Nov 072010

When I was younger I read and loved the Myst series of books (and, of course, loved the games). It’s been a long time and the memory is hazy now – but I believe there was a character; A young boy who went out into the world and just observed things. He looked upon the natural world, spotted something novel, and made observations. When he came home, he had to write down what he had learned that day.

And that was his “School.”

I find something about the pursuit of pure knowledge really sexy. In Myst, I love how the obtaining of the knowledge was never constrained to a single subject, or even to a physical location – he just wandered the Earth in search for something new to absorb.

When it comes to game design, I often find I learn one big thing with each game I make. It can be something rather nebulous (like how I learned all about platformers from Protonaut) or it can be something highly precise (like how I learned the ins-and-outs of the Box2D physics API with Space Squid).

The really curious side of this coin is that the length of development doesn’t seem to affect if I learn something or not. From my 5 minute game, to my 1 hour games, to my 3 month games – each carries with it a single, central lesson-learned.

So it stands to reason that if I were to do a bunch of games – rapidly – I’d learn as fast as I could!

It’s with this idea in mind that I’m embarking on a new project; a little something I’ve been calling “12G” in my GMail labels. I’m going to make a dozen games, all of them with no more than 1 day of total effort. That’s 24 hours each, per game, devoted to programming, art, sound, music, marketing, and sales (where applicable, of course).

Because I will be attempting to make money – somehow – with each of these games, the quality of idea and presentation is very important in each. I’ll have to have a good level of polish and will have to team up with Audio and Visual arts specialists.

And, with a little luck, I’ll have 12 more nuggets of knowledge in the near future. I’ll blog about each of them as they come to fruition (I already have 5 half-done!).

(I’ll update game statuses here)

  7 Responses to “12G: What did you learn today?”

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  1. Your 12G concept is such a a great idea. Like most things in software design, the KISS rule is paramount: keep it simple or you are wasting your time. For example, I’ve learned (the hard way) that I often over-engineer my applications and many times I take 12 months to write a game that realistically has just as much play value as a game I can quickly “hack” together in a few days. All those extra bells-n-whistles, unit tests, overly optimized algorithms and perfect oop accounts for next to nothing from the perspective of the end user.

    I’ve recently started a very similar project: I’ve started to collect simple game concepts in a document I call my “elevator pitch file”. One paragraph per game max.

    If I can’t describe a game idea in one or two sentences that has enough of a “hook” that a non-coder can appreciate it, I know my idea is either too abstract, too complex, or too unoriginal. After a few months I hope to have a collection of ready-to-go game designs that can be fully explained in a 15 second pitch, and hopefully programmed in a weekend or two. No more uber-complex, feature-rich, 12 month projects for me.

    I can’t wait to see your 12G projects come to fruition. Best of luck! =D

  2. Hey,

    Saying you learn “one thing” from every project is oversimplifying. It’s possible that you learn a dang lot of things from a single project (like you probably did with SteamBirds) as it is possible that you’ll learn only one thing from the 12G project as a whole.

    In any case, good luck. :)

  3. Thanks, breakdance!

    @Kevin: It’s true that I do learn more than one thing per project. I just usually learn one major, central lesson. If someone asked me “what did you learn from game ____?” I usually have a single thing that springs off the top of my head. One really stunning lesson.

    I’ve been writing up a draft for one of the games I did and I’ve already got two big learning scenarios so I guess perhaps “one big lesson” is just a minimum :)

  4. I thought you were crazy at first, until I saw that 1 day actually meant a full 24 hours :)

    I just did something similar as an experiment, only I’m trying to make “under 40 hour games” where I try some ideas based on algorithmically/randomly/procedurally generated content, and complete them in under a week. First one is up on FGL if you want to take a look:

    The real question is: can these sort of games be monetized? I guess even if you get just $1000, that’s a not-too-terrible $40/hour!

  5. @Andrew: I have a huge interest in procedurally/randomly generated content. Definitely drop me a line with any other things you come up with! I might follow your footsteps in a few months.

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