After being working on my own for 3 months, I would say that I am quite comfortable with this situation and the tasks that I am dealing with. The game ideas I set out with at the start are nothing similar to what I am actually working on right now.
For the last month, most of the time spent has been on modeling and creating content for my game. This can be very time consuming and error prone since I am trying to create content that looks very nice, is not wasting memory and does not break continuity. The best way to keep the look of the content as consistent as possible is to use real life reference materials and to not just make stuff up. Have all the blocks very familiar, then allow yourself a little wiggle room to shape things from there.
Since I aim to make the game look very cartoon like, I could use some of the bat cartoon shaders and use solid colors for the most part. But there are some snags. If you apply toon shading as a post process, you can really fast start to see a lot of noise on screen, and what looks nice at a certain distance, looks very disturbing at another. Need to look at some other silhouetting options.
But the silhouettes of the cartoon style are mainly there to help define form and avoid having to create too much detail. Just like you do with line drawings vs. paintings. The brain is very good at identifying objects based on their silhouettes and does not really need to see much shading to interpolate. Defining strong form with shadows and lighting is much more time consuming and you will have to make a lot of sacrifices and changes to accommodate real time computing limitations.
But, I might need to bake the silhouettes into the textures or geometry so that the glaring pixel shader artifacts can be avoided.
The biggest memory consumer of modern video games is textures. By far! You make that your smallest problem, and you have a lot higher geometry budget to work with.
I have added some of the interactive mechanics and am making sure that all optimization tricks I will need are used and accounted for. When I add more content, I look at how well does it play with the rest of the environment and do some of my previous assumptions still hold. If not, I go back and do the cleanup I need to do so that I can continue.
Get the content correct is very crucial, because if you make a bad call and you don´t spot it until you have churned out over 50 items, you are going to have very long and annoying couple of weeks. I can safely say that the programming bit of the game I am the least worried about and most likely will take the least amount of time. The features are not complicated to implement, there is not any massive systems masturbation going on with integrating every flavor of the new army of hip-and-cool libraries into the game. For the most part it is synchronizing content and engine features and utilizing what is already there to make an interesting game.
Moving forward for the next month will mainly be about adding more content and game features as I am continuing and adhering to all the learned rules I have set for myself so far. I have building blocks to make a lot of material, but I always need something more. Having a good set of ground rules to follow and knowing exactly how to apply them will help me be very efficient in creating new content that works as I want it to.
I know how most of the Unity systems work quite well, and will adjust if I run into any bad assumptions.
When will this game be playable? Well, the game mechanics I have right now are running and I am adding to it gradually while keeping it behaving and looking as I want it to. People will get a chance to try it out when I am comfortable with letting people try it out. I am aiming at the end of February to have something that is playable, impressive and good enough so that I can start keeping developer logs on indie developer forums and other similar things to grab peoples attention.
But, there is no rest for the wicked.
Fixing up some content, adding some staircases and the entry into the floors below, where you will meet some challenges to solve.