Archive for September, 2010

My October Agenda

Friday, September 24th, 2010

The response to the October Challenge has been incredible! I think the one thing that’s most amazing about it: everybody gets it. Every appearance of it on the internet has encouraged a plethora of “I’m in!” or “It’s ON like Donkey Kong!” responses. I’ve had dozens of direct tweets and people hunt me down in IRC just to tell me how much they love the idea. Very awesome!

For October 1st, I’ll be setting up and doing a new post on the Ludum Dare site, explaining how we can keep a list of finished games (i.e. using the existing Ludum Dare competition system). I’m putting it off a few days so I can actually get started.

So lets get started.

I already have the business stuff done (been doing it for a few years now). I also already have dev program memberships and payment info registered with most platforms (iOS, AppUp, …). If you haven’t done this yet, you should. Paperwork takes time to ship, be received, and approved.

So me, I’m jumping right in to development.

I shouldn’t say my time is short, since I am a full-time independent developer (sorry students and dayjob folk). Still, I’m treating the next month as a fraction of that. Despite, I’m still expecting to take the entire month to finish. My “first sale” will likely not be until early November, as store approvals do take time.

I have a rough plan scribbled down in my notepad and sketchbook (and in my head). I’m going to create a game by combining several things I know extremely well, something I could (if crunching like a maniac) probably get playable during a traditional LD competition time-line.

Looking back, one of the things about the iPhone App Store I completely didn’t expect was something I want to call “Incremental Game Development“. Coming from a console games background, our games need to be finished and seriously tested before they ever hit the market. So I as a console developer did exactly that. Took 4 month, and finished a game. Around the same time, a game called Fieldrunners was released. This game is the gold standard of the Tower Defense genre available for many major mobiles (iPhone, PSP, DS). It was almost expected that between the three of us (Smiles, Edge, Fieldrunners), Fieldrunners was going to win the IGF Mobile, which they did. There is one thing few people remember though: Fieldrunners launched *WITHOUT* sound!

This was such a shock for me. I was filled with such jealousy as they flew by me in the charts. Who releases a commercial quality game without sound!? Why is it selling so well!? Then they did something else. They released an update with sound. Sometime later, they updated again… and again. Each update was welcomed by press coverage and created much buzz in the community.

What!

I look back now with much respect for Subatomic Studios, having taught me something I was blind to, coming from the Console games business. They are my choice example for what I consider Incremental Game Development. Pocket God is another title that grew and evolved dramatically over time, but it was Fieldrunners that woke me up to it.

Today there are plenty of monetization options in games. Redefining how we get paid redefines how we make games. So if we can start selling a game as soon as it becomes compelling and fun, then why not do that?

Incremental Game Development is not the beta/preorder model. It is like it, but it’s not a promise of future updates or a “fuller” game. It’s a way to gauge interest and fund further development. You make the most compelling foundation or vertical slice of your game you can, and sell it for a low price for a larger user base. So in essence, I am making an incremental game.

So Mike, what are you making?

A “Single Screen” 2D Platformer.

A traditional “Single Screen” platformer has the problem that: once you change the resolution or the aspect ratio, it no longer works. Mike, the crazy portability guy, couldn’t sleep at night if he was making a game for 1 screen resolution today. So what I’ll likely do instead is pick a general room size, and scale/scroll to something fitting on whatever the native display is.

There’s certainly more to it than that, but I’m generalizing. I have a list of choice elements I’m looking to add, and a bigger plan if things go well. But the goal of my design is something simple and open. Kind-of like how a roguelike is developed: You get the core game working, and iterate new features until it’s a Dward Fortress. I have a list of things I want to try, and will be playing it by ear all month long. At its core though, it will be a platformer, and it will have fixed sized rooms.

That is the current technical challenge ahead for me; A pretty easy one at that. The point is to be able to finish quickly, so I can look at it, and decide what it needs next (or what I’m in the mood to try).

Artistically, to save time, I’m strongly considering a main character in the style of the “bird things” from my TIGSource Comicompo page. This, but cleaner:

That’s all for now. It’s now midnight Friday (having LD start time Deja Vu), so it’s time for a bit of planning/prep before bed.

The October Challenge

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

You might think I’m contractually obligated to start something ridiculous every few years, though I don’t remember signing the papers.

My new project is awesome, I love it, but it’s going to take me all of next year (and maybe more) to make it. I’m so fascinated and taken by it, it’s something I NEED to make. But that’s next years agenda.

This year, 2010, there’s still a good 3 months left. I’m doing Smiles stuff still, and will likely be doing more up until the end of the year. I’ll have more to talk about there very soon (actually I could talk now since we’re almost done, but busy busy).

Aside from the IGF, contest season is nearly over now. Intel has some new cars up for grabs, but I think I’ve reached my car-winning-quota with Smiles.

Phil and I have been bantering back and forth all summer (maybe all year) how we’re going to sit down and make some new games. We released our iPhone games some 2 years ago; He did the Steam thing and I did the Intel and other ports thing. Boy-oh-boy wouldn’t we like to start something new!

We run a little something called Ludum Dare, a reasonably well known internet game-jam that does hundreds of entries per event. So today, I decided to issue a challenge to the community.

Make a game — take it to market — sell 1 copy

Compared to the usual game jam and compo fare, this is a drastic change from the norm. Sales and marketing usually don’t factor in to the creative process of a Ludum Dare; Neither does filling out tax forms and setting up bank accounts. There’s a fantastic community of developers involved in indie, freeware and compo/jams. The compo/jam is the catalyst for many to take the plunge and start creating games regularly. After that, we leave it up to you figure out how to do more with it. I’m especially excited about this, not only for me (new game!), but for all those developers that haven’t taken the business dive yet. We regularly get many thank you’s after an LD, from developers that needed that little bit of external encouragement to finally sit down and do it. This wild diversion could be the seed needed by a handful of jammers to finally make the leap in to selling games. It’s crazy optimistic, but the one thing we’ve learned from LD is that deadlines are an amazing thing.

This week I’ve been thinking about a small “couple week” game; In reality it will take longer, but it is nice to focus on a super small scope sometimes. So on a whim, I throw out the challenge to our #ludumdare IRC channel. To my surprise, I get a great instant response, which gets the gears turning.

I draft up the following up, tweet it, and inform the mailing list.

http://www.ludumdare.com/…/povs-challenge-make-a-game-sell-1-copy/

This all started as a vague race; First one to sell a copy wins. But it really should be more than that, so I shaped it in to something like an LD+ (minus all the restrictions). This should be October, the whole freaking month! That gives us a few days to prep, spread the word, or even start early. I know I’m going be hit with obligations these next 6 weeks, so no time to waste.

That’s what’s going on. I haven’t decided how I’m going to document my attempt, but stay tuned. I’m thinking blog here with some re-posting elsewhere. And if you too want to get in on the action, to figuratively “join in the App revolution”, or get started on something new (like Phil and I), please do! Spread the word. We’ll be in a holding pattern at the Ludum Dare website and IRC channel (as usual), so catch us there.

Lets do this!