Game a Week: Week 38



The idea for this week started out drastically different than the final product.

As it was my last week in the Netherlands for a while, my week was filled with sightseeing and “Dutch things”.  When you’re on a road trip through the entirety of the Netherlands, it’s hard not to wonder about how wind turbines and wind power works. After some research on the use and regulation of wind turbines, I decided that a game about maximizing the power output of a set of turbines based on the environment around you would be an interesting concept to explore.

I wanted to create a game where you would have to manage whether a wind turbine was turned on or off based on the wind patterns, weather, and bird flight paths. The more efficient your use of these, the more prifitable you would become, and thus, the more wind turbines you could install. It was basically going to be a game of managing resources (money, wind power, turbines) for maximum output.

After creating a simple sprite for a wind turbine and programming the on/off control, I decided to take a last minute trip to Berlin on my way to Cologne for GDC Europe and Gamescom to attend the Local Multiplayer Summit there. This was an amazing event, but unfortunately caused me to procrastinate on finishing this game until the train ride from Berlin to Cologne on Sunday afternoon. As I also hadn’t finished creating the slides for my talk that would occur early the next morning, I began to panic a little bit. One of my fellow attendees of the Local Multiplayer Summit suggested that I just simply scrap the idea that I already had and instead turn my presentation slides into my game for the week.

So, I did just that. I stopped work on the wind turbine game and began sketching out tiny little mini games for me to use on each slide of my presentation. I limited myself to a self-contained scene for each slide and wanted to ensure that each scene related to the subject I was talking about at the moment.

What went right

In terms of the wind turbine game – I made a pretty nice little wind turbine (that also turned on and off). So, that was cool.

As for the GDC Europe presentation slides, I think that a lot went right with them. After sketching out every idea that I wanted to incorporate, I prioritized each one in the order of importance. This allowed me to easily cut slides as the night went on. This was especially important as I only had about 20 hours to finish creating the entire game. I also reached out to someone that I knew would be able to create the art that I needed quickly and efficiently (thanks again, Andrew). I kept to a simple art style and made sure that each scene would only need a minimal amount of artwork to get its point across. Each game was kept as simple as possible, and I focused on the message of each slide instead of attempting to create something grand.

On the presentation side of things, I did two things, in particular that proved to be super helpful:

1) I added cheat keys. Each scene (slide) had an override key to allow me to simple skip forwards or backwards in the case that something went terribly wrong (i.e. an unforeseen breaking bug). Additionally, there is a bug that still remains in the final product that causes my character to fall through the floor. As I didn’t have enough time to fix it, I simply added a shortcut to reset the player’s position in each scene.

2) I sat down and typed out every single word that I wanted to say in my presentation into a text document. I wrote it exactly as I would want to say it and worded exactly how I wanted to say it. I put this text document onto an iPad, rehearsed from it before hand, and used it during the presentation itself.

Basically, as this was essentially going to be a live performance of me playing a game I made less than 24 hours beforehand (while attempting to say all of the things I wanted to say), I had to make sure that I prepared for as many things as possible.

What went wrong

I never got to explore the wind turbine idea. I think that it had a lot of potential as a way for me to explore a game about resource management, but through procrastination and then distraction by a “better” idea, it will sadly be thrown away forever. I debated for a while on whether or not I should discard the idea entirely (as in never to return to it again during the Game a Week challenge) or simply push it off until a later week and ultimately decided to do the former. One of my favorite parts of the Game a Week challenge is that it very quickly uses up the ideas that are in my head. By doing this every single week, there is always a void in my brain that is available for new ideas to seep into. I didn’t want to fill that part of my brain with an idea that could potentially sit around for weeks on end.

I will think of a new way to explore resource management, and it will build on the tiny bit of knowledge that I gained from even thinking about the original wind turbine idea. So, even though I’m sad that I won’t explore it further, I don’t think that it is a waste to no longer pursue it.

What I learned

This week reaffirmed the notion of trying things even when they sound ridiculous.

Here’s the GDC talk in its entirety for you to watch!

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