As I’ve always been the type of person to prefer number games over word games, I decided to try my hand at creating a version of SpellTower – but for numbers. I started out the development attempting to jam Threes! into it, but ultimately settled on drawing inspiration from the kid’s game Fizz-Buzz (this also pops up as a simple entry level programming test quite often).
The rules off Fizz-Buzz are simple – you pick two numbers (generally 3 and 5) and designate each as either ‘fizz’ or ‘buzz’. All participants then stand in a line and begin counting successively one after the other. If a participant has to say a number that is divisible by 3, they say ‘fizz’ in place of the number – and then the same for 5 (except saying ‘buzz’). If the participant is meant to say a number that is divisible by both 3 and 5, they should say fizz-buzz. If you miss a fizz/buzz/fizz-buzz, then you’re out of the game. This is a practice that is meant to help children learn how to divide, and I remember it being a fun event (though, I was a nerd from a very early age, so maybe ‘fun’ isn’t the right word most would use).
Anyway, I smashed Fizz-Buzz into SpellTower and created Divisibility. Divisibility is a game where you have to find numbers that are divisible by either one of the numbers at the top. If you find a number only divisible by one of the other, the number at the top switches for a new number. Otherwise, you can continue with the same two numbers while building up score multipliers.
What went right
I’m really proud of how this game turned out. It looks nice (big thanks to Rami for some late night quick art assets), the game play is solid, and I think it’s a fairly engaging game. I also spent a lot of this game’s development cycle really thinking about the decisions I was making and discussing them through with other developers. I felt like I had a vision for this project and executed it in a very intentional way.
What went wrong
If you noticed, I intentionally danced around saying how long I spent on this project and referred to things such as “this game’s development cycle” instead of “this week”. In truth, I didn’t start this game until Saturday night, and didn’t even come up with any semblance of an idea for it until Saturday afternoon.
I spent the beginning of my week hanging out at Glitch City working on my larger project and then the next few days reveling in the fact that I wrote an article for Gamasutra and people liked it. The rest of my week was then spent putting pressure on myself to produce a game I could be proud of. I essentially took everything I wrote in that article – everything I’ve learned over the last 14 weeks – and threw it out the window. I found myself wandering around the house I was staying in frustrated at not having an idea and panicking over how I was going to fail immediately after telling the world how wonderful everything was.
So that happened. I let the pressure of ‘having to’ produce something cloud my ability to simply just produce something – effectively negating the entire point of Game a Week (at least for me).
Once I was able to wrap my head around what was happening in this silly little head of mine, I was able to fix it. I went for a run, took a nice long shower, and spent some time intentionally not thinking about making my game. I calmed my brain down and was finally able to focus on just creating for the sake of creating instead of as a show for others. (Funny note – even writing this summary of week 15 has been more difficult than it should have been. It’s amazing how much a larger audience can paralyze your entire brain).
In terms of the actual game, I really struggled with creating art. Even though I started the game very late in the week, I completed most of the core gameplay by early Sunday. I then decided to spend an actual chunk of time Sunday night trying to make real art assets for myself. It turns out that whatever it is that people have in their brain that allows them to see when colors look good next to each other seems to be completely missing from mine. I can appreciate things that look nice and I can picture it in my head, but trying to get it out of my head is where I truly struggle.
What I learned
Overthinking and pressure seem to completely halt my brain. Also, a cohesive color scheme and some actual time spent on art makes a game look way more finished and feel much better. I’ve learned that in addition to honing my game design skills, I can also use this challenge to work on my visual design abilities. I’ll now be spending a bit of each of my weeks focusing on the visual representation of my games.