This week was fun because I spent my entire week staying in the home of my super talented game designer friend, Lisa Brown. As I’ve been notoriously bad at starting my Game a Week games far enough in advance to properly explore them, she swiftly began the week by pushing me into a few design exercises. We, together, brainstormed a multitude of ideas by utilizing the elemental tetrad (as learned from Jesse Schell in his book The Art of Game Design: A book of lenses). We made columns for each of the four design elements (mechanics, aesthetics, technology, and story) and spent a short amount of time on each element individually, writing down anything that seemed interesting to me and/or was was available to me for the week. After working with each column individually, we drew connections throughout the four columns (yes, even with help from Mr. Davis) and discussed the pros and cons of each idea until I settled on the one that seemed the most likely to hold my interest and be completed in a week: “A networked multiplayer memory game about travel”.
My original plan for the week when thinking about this idea was to create a game that integrated into google maps and had players work together to do something. As I found it harder and harder to conceptually flesh out this idea, I decided to focus a little more heavily on the “memory game” aspect of the idea instead of the “travel” aspect. While accompanying Lisa on her daily task of taking Mr. Davis for a walk, the game idea quickly evolved into a game where two players would both be shown a board (one with hazards and one with the ultimate goal to reach) where they would have to work together in order to safely make it from the start to the finish.
What went right
This week I was forced to start my game early. Having somebody around to constantly encourage me (see: un-relentlessly badger me) to work and knock me out of the periods of procrastination was wonderful. When I first started Game a Week, I used the internet and twitter as something to hold myself accountable in order to get anything done. Now that Game a Week is so engrained into my weekly cycle, I’ve found it easy to put it off until the last minute. . .because as long as I meet the Sunday deadline – I did it. This has resulted in many weeks where I spend Saturday panicking and Sunday staying up until 6am. It was refreshing to work on something before Saturday hit!
This week, I also playtested a paper prototype version of the game before delving into the technical side of it. To be totally fair, Lisa made the paper prototype, but we took it to Game Häus and played through it a few times with some of her friends (before our session of Betrayal at House on the Hill). This immediately made apparent a few inherent flaws in the original design and allowed me to find that one “thing” that was missing from the design (and was keeping me from really starting working on it).
Another thing that went very well this week was that I had another person around me who had the time, energy, interest, and experience to joint design the game with me (and had the gumption to push herself into my guarded wall of game dev process). I find that as indies, we almost pride ourselves on working alone and “having to do everything”. Even while on teams, it seems as though we take on every roll we can and clutch onto them with ever fiber of our being. This week was a wonderful reminder that utilizing the ideas and experiences of another person can help alter your games in ways that you wouldn’t think of any other way. This is why being part of a diverse community feels so important to me – when you bounce your ideas around with someone who has a different background/experiences/ideals than yourself, new and wonderful ideas flourish.
What went wrong
I was incredibly resistant to working on my game in an appropriate timeline. For all of the times Lisa asked me how my game was going, I had a whole slew of excuses fresh and ready for her. Even with the encouragement to work on it so early, I still managed to have to stay up way too late on Sunday night to finish it. Because of that, I didn’t have enough time to really make the networking portion of the game as robust as I had hoped. There’s tons of bugs with the network connections and it makes the game unplayable more than I would have hoped.
What I learned
I pretty much covered the “What I learned” portion up in the “What went right” section, so just go read that again. TL;DR: People are wonderful idea makers, procrastinating is bad, and playtest your game.