And yet, this was the task set before my Capstone students: come up with something that can be done in twenty weeks with relatively little programming.
They came up with a surprising revelation: one particular genre, the 2D platformer, still has a lot of life left in it because of a curious property: every successful game takes the basic platformer mechanics and adds just one or two "gimmicks", so all you have to do is choose a gimmick that hasn't been done before. And I think they're right, looking at successful platformer franchises and their gimmicks:
- Mario = hidden stuff
- Sonic = go really fast
- Castlevania = short-range attack with whip
- Pitfall!, Prince of Persia, Impossible Mission = time limit to complete the entire game
- Metroid, Blaster Master = explore a huge map, gaining access to new areas as you get more powerups
- Mega Man = choose the order of stages, earn boss's weapons
- Incredible Machine, Lemmings = build and/or destroy the platforms as you go
There are some interesting ideas there, but really, they don't even scratch the surface of what's possible. There's a lot of room for new gimmicks that haven't been explored yet, which is why we're still seeing new 2D platformers in this day and age:
So, it would seem this is a promising direction for aspiring game developers who want to create something interesting on a student's schedule/budget.