It’s mid-December, which means people are remembering their New Year’s resolutions and rushing to accomplish them before 2013 rolls around.
Last year, I managed to release the Stop That Hero! alpha after many months of delay. This year, I similarly managed to get the next update out a few months ago after many months of delay, and it still hasn’t been ported to the Mac. Otherwise, I have a couple of Ludum Dare games under my belt. One of my aspirations is to be a prolific game developer, and this is not a good track record.
Ludum Dare has three main compos during the year (one is this weekend!), but each month in between features a miniLD with custom rules by whoever is hosting. I have been considering making it a goal to participate in each of these miniLDs if only to get 12 games in any given year.
Chris Kaitila, aka McFunkypants, wrote 12 games in 12 months about his experience in the last year attempting to make at least one game a month, so it seems I’m not the only one with such aspirations.
I set out this year to prove to myself that not all game projects need to stretch on for months or years. It was a battle against the featurecreep and code bloat that I’d suffered from for years as an indie gamedev. I’ve started so many more games than I’ve finished in the last 20 years.
From assembly language “hello worlds” to BASIC choose-your-own-adventures without an ending. From to Turbo Pascal Tron lightycles games, to Visual Basic prototypes so woefully buggy and half baked they weren’t even worth backing up. From unpolished (but complete!) C++ openGL shooters with only one level to Adobe Director (shockwave) horse-racers with no finish line. From php sports simulators with broken AI to html4 multiplayer chat worlds with server problems.
Looking in my Projects directory, I see that my unfinished 0h Game Jam about a horse race with no finish line. Hmm.
Now, Kaitila has a broader range of experience with tools and engines than I do. I could probably stand to get outside of my C++/SDL comfort zone, but the risk is taking the time to learn something new versus using what I know to work on games.
But he found that it’s easy to get sucked into a never-ending project, one that quickly stops being fun to develop, and so becomes one that never gets finished. I’m sure we’ve all been there. There’s a lot of discipline involved in game development, which isn’t obvious to anyone who hasn’t done it before.
So what can you do? Reduce scope! But feature creep is always a problem. Set short deadlines! But projects always have a way of taking more time than you planned.
Kaitila’s answer to both: game jams.
Instead of getting involved in a long marathon of game development which might force you to choose between your health/family/friends and your project, you run little sprints. Ludum Dare’s 48 hour compos and miniLDs are perfect. There are also other game jams throughout the year, such as Meaningful Game Play Game Jam and 0h Game Jam held during a missing hour due to Daylight Savings, so there are plenty of options.
Like daily workouts, each game project made me stronger. Faster. Better.
You can do this too. Challenge yourself to make a game a month this next year. Let this be your new year’s resolution. I’m going to do it all again in 2013. One game per month, on average, and a dozen finished products by the end of the year.
I’m issuing a challenge to all my gamedev friends: join me in the epic quest. It CAN be done. You don’t have to be hardcore, insane, or obsessed. Join me in the gameamonth challenge. We can help encourage each other.
If you have a Twitter account, you can sign up for the One Game A Month challenge. It’s like a game for game development. You get XP for each new game you post, and people who sign up before January 1st get 100 early adopter bonus points.
I’m in. Are you?