design kept chugging along getting back into programming didn’t do quite so well and ended in a number of abortive attempts (but fuck me do I know the first few chapters of those books by heart). Then I lost my job. While I’d love to work on creating games full-time I have neither the ability to motivate myself nor the belief in myself that it would require. So I dropped all “hobby” stuff and focused on trying to find another job, well specifically trying to find another job that I liked. After a decade in Vodafone I swore to myself that I wouldn’t take another job I hated.

Unfortunately the months passed and I remained unemployed, which fed into a deep and lasting depression. My ability to self motivate is volatile at best, but this depression totally crushed it. I’ve certainly dipped in and out of depression frequently in the past. But it was never this deep or pervasive, I was totally encased in ennui (I mean look what its done I didn’t even feel self-conscious about using the word ennui). Luckily no matter my state of mind I can generally scare up a modicum of motivation to work on things that truly interest me. So Ave Imperator has been chugging along slowly for the last year or so, spread across Keep, Evernote, text files and random scribbles but there’s enough concrete stuff there to make a solid GDD. Which I suppose I don’t need but am going to put together for symbolic reasons. Unfortunately, while I enjoy it while I’m doing it, learning how to program “better” did not manage to hold my interest (largely because anything that felt like it was actually constructive fell before a barricade of self loathing and defeat built on a foundation of depression and bolstered by existential angst). So at this point I am in the position where I have a very clear idea of what the game will entail, I’m just not in a position to make it.

But I am taking a stand (against myself admittedly, but a stand nonetheless). I have no ambition but before I die I have two modest goals – publish a novel (written and abandoned two shite ones so far, currently half way through the first draft of the third) and publish a game (my giddy ambition here is to actually publish three small indie games, of which Ave Imperator will be the first). In moments of madness when ambition takes over I also think I’d like to own a house so I’ve somewhere to die in peace.

To achieve these things I need a plan. So my current plan is:

a) Get a job (even if its one I hate)
b) Properly approach “upskilling” my programming ability (I figure this will take six months to get where I want to be)
c) Finish and redraft my novel, Overdue (working title), by Christmas
d) Have a working alpha of Ave Imperator by June (my birthday to be specific) next year

Well now that I’ve got that tedious shite out of the way time to actually talk about Ave Imperator again. I really do love this idea, while I’ve been distracted by other game ideas this is the only one that remains a perennial favourite, largely because its something I really want to play. I plan to start posting my Ave Imperator design journals again so I’ll save the proper gushing for there but I suppose the two things I’m currently happiest with are the combat system and the game modes. The combat system was shaped primarily by my feelings on how a simulation game of this scope should approach combat but also by real world constraints (i.e. I can’t program or create a system where beautifully rendered gladiators battle in full 3D with the results dictated by an accurate physics model). This lead to a lot of “development time” being burned on trying to create something I was happy with and what I have no works pretty well I think. It uses an interesting “back and forth” style mechanic and the setup rewards player skill and system mastery.

The second thing I’m excited about are the various story modes, which are arguably just adding toggles and constraints to the basic game setup, but who cares? Anyhow, at the moment the proposed game modes (in order of build priority) are:

Campaign – Catchy title I know. This is the basic game where you start as the heir to a failing Ludus and have roughly three generations or 100 years (not entirely sure yet) to raise it to glory during the golden age of the gladiatorial games.

Aurea Saecula (Golden Age) – Basically endless campaign mode, the timeline advances to the golden age era and then stays there. So there’s no pre-determined end state (or likely win condition, you simply “retire” when you meet your personal goals)

100 – Something akin to a “Horde” or “Survial” mode. You start with a random selection of gladiators and have to try and raise your ranking during the 100 days of games that celebrated the completion of the Flavian Amphitheatre

Imperium Sempiternum (Eternal empire) – “Rome has conquered not just the known world but thanks to a serious of mysterious portals has also conquered Terra (your basic D&D-esque fantasy world). The Games have expanded to include the new races and creatures that the eternal empire now rules.” This is the basic game but with expanded locations, fantasy races and creatures (and possibly magic).

I’ll post further details later in the week, probably starting with the combat system. While that dream I had yesterday was disturbing as fuck I suppose I should thank it (and some advice I got from a snack box eating wise man the weekend) for breaking through the mental funk a bit and letting some light in.

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