Participating in the Guts for Glory Game Jam taught me a lot about small team game development, especially with regard to dedicating a lot of time to planning (though it saves time to multitask via simultaneously planning and working) as well as sticking to one development role if you can. These two things finally taught me why I haven’t had a lot of fun attending game jams in the past – I not only used to spend insufficient amounts of time being clear about communication and plans with team members, but also overloaded myself as an event planner responsible for the 15-45 jammers present, as an artist/musician/designer on a team, and as a project manager for a team. And when I did that, I had an experience worse than an uninspired 48 hours: I would constantly worry about finishing the project post-jam, expecting my teammates and I to bring something with a bad base to fruition.
I’ve lately been working on being a bit more realistic about projects and how to manage my time in their midst, including the task of officially dropping stagnant projects that were always on the back of my mind. “The Hallway Is Dark, And I Am Afraid” and “Crooked Missile” are two such projects.
The Hallway Is Dark, And I Am Afraid was fun and I’m proud of how much work I put towards it in such a small amount of time, but the project was super discouraging. There were so many things that Yori and I assumed were apparent when we first began to make it, but attempting to explain and show the project became so difficult; it was so hard to help people understand what was going on and why each thing happened the way it did. In addition to the straight up learning curve, there were so many fine-tuning issues with regard to gameplay and art knickknacks that would have taken so much work (and even more work after having implemented fixes for our communication flaws).
After Guts for Glory, I was inspired and came up with some fundamental gameplay fixes that would have allowed easier fixes to follow suit. I made two little slideshows to solve our “in between hallways” interface problem as well as the “this game is really hard because my memory isn’t THAT good” problem. Hard to explain, but click those links and know that the zoomy map in the first and the scrolling pseudo-item-collection mechanic in the second did not exist in our original build of the game. I knew that these fixes were big and that both Yori and I had kinda run out of steam just before our first falling out with the project, but I was also inspired by having come up with what I thought would fix the game. I was fine with either continuing or scrapping the project, and we ended up with the latter.
Then, there’s Crooked Missile, which goes off of a game idea that I’ve had for a little while. It’s a straight up shoot ’em up with one little twist – you are controlling a missile with a knocked-out targeting system, so you must play an ascending “ship” always traveling at a ≈15˚angle. Your movement controls are just right and left, as you’re forced to switch from a right-bearing course to a left-bearing course if the missile drifts too far and becomes threatened with collision.
There was a lot that I wanted to do with weird angular thinking and super thought-out enemies/bosses, but that was the problem: before approaching the team with the project, it wasn’t thought-out enough. To accent that disparity, we started in the midst of a game jam (which I was also busy hosting), which added a rushed “don’t plan, just make it in time!” feel even though we had no time limit. My lack of planning got us a few bare prototypes in, the project stagnated, and it’s been on the back of my mind until now, which marks its move to a cozy, out-of-the-way shelf space. I made some music and learned a lot from the experience at least, so I’m glad it happened.
Since learning a good amount about jams from Guts for Glory, I’ve been pursuing FiercePeg Shootout as a solo project via Fuck This Jam and have been actually making some progress, so I’m on another track to discovering myself as a game jam enthusiast. We’ll see where that ends up..!
Hoo hah, I’m really getting stuff done. Despite my interest in a multitude of extracurriculars, I have so much trouble keeping focused and making sure that I meet my own deadlines. I try to come up with schedules for myself to make sure that I’m on track, and I’ve tried a looot of different things – “work on ____ for 2 hours a day,” “finish ____ by the end of the week,” “complete this to-do list by the end of the day,” “work on ____ until it’s done, then you can work on ____,” etc. Some straight up don’t work and some work for awhile until they start to trail off.
Lately, I’ve approached interests and necessities as a whole, assigning myself a variety of things that I should proooobably do each day and having myself work for a certain amount of hours (almost like a work day). After those hours have passed, I allow myself to really breathe and ignore the possibility that there may be something left for me to do before tomorrow; I mean, I did just spend 8 hours making sure that I’m caught up! Even more relative to a “work day,” weekends are freebies and I take 30-45 minute lunches.
Gatdam, this has really been helping me get to work and get a grip on making sure that I get enough exercise, keeping order and tidiness in work spaces, making sweet delicious progress on projects, and managing stress. I’m more stoked than ever to capitalize on (or get real and withdraw from) so many projects that have been coming for a long time, and I hope everyone enjoys results. Keep an eye out for SCHTUFF.
So I’m still at Orycon 34, and hot damn lil kids are encouraging!
With regards to the Eulogy concept animation slideshow I’m running, I’ve heard “I wanna play this game,” “when will this be a game?,” and “what is this?” plus some ‘ol awe and wonder. When I was first interested in getting people to play the games I still had yet to make, I considered younger demographics paired with “daaaamn, but kids don’ have no moneys.” After those kinds of considerations, I got into actually developing games while keeping marketability in mind, but being around other developers and becoming enveloped in the indie game community has totally changed my outlook on people. I mean, I hang out with way different groups of people, carry out regular conversation differently, and have different relationships with family after having undergone a big bout of interest in the indie game community. It’s just another focus that’s changed my outlook on things.
So, with all of this consideration towards the indie game community – therefore not mainstream players and not younger children – I had kinda lost sight of kids as a demographic. Which is stupid. I mean, kids around 12 and under are easily entertained while still really smart, they’re young enough to trust the game world you’ve created without being too cynical or actively critique-oriented, and they’re willing to keep trying and keep learning. I’ve personally picked up sooooo much from having played games as a child, including vocabulary, inside jokes, ideas, and so many different intuitions and other subconscious… things… It’d be so sick to be responsible for siblings’ inside jokes by having made a game they played together as children or have a kid like your character so much that they drew fan art. And, taking it a step further, what about working other kinds of learning into a game? And what if working really hard to achieve that happy medium is the way to entertain a child, then warrant that a parent buys the game for them? This schtuff’s probably been explored and outlined countless times before, but its importance is really starting to dawn on me.
As game developers now, we could help influence a whole new generation of players if our reach becomes great enough. And if that influence can be reciprocated, developers will know their work is enjoyed. Such an exciting prospect, but damn, reachin’ that reach is a tough one. So we got 1) make game 2) make game entertaining 3) make game influential 4) make game reach other people 5) make game reach the right people 6) make game enthusiasts tell you want they want 7) make game into what enthusiasts want 8) probably some other stuff 9) repeat.
Whoof, exciting stuff.
THIS IS WILL LEWIS REPORTING FROM ORYCON 34 AND I’M HERE AND YEAH YEAH YEAH.
We’re at “Oregon’s Premiere Sci-Fi Convention” with PIGSquad showing off a couple’a projects and having a good ol’ time. We’ve got Eulogy, Rubicon, Mansfield’s Manor, Meta, some prototypes and info on display all weekend; things are going well. I’ve found that kids are the most encouraging at things like this, and they’re really doing well to get gamedevs in gear to consider what their projects need and to admire what they’ve done. A little 4-year-old boy stared at some Eulogy animation loops I had on display for about 5 minutes, smiling and daydreaming. SOYEAH THAT’S GOING WELL.
We also experienced success at the Guts for Glory Game Jam two weekends ago – we worked on the prototype for a resource management game that places the player in the shoes of a community organizer who must manage volunteers, money, and surrounding areas’ enthusiasm regarding the topic of organ donation (since our game is being created for Donate Life Northwest). It’s turn-based with the goal of reducing the organ recipient waiting list to zero, heavily relying on the strategy involved with managing your resources as well as educating the player about the topic from a real-world standpoint as players are exposed to information when training their in-game volunteers. We got pretty far and have some pretty good goals laid out; I was so happy to participate in a jam solely as a project manager (rather than a combination of a couple of different jobs) because I actually got something done. Now, we’re continuing work post-jam to develop a playable demo for Donate Life Northwest, and we’re aiming to have the demo completed by the end of the month!
Regarding other projects, I’ve finally developed a schedule for myself that actually encourages me to get stuff done, so I really feel like I’m on track to make some progress on numerous projects. IT’S SO EXCITING. Look out for some Mother 3 wallpapers, game news, STTG stuff, and other things. I’m, like, goin’ for it.
Man, PAX was a blast this year. I met so many great people, there were about 25 PIGSquad members present, I was actually super excited for some upcoming games thanks to the Megabooth, and I’m just all-around so encouraged by the international indie community and its patrons.
Now that I’m back in Portland, I’m having a hard time emulating that enthusiasm because this area has its work cut out for it. I don’t know what it’s like in Austin, Seattle, San Fran, New York, or other gamedev communities in the states or worldwide because I haven’t spent a worthy amount of time in those environments, but man, it’s been so weird to completely immerse myself in the thing I love most and then go back to a place where people couldn’t care less about game development, aren’t as enthusiastic about the medium but still name it their primary interest, or try to humor me without realizing the massive amounts of enthusiasm that keep people going in the scene. I felt so at home this past weekend, and I really want to create a similarly welcoming environment in Portland so that home isn’t impossible to achieve. And I feel that people with similar amounts of enthusiasm experience what I do upon returning to their more developed game communities even, which I guess is the long way of saying that moving is dumb and that I’m not going to do it.
ThAt BeInG sAiD/lOnG sToRy ShOrT, it’s weird to come home to worrisome things happening with regard to events like XOXO Arcade, the OMSI Mini Maker Faire (which you should go to), and a general PIGSquad meeting after having had a perfectly executed – and in some cases, serendipitous – weekend in the midst of so many awesome people and projects. That just sets a standard, though, and I’m in it for the long haul!
So dang, lots of cool stuff happened. The above is a group photo which a surprising amount of people made it to despite so many panels, tournaments, and dinner timez taking place then; you can see that a whole bunch of people wore the PIGSquad @ PAX 2012 shirt, which is awesome! I think everyone had a great time, and there were many reports of people asking about the group. I spoke with numerous developers and community organizers in Seattle who were interested in collaborating on “local” northwest events, which is great because I want to hop in at every turn! Also got to talk to some people about the details involved in volunteering/attending GDC and other conventions of a similar PAX-ilk, so I’ll be capitalizing on those opportunities when they arise, too!
Also finally got to meet Ashley Zeldin and John Nesky in person! I had been speaking with John for awhile regarding a Beep Box-related project and met Ashley through him, following their Game Jam games and IGDA endeavors since on Twitter and via other means. They’re so so great, and Ashley helped inspire me to look into the idea of hosting a panel on community organizing next year at PAX (which I believe the convention sorely needs)! Can’t wait until we can hang out next, and we’re already talking about ways to help each other promote projects like PIGSquad, Beep Box, games, and more..!
Had the pleasure of meeting developers from Octodad, Spry fox, Bootsnake, Mojang, and Vlambeer as well! Most everyone was super nice and wanted to talk about their games, which is great, because I had a lot to tell them! I’d have to say that I’m most excited for LUFTRAUSER and Leap Day; two beautiful (and totally different) games that are right up my alley. Look into them when you get the chance; they’re the first games that’ve gotten me excited to sit down and play something in awhile!
So yeah, that’s a sum up of my PAX. A super great time leaving me lusting for more upon returning home. But that’s good; I’m stoked to play the networking game (hate that word, though), am realizing lots about how to best help local devs and support our own community, have lots of people to call on for advice/help/collaboration, witnessed a huge boost in motivation to continue work on my own games, and gained a more positive outlook on the future of my personal interactions with game developers, game communities, and even non-game entities.
Here’s to friends, storytelling, and feeling at home!
I’m off to PAX Prime for the weekend! Super excited!
If you come here to scartheatre.com after having met me at Prime, thanks so much for visiting my site! I’ve got three fun upcoming projects, so please subscribe and/or check back to receive updates! They are:
- September 2012 – The Hallway Is Dark, And I Am Afraid; a Flash matching-esque game about a boy projecting monsters onto the silhouettes of common household furnishings on his way to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
- December 2012 – DanceNES; an application made for the purpose of live visuals at shows, including videogamey sprites/ references and other animations.
- January 2013 – Space Eulogy; the prequel to the strange JRPG “Space Funeral.”
Updates when I get back! See you at PAX!
The theme is “fear!”
I’m at the Lucky Lab right now with my friend Yori, we’ve just discussed the main mechanics for the game, and now it’s time to get to work! We have a week to make an original game based on the prompt “fear.” Thinking about a “don’t pee your pants” goal. You’re a scared little boy in the middle of the night trying to find your house’s bathroom (because it’s like a maze and stuff y’know?). And there’re monsters. More to come. I’ll post sprites and stuff when dey come out mah hands.
Speaking of sprites, I’ve been working on some Funeral/Eulogy sprites of late to explore the visual aspects of the game. More “alternative” than anything else, but they’re animated and fun. Here’s a screen of the SkullCrab!