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.
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.
I think it’s about time to essplain via Bloggy McBloggerson what my Space Funeral-related project is.
I’m developing Space Eulogy, the JRPG prequel to Space Funeral. I received permission from thecatamites to produce the game about a year ago after having played SF, the style of which I fell in love with and the story of which inspired me to expand on the canon. If you want to read about how the story pans out and stuff (and be a super dumby boring-head), I wrote a wiki so that I wouldn’t have to explain plot elements to other people who are working on it.
I started/finished that wiki up the day of a PIGSquad Art/Code Night that I hosted last week at the NW Lucky Lab, and I’ve been trying my best to complete certain other aspects of pre-dev stuff day by day. So far, after having worked out the basic plot, central characters, and the central characters’ backstories, I have a few non-pivotal characters mapped out and some more gameplayish stuff laid down. The party members all have at least three classes to choose from (the character “Mmm” has five), there are approximately 55 enemies and 12 bosses that I’ve divided into 14 leveling tiers, and Donny and I have defined quite a few gameplay elements regarding stats/level caps/encounter frequency/etc.
Regarding the team so far, I’ll be doing the main project development, writing, art for the prologue, and art for battle scenes; Donny will be doing stats and battle design; Jamey will be coding; and Wolfgang will be doing tile and NPC art. I’m excited to start working with everyone else soon (hopefully in the beginning of March), and I’m glad that the wiki’s all laid out beforehand.
With regard to MaNy ThInGs, I’ve been busy and worried and stressed and enjoying myself and all’a that over the past few weeks. The Lucky Lab meetup was fun/relaxing/helpful after having experienced a fairly depressing PDXFC meeting, where we explored some of the more hopeless corners of short film distribution (which has become our topic of the month as a result). There’re also quite a few big events coming up, such as this month’s chiptune show, Barcamp at the end of March, our hosting the Indie Game: The Movie screening, ‘n all that. I’ve decided to make my series “So There’s This Game” a Thursday-ly thing due to these commitments and other reasons, such as the fact that I’m going to burn myself out with zero audience if I do something like that twice a week.
Oh, but speaking of the CHIPTUNE SHOW, it’s THIS FRIDAY and it’ll be REALLY FUN. HAGEN made a REALLY COOL POSTER for the EVENT.
As I’ve mentioned in the past, I’m pursuing a project revolving around thecatamites’s Space Funeral, and I’m getting closer and closer to making some significant moves on it. Recently, I’ve been having conversations with my friend about what the game will mean in relation to Funeral and how the gameplay will affect that meaning. Here’s an unedited e-mail I sent to him in which I argue with myself over how we should handle the game’s difficulty. I dunno. I thought it might be significant or something.
Yeah, it seems that the big conversation is whether or not the game should be as easy as Funeral… Here’s my story, at least:
When I first played Funeral, I was enthralled just in general and personally wanted it to be “my kind of RPG,” which is something a little more extensive in its difficulty among other things. That’s why I wanted the game to be a little more difficult. But, at the same time, I’ve done soooo much research on thecatamites (the original developer) and his fans, and there are quite a few mentions of the ease of the game being a part of its charm. SO, the crappiness of some aspects of the game both contributes to its fan base as well as to its lack of an audience in some cases. I was personally intellectually provoked by the game, which is why I’m interested in recreating it for the purpose of expanding on a great series of themes introduced in the original. I haven’t seen this perspective much in my research of fans – the City of Forms and its story wasn’t a dealbreaker for most people, though it was for me. For most fans (and anti-fans, if that’s even a word), the game was either great because it was so horrible (the art, the gameplay, the cohesiveness of the story), or horrible because people weren’t looking for horrible.
I guess, then, my main focus in bringing Eulogy to life is capitalizing on an explanation behind the City of Forms, retaining Funeral’s crazy/bizarre environment and sense of humor (in the art, music, dialogue/text), and asserting “my kind of RPG.” Does gameplay necessarily have to be considered in regards to “charm” if those are my goals? In other words, would it be appropriate for Space Eulogy as a prequel to explain the City of Forms, be crazy, and be semi-traditional in it’s gameplay?
At the moment, I say yes. Regardless of Eulogy’s demographic, the game could still present a very similar atmosphere to Funeral, even if it were moderately difficult, more (but not fully) explanatory, and organized by me. I mean, one of the entire points of Space Eulogy itself is that it’s full of similarities and differences. I feel that that’s the thematic purpose of the game. It’s Stephen and Shultz and you and I and and Phillip and Ruth White and Firth and a Mome Beast.
And it’s a passion project, as well. No money will be made, and we’re doing it because we love it. I want you to have as much fun designing your side as I do mine. It’ll be “marketed,” because I’m not a believer in making things just for myself to look at, and I’d hope that people would enjoy it, but I wouldn’t be upset if it was a “failure” because it was too different from the original. That’s how Stephen did it. Future, more commercially-oriented stuff will be showcased to a different crowd anyways; I can’t see rep destruction coming out of a passion project created with inspiration from a passion project.
Whew. That being said, what do YOU want the battle system to be like? I’m leaning towards something not as easy as the original Pokemons, but not as difficult as DWIII – I personally want the difficulty very accessible and familiar, but I also want people to get pissed off at boss fights at times (which is something people are familiar with, actually) and see some things that they’ve never seen before (such as the Mystery command, the class choices, and having trouble deciphering some items’ functions via MYSTERY). It’s honestly much more about the atmosphere and the ideas, but mixing familiarity and uniqueness together in the battle system will encourage people to want to know where this atmosphere is leading them.
WHAT SAY YOU?
Whoof, things are getting a little crazy. In addition to prompts from fellow group organizers, I’ve finally run into a lack of immediate events to plan, which means it’s time to start hitting a few things hard.
Logan and I have been talking about revamping the Failsafe storefront to make it a better use of our time for quite awhile now. We’ve got plans for pricing pamphlets and all that kinda stuff so that we can do more work for local businesses, then have store hours for normal sticker cutting and more novelty shirt printing/pressing. We’ll see what happens.
We also just got our new forum with PIGSquad, and the rest of the site’s (re)construction will happen soon after. After that, things like dev teams and providing classes/seminars will become much more possible.
I’ve also had my eye on a project revolving around thecatamites’s “Space Funeral,” and more word on that will come in the near future. Play it if you haven’t already – it’s the best!