I just stumbled upon this site today, and I'm kind of thrilled to find this cohesive little niche for the game designer novice amidst the messy world wide web. It's great to find a working comunity willing to offer free-of-charge advice to budding game makers. I figured I'd go ahead and introduce myself.
I am a programming noob. I'm very comfortable with computers, and in the past I've taught myself how to do things like navigate DOS (to a very basic level), and build an OpenOffice spreadsheet, but I've never used a programming tool, although I'm familier with concepts like scripts, strings, variables, but I have no idea how someone makes such things. Also, my brain is very non-math orientated - math scares me.
I've been playing video games for over twenty years, and probably like any truly addicted gamer I've fantasized about the game I would make if I made a game. As an adult I've been fascinated by violence in games, how 99% of successful video games have violent themes (even Pacman, Asteroids, Mario, etc), and what it means to our gamer culture, and our Western World culture. I was impressed by Super Columbine Massacre RPG as a game that tried to make the player analyze and interpret a real world act of violence from the perspective of a true non-hero. I think games have a real untapped power to educate it's players, to challenge conventional morals and ethics, to inspire a person to analyze themselves and their surroundings. I think game producers would think of this as highly unmarketable… but game creaters, like Ken Levine with BioShock, are definately trying to push the boundries of this envelope.
I'd like to create a narrative war game, set in a real modern conflict (how modern and how far I can push it I'm not sure…) where the player controls one person at a time, but ends up probably controlling many different "pawns" involved in many different stories. Ideally I'd love to create a game billed as a Halo-killer, that essentially tricked people into playing a game they thought would be a fast paced shooter, but would end up being something far more human and disturbing (as a comment on how many of our children are actually recruited into the armed forces), but I'm neither a programmer or a team of programmers who could pull off something like that. I very seriously considered purchasing RPG Maker so I could create a RPG style game that potentially could support 50+ game endings, but each individual story arc could be very short, maybe only an hour in length. Different story arcs could start from the same game point, and diverge as the player made divergent choices, and then the player could unlock different characters they meet and play their story arcs (some of which would be the same story played earlier from a new perspective). Each story arc would have some real life basis, event, or history it drew from, and if I take this on I'm really going to need to research my topic as if preparing to write a book.
I actually considered just writing this as a Choose Your Own Adventure book, but I guess I could even use FreeBASIC to create a text based (mis)adventure. Ultimately though I'd like to create a game that at it's heart is educational, that included a basic history of the conflict it takes place in - and I'd love it to be a little more accessible than a text based adventure. An isometric RPG would probably work just fine - the trick would be to make it a game that was actually fun to play, but resonated such that it disturbed the player for finding it fun to play.
I realize if I'm going to learn to design games I shouldn't start with my magnus opus, because my first few games will be utter crap. But with short story arcs, I can at least start developing these stories with my crappy first-time games, and possibly re-invent them later. I also thought Flash might be a great format to learn how to develop with because I've played some very fun flash games that require "tweak" gamer skills. Ultimately the game has to be fun and engaging - there's no sense in making an "educational" game that no one is going to play.
I'd love to join in on the classes offered here in the chat room, but I can't really take that time away from my kids and wife (all my gaming related activity is conducted after hours, once everyone's sleeping - or during downtime at work) but I should go ahead and follow the advice I've read on these forums and start working with FreeBASIC. Get my feet wet.
Sorry this turned into such a beast of an introduction. I don't know what I expect to gain out of it. I'm deeply inspired by this project, and terrified of it. One thing worse than wasting a week of your life playing a terrible game is probably wasting a year or more of your life trying to make a terrible game. But nothing is wasted so long as something is learned or gained. I'm just such a complete an utter noob to programming.