In the beginning there is always an idea … so how did we get to our idea?
For the first month we had weekly meetings on skype to brainstorm ideas and if we thought we had a good one tried to take them a bit further. We basically tried to answer questions like “What yould be the core game play?” “How would it be different from games with a similar focus?” – cause lets be honest, 99% of all game play mechanics have already been tried, so you have to find some new combination or angle to be at least a bit different than the others. This point I think is especially important for a small games like ours as we don´t have the resources to have shiny graphics, our only selling point is the unique game play. That is also why if you want to play something different you have to look for indie games and not at the typical AAA space.
At one point we also did have a nearly fully fletched out game idea but then realized that it would take us ages to finish it, so we went with a smaller idea in the end for our first game: The 36 Chambers of the Panpipe Ninjas – btw the name is a nod to a martial arts movie I saw in my youth The 36 Chambers of the Shaolin (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0078243/).
As this is our first video game project – although I did work on some location-based games during my scientific career but video games are a different beast – we started by searching for some suitable open-source framework/engine. Unity would have been our first choice of course but as none of us has any experience with 3D game design we wanted to realize our game in 2D or a isometric Zelda-style.
We ended up choosing libdgx (http://libgdx.badlogicgames.com/). It had all the features we were looking for (box2D support, various support of map editor formats, lightning engine and so on) and also a dedicated community support. Assitionally we are using the Tiled map editor: http://www.mapeditor.org/ as it supports layers and is free . If you want to start with libdgx we suggest you start with the excellent video series of Dustin Riley - for confinience I embedded the first episode here:
Before we went into “full production” I programmed a first prototype to test our core game play mechanic (I also used that to pitch the idea to the other team members in the first place) and also we used for early play tests by some friends to make sure it didn´t totally suck. As they liked it we continued from there on … You can download this first prototype on next installment of this series …