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Thoughts on my "Week of Games" experiment

so a little over a week ago, I decided to embark on a experimental (for me) game-making project, in the hopes it would lead me out of the creative funk I've been in for a month. the plan was to make one game a day, with a sheer time limit of one hour per game, for 7 days in a row. of course, I'm not going to pretend this is some kind of new idea I just came up with- incredibly fast paced "trainwreck" games were one of the first ideas behind Glorious Trainwrecks! what is new is getting myself to stick to this one-hour rule.

sticking to a short schedule has always been difficult for me, so I wanted to see if I could re-approach fast paced game design in a rigourous way. over-commitment has been a thorn in my side, as I regularly want to take breaks from large projects by making something short and scrappy, but so often they end up becoming another large, time-consuming project when I keep coming up with more ideas for it without limiting the potential scope. so the result is I either put a prior project on hold, or I effectively cancel something I had suddenly become very passionate about. yowch!

thankfully, my Week of Games experiment was very successful, and I feel like I learned a lot along the way. I'll be spending the rest of this post detailing my process for making each game, my thoughts on how it went, and concluding each with the lessons I've gotten out of it. also, if you got here without seeing the games first, you can find them here!

1) Monday: "Monday"

to kick off the first game, I decided I would write something in Twine 2, to avoid any possible technical issues from a more complicated engine. I didn't want to hesitate while I tried to come up with a subject, I just wanted to immediately start making *something*, which in this case quickly became a simple Choose Your Own Adventure story from the perspective of Garfield the cat. you know, because Garfield hates Mondays! haha, what a silly cat!

since I don't actually like Garfield, I had no personal investment in the material, so if the story ended up being a total flop when time was up, I wouldn't feel bad about it. in the end, I wrote about 10-15 minutes worth of text, which is a great pace for the work of just one hour! it was an easy process, because I made up everything up on the spot. it's a very silly game, but it was fun to make, which is exactly what I wanted to get out of this experiment.

CONCLUSION: writing nonsense works well if the only ending you have in mind is an arbitrary time limit, because that way you don't have to worry about fitting in some kind of arc. it just happens, and then it's over!

2) Tuesday: "Tuesday"

similar to the previous game, for Tuesday I had an immediate association that I then fit the rest of the game around. Underworld's song "Spoonman" has a sample of somebody saying "Tuesday", so I made a minute long re-arrangement of the song focusing on that sample. from there, I had a restraint on what the game itself would be- it would last as long as the music.

continuing the theme of the day, I decided the goal would be finding Tuesday. I put down a random klipart background and spread out copies of it into a 10-by-10 grid, creating the playing field. I started replacing as many grid squares as I could with different klipart backgrounds to create a textured and diverse world. Some of the images were sourced from a calendar, so that finding the square labeled "Tuesday" could be the winning condition.

unfortunately, I planned the scale of the game quite badly. 10-by-10 seemed like a nice size at first, but I eventually realized that it was demanding I gather 100 unique pieces of art to fill it completely! I had to repeatedly redo the grid dimensions until it was a reasonable size. this cost a lot of time, leaving the remaining art choices and all of the coding in a rushed state. most of the tiles are the default I set, and the ending conditions do the exact opposite of what I intended. oh well!

CONCLUSION: planning out an appropiate scale for the scope of your time committment is difficult, but necessary. this was a good lesson to run into for what was supposed to be a very simple game, because one of my biggest problems is how often I plan games that are *way* bigger than they have any need to be!

3) Wednesday: "Cycle The Recycling!"

on Wednesday morning, I helped my mom take all of the recycling we had laying around the basement to a recycling depot. during the ride back, I was thinking about making a game to reflect the experience. after my lesson from yesterday, I knew I had to make something simple. so the plan was to have recyclables randomly fall from the ceiling, leaving it up to the player to drag each item over to the appropiate bin (e.g., plastics, glass). it would be a cute little game, as well as educational!

however, I ended up spending most of my time searching for real life photos to use as graphics! I love the look of the game, and I am glad for the work I put into it, but after implementing basic physics and a scoring method, I didn't have time to actually let the player control what was happening. all you can do is watch the bottles, cans, and broken electronics bounce into each other and fall into the bins. but it's kind of fun to watch, and hope for luck to be on your side and correctly "cycle" the recycling!

CONCLUSION: finding / making a visual aesthetic you like for a game is a considerable task not to be taken lightly. if you don't have assets on hand to use immediately, be prepared for work.

4) Thursday: "Help Nikki Shave"

CONTENT WARNING: discussion of dysphoria

for Thursday, following the reality of yesterday's game, I decided I would follow it up with something more personal- in this case, my difficult experiences with shaving. I used to not mind my facial hair, but when I decided to try out shaving my whole face, I realized that I liked it better that way. more recently, I had to confront the fact that my facial hair causes me dysphoria, which I had been avoiding admitting. it felt good to imagine processing that through a game where the player helps me shave.

unfortunately, the initial result only made me feel worse. my first approach was to use a real photo of myself, and distort my appearance with klipart to prevent it from being *too* real. when the hour was up, I immediately rushed to share it on Twitter, as I had for the previous games. unfortunately, in my excitement with having completed a game, I ignored my own feelings. the way I had made myself look in the game was frankly ugly, which worsened my dysphoria, instead of helping me process it. I deleted the tweet, and said I was putting this game on hold to re-evaluate it. I needed to treat my image with care and self-respect for the game to succeed.

I revisited the game later and redid the art in ms paint. decky, one of my partners, helped with the drawing and art direction, which I'm very grateful for. instead of an exaggeration of physical traits I dislike, the game now shows an abstract but much more comfortable representation of myself and my facial hair. I feel good about it and in the end I'm glad I had this idea, and that I spent extra time making it better for myself.

CONTENT WARNING OVER

CONCLUSION: making a game handling a personal/serious subject is not something to be taken lightly, especially if there is a tight time limit on it. also, taking care of yourself is more important than the performance of sharing something in public.

5) Friday: "A Conversation"

after having been immersed in Clickteam for several days, I wanted to try out a different engine to test out part of an idea I had laying around, an "everything simulator" that lets you type anything and creates a consistent state based off of the keywords you give it. I guess it'd basically be an interactive Inform 7, but whatever! anyhow, I chose to try making A Conversation in Twine 1. I was going to use Twine 2, but it gave me technical challenges for retrieving player input that I didn't want to grapple with for my one hour!

I wanted to make a simple but technically rich simulation of a conversation between two characters of the player's choice, allowing them to have each character speak/think/act out whatever they choose to write. I'm happy with the result and while it demands a lot of creative input from the player to accomplish anything, it was a neat little experiment and I'm pleased I was able to complete it so quickly. that said, I *did* spend some time planning the design of it before I started the timer, and I went beyond the original time limit to properly implement the pronoun selection mechanic. I didn't want to be stressed out by trying to design an engine on the fly, and hey, pronouns are important!

CONCLUSION: in-depth technical design is best handled outside of tight deadlines, as creative foresight is often needed to work around/with limitations.

6) Saturday: "Frogger 2 Advanced: The Greater Quest"

some of you probably know that I am a fan of the Frogger series. I find it fascinating that every game in the series recreates the entire Frogger universe. one of my favourite examples is the dreadful GameBoy Advance port of Frogger: The Great Quest. the GBA version turns the pre-rendered cutscenes into static screenshots with abrupt dialogue snippets. the uninspired 3d platforming gameplay of the original is turned into a banal 2d platformer, while retaining some of the awful collectathon traits. the best part is that if you don't find *all* of the special Ruby Stones or whatever junk, you get a bad ending that they made up just for this port. wow! I can't imagine being that cruel.

anyhow, I had the idea of making a classic "trainwreck platformer", and position it as another GBA port of a sequel to the original Frogger: The Great Quest. hence, my awkward title is meant to turn "Frogger 2: The Greater Quest" into "Frogger 2 _Advanced_: The Greater Quest". another aspect of the joke is that there are about four different, official "Frogger 2" games, and each has almost no familiarity with the game it is apparently a sequel to.

CONCLUSION: through this week's journey, I have finally found myself getting over a flaw (from my perspective) of my game design. specifically, I'm finally capable of making a complete, but absurd to play, trainwreck game in just an hour! woohoo!

7) Sunday: "You Can Only Shy 80 Times"

I probably spent more time on this than all the other 6 combined, but I'm fine with that! after my mostly-positive experiences with making games at a ridiculous pace, I was thinking about ways to turn it into a more regular practice for myself. such as, say, spending one day a week making a new game that I would finish within that day. so I'm going to excuse breaking my only rule of "finish in one hour" with this game, by saying that it's the first attempt at that! not that I need to excuse it in the first place. but anyhow.

I planned out exactly what I wanted the game to be before I opened up the Clickteam editor, which made putting it together a very focused task. the only goal I had was to make a sensible example of the parody title, which is a riff on another game I helped make, "You Can Only Die 80 Times". what does it mean to "shy"? well, that's if somebody says hi and you don't respond! how do you know how many times you've done it? a shyness meter! the rest of the game made itself from there. well, other than the day/night cycle I implemented for some reason.

a lot of my time was spent dealing with a significant technical issue: I wanted the speech bubbles to follow the character who it belongs to, making it clear who is saying what. for some reason, I found this conceptually simple task impossible to implement correctly, which was frustrating. and I was too invested in what I wanted the game to be to let it be unplayably broken! however, when I finally gave up on this one detail, and saw what it was like to have the speech bubbles remain static, I actually preferred it that way. so that was a good save.

also, when I picked out some nice midi music and set it to shift between two different soundfonts based on the day/night cycle, I was so enthused about the result that I made the decision to not put in an abundance pf silly sound effects. while I always enjoy that process, I think it would have only been a distraction from the bliss of the music. going against my typical / initial ideas made for a better experience! as a final aside, the player character (or "PC") is a "player chair"! get it?

CONCLUSION: if you are running into a block, whether technical or creative, try subverting the expectations that are forming the block. maybe it'll be better that way, maybe not! either way, it's good to experiment with going against your own expectations. as they say... "rules are made to be broken" - the matrix

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Game Preview: Captain Teen IN: Search For The Fountain Of Youth (It Is Made Of Mountain Dew)

IT IS THE YEAR 88 ATA [After Teen Apocalypse] AND CHAOS RULES ALL THE LANDS

Responsible Adults have finally gained control of the Earth Command Central after the recent Great Delinquent Uprising of '85, but are still cleaning up the structural damage caused by thousands of cans of sprayable cheese. Every day law-abiding Adults must be still be on a cautious look out for roaming "teen talk" runes. Last week Prime Super Ruler Tom was sucked into a skateboard park vortex, and has not been seen since! Thankfully their 40-years-old child Bom has taken over the role of Prime Super Ruler. Most is well and content in these days, however, as the Teen Scourge (really, just a tad annoying usually, but whatever) has been eradicated once and for all... or has it?

[It actually hasn't, which is the main conflict in Captain Teen: Battle Of The Ages. Sorry for ruining any suspense there.]

According to RRRRR (Recent RadaR RepoRts), Hangout Zones around the big city (during the industrial revolution, 45-56 ATA, the entire planet became covered by a single totally connected city) have been subtly invaded, on sound-dampening skateboards, by Wild Delinquents! It was previously believed that none could cross the slurpee minefield surrounding all entrances between the city and the shopping malls, the locked in home of all reckless teens, but the RRRRR don't lie...

Only in such dire circumstances, as teens are capable of cloning themselves instantly, because of their diet of horror movies and nachos, and could quickly fill up the Hangout Zones and start spilling over into areas that the public cares about, Prime Super Ruler Hom (Bom just got caught by a water-bucket-on-the-door trap, as is being rushed to the hospital) calls up their last resort... well actually their first resort, since they don't have any other things to resort too.... CAPTAIN TEEN!

Born -8 ATA, Captain Teen was, for the start of their life, just like any average teen. Listening to annoying music their parents were unable to comprehend, trashing the Trash Factory, playing video games instead of applying for retail jobs, and so on. However, on the outbreak of the Teen Apocalypse, something amazing happened. They, at the exact second of the first spitball fired, tried to drink coca-cola, pepsi, dr. pepper AND liquefied cheetos at once from four separate cans, with four separate straws! Coincidentally, at the same nanosecond they were hit with a cosmic ray that had bounced off of the Moon, originated from the planet X492-F293!

None of this actually did anything, but it was interesting. Twelve years later, the future Captain Teen fell into a wormhole while surfing some solar waves, and fending off some totally boring galactic police/fun suckers! What came out, however, was no longer a 19 year old who refused to like, grow up and stuff, but the polar opposite: a 20 year old who gave up trying to fight the inevitability of working behind a desk for the rest of their life!

This strange being, rare in 12 ATA after the destruction of Office Depot, and consequently all useless paper jobs, was instantly a rallying figure for all Responsible Adults (previously they had tried to join over things such as Scrabble and tea). Captain Teen, as they soon became named for their ability to still blend in inconspicuously with hip teens, was a powerful figure in stopping the constant fighting. By 20 ATA, almost all teens were forced into staying in super malls, where the automatic food machines and goth clothing stores kept them content. Due to their amazing abilities, Captain Teen has been cryogenically frozen, and revived when needed, over the past decades. And now... they are needed again!

*RING RING* goes the Teen Alert Phone next to Captain Teen's sleeping chamber. It activates the wake up process, and within an hour (after Captain Teen says "just 5 more minutes" a dozen times), they finally answer the annoying machine.

"Captain! We need! You!"

"What is going on, Gom?" [note: Hom was busy watching Jeopardy! and so retired from their position as ruler.]

"Teens invading! Hangout zones! Flooded with candy wrappers! Help!"

"What do you want me to do?"

"Convert! The entitled jerks! Into upstanding! Citizens!"

"Easy enough... Why are you shouting so much, anyhow?"

"I caught! An! Annoying exclamation! Teen talk rune! In my throat!"

"Okay, whatever. I'm on my way out to the happenin' Teen Zones."

"Over and! Out!"

Captain Teen left the room, taking the most recently updated Guide To Teen Talk Runes with them as well as some horribly cold coffee. As they flipped through the pages, they realized how out of date the information on teen language was. The current Guide was published in '83, two years before the last uprising! Captain Teen realizes they will have to quickly brush up on their skills with some newly created teens before attempting to go after the leaders.

CAN CAPTAIN TEEN SAVE THE CITY FROM THE NEW HORDE OF TEENAGERS? WILL CAPTAIN TEEN EVER FIND A CUP OF FRESH COFFEE? DO THESE QUESTIONS MATTER? IS ANYBODY GOING TO BOTHER READING ALL OF THIS?

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