During OrcaJam a few of us were wistfully reminiscing about a “5 minute game” stunt Petri Purho did at GDC two years ago. Talk soon turned to whether or not a 5 minute game is possible at all, and what it would take to make it happen.
I leaned back in my chair, with my hand on my chin. 5 minutes is pretty long, isn’t it? And a basic “avoider”-style game wouldn’t be too hard to make in that time… Would it? I mean… Yeah… I can do it, right?
Colin Northway immediately demanded I put my skills to the test in a public forum – on the projector at OrcaJam with a crowd observing. It wasn’t long before a few more joined in, as well!
Round 1: Me!
Being the first entrant of the 5-minute-challenge, I decided to stack the odds in my favour as best I could; I mapped out (on paper) what my game flow would look like, and decided on using simple mouse controls. I’m allowed to start with an open “new project” in FlashDevelop, and I chose to not use any frameworks or library software of any kind. Straight-up from-scratch AS3 code!
And the horn sounds! 5 minutes is counting down on a nearby clock. The crowd heckles me as I type – sometimes making suggestions on “what I should have done” – definitely should have worn some headphones! It’s quite distracting.
I managed to get a working build in at around 5:40, but not in any state that I would call playable. Turns out I was going to fail the 5 minute challenge. In the end it took me 11:15 to get the game to where I had envisioned. :C
Round 2: Chevy Johnston
Chevy wanted to show off how his game framework, FlashPunk, could make a more complicated game in under 5 minutes. Brazenly going in without any preparation, the clock was set and he was off!
Chevy benefited a bit from a receptive crowd – there was a few ooohs and aahs as he slammed out some magical code with blazing speed. No heckling for this codemonkey!
Partway into his game design he ran into a bit of scope-shock, and decided to ditch his original game design and do a basic replication of mine (costing him precious seconds!). Chevy also lost a time-draining 30-45 seconds on setting up and tweaking keyboard inputs though! A terrible mistake?
At approximately 6:30, Chevy finished his game – another side-scrolling avoider with an interesting gameplay twist (while not moving to avoid things, your speed increases dramatically!).
Round 3: Mike Lee
Mike wanted a go too, and would be using Flixel for his portion of the challenge. He also started with a blank project in FlashDevelop and was also going in without any form of planning (like a madman!).
By this point, a full gaggle of developers had crowded around the projector and were announcing play-by-plays as the code was rapidly produced. Though it sounds like it might be a bit encouraging, I can imagine it was terribly distracting.
Wasting a few minutes on a silly collision-detecting bug didn’t help things, and setting up a keyboard control handler took a little longer than my mouse routine, but in the end Mike churned out an awesome game in only 8 minutes.
He not only implemented the same game that Chevy and I did – but he also included a score counter, and “gold” pickups as well! Definite bonus points for that, despite clocking in a bit beyond Chevy’s time.
What surprised me the most, and made my heart sink, was how quickly the first minute went by. Colin announcing “1/5th of the way complete!” stunned me – I had just barely started typing some basic setup items and declaring functions! I think both Mike and Chevy agree with me here – the first minute or two go by way faster than any of us had ever planned (even after watching others fail before you).
With all my knowledge and experience gained, I don’t think I can drop my time much more than a minute or so. I was typing fairly fast and did exactly what I want with a few typos being my only bugs… I think 10 minutes is my theoretical minimum time!
Chevy thinks he can definitely get in under 5 minutes if he streamlines his keyboard controls and starts out with a properly-scoped plan in mind. Mike thinks he could have gotten in under 5 minutes, too, if he didn’t run into his collision detection bug.
Can you do better?
Open up a new project window and stretch your hands – It’s only going to take 5 minutes of your time, give it a whirl! See for yourself what exactly you can accomplish in a short timespan. Maybe you can be the first to create a true 5 minute game!