How's The Game Going?

When you turn making a game into your day job, odds are you're going to hear this question a lot: How's the game going?

I hear this question every day, usually from one or two people and sometimes (when events like Bit Bash come around) from dozens of people. I honestly do appreciate the many people who care enough to check in on me and the game, but the social context in which people ask me this question aren't right for a full answer. I usually respond that it's going really well, that I'm planning to launch in the fall and that there's a lot left to be done. These are all true, but they aren't the whole truth.

So. How's the game going?

I'm more proud of this game than I've been of anything else.
I'm hopeful the game will be good, but worried that people won't get it.
I'm worried I won't finish on time.
I'm worried my peers think the game is a joke. I know it's not.
I'm afraid there's infinite things to do and that there always will be.
I'm afraid the game won't sell and that I'll have to get a job I hate.
I feel overwhelmed when things are out of my control.
I'm afraid my writing is bad and nobody will laugh.
I think everything is going to work out fine.
I'm worried nobody will play the game after the first few months.
I'm afraid the game will sell well and then my next game will be shit.
I still laugh all the time when I'm playing and testing.
I don't feel a sense of impostor syndrome as much anymore.
I think I'll be depressed once I don't have the game to work on.


Designing With Perspective

     I met up with a partner on my current project today to work on fleshing out our game’s world and it went really well. Over the course of 3 and a half hours, we made significantly more progress than I’ve made in many design sessions in the past. Zac is a good designer to be sure, but I think our success should be attributed more to team dynamics.

    In our meeting, the common thread of productivity was this: For each design task, one of us would ask a question and the other would give an answer. We would then volley answers back and forth, refining our ideas until we had something that made sense. Often this would lead directly into other questions until we'd covered the design of a whole section of our game. Through this process of collective design (sometimes referred to as design-by-committee), we managed to multiply the perspective we had in discussing each problem. I've heard that this style of design only works with a smaller group (7+ is when it supposedly goes downhill) and I prefer working in small groups, so I tend to keep each design meeting small. This leads me to another interesting lesson I've learned from our design process going into this game.

    Having multiple perspectives while looking at a problem or when brainstorming ideas will give much better and more interesting results. For Godlands (our working title) our team is being advised by two local artists, Lilli Carré and Kevin Zuhn who have a very different prospective. Lilli is a fine artist with a focus on comics and animation, while Kevin is the creative director indie-darling studio Young Horses who recently released their first game Octodad: Dadliest Catch. Both have had a big impact on the game so far just by offering their perspective on our design choices. The point I'm getting at is that everyone can only see through the lens of their own life and so having others look at your work, give feedback and ask questions that you might not have considered is a good thing.

    Going back to my meeting today with Zac: Having both of our perspectives when it came to designing our world and in answering design questions about our mechanics and characters allowed us to better discuss and suss out the next best steps for our game. If there's a takeaway from this, I guess it would be to think of feedback and advice and partners as a different, valuable perspective that might be just reveal what your game needs.

2013 Post Mortem

2013 has been a big year for me in a lot of ways.

In January, I did Global Game Jam and made a game outside of class for the first time. I had never heard of a game jam or thought it was possible to just sit down an make a game before GGJ. I went on a whim, joined a group with people I'd never met and worked really hard to make something great. After two days of hilarious, stressful, sleepless, amazing days our game got second place at the jam and the feedback we got was really inspiring. I was hooked.

In March, I used Unity for the first time and learned how little I would be able to do as a game designer if I couldn't program. In a class on game production, my professor Patrick got everyone to open up a game engine and prototype a simple game mechanic. He let us pick our poison, but recommended everyone learn Unity since it was (and still is) exploding in popularity. I followed his advice, and made a small game where you click endless dots that fall across your screen. It took me hours and I'm not ashamed to admit it. That experience showed me how useless I was at making a game by myself.

In May, I went to some late hours event at school, and happened to meet some upperclassmen students who were as passionate as I am. The difference between us at the time was that I had no skills. I had nothing I could write down on a resume that would get me a job, but they all did. It was humbling, but encouraging. I still had time. For a while after, I was really scared for my future and worried that I didn't have what it takes to make games. Regardless, after school ended for the year, I started my summer off determined to learn as much as I could. 

In June, I started making my own games and participating in every game jam I could find. I've made a 3rd person platformer, a first-person horror game, a spherical tower-defense game an endless runner and several others. None are perfect or even all that good, but I made them all and I learned an insane amount in the process. I'm still very much addicted to game jams, and now I'd even say I've got skills that will get me a job.

In July, I started as an intern at Robomodo, designing levels and programming stuff wherever I could. The guy that hired me was the same professor that initially advised me to learn Unity. I've had the opportunity to work with and learn from experienced developers on a daily basis, while helping work on commercial titles for college credit. It's been a lot of fun, and I've learned a great deal in my time there.

Going Home

 I finally got around to playing through Gone Home. After a few minutes of playing I was deeply invested in the story and running back and forth across the house looking for more notes, journals and artifacts to learn more about it's residents. The most impressive thing about the game is how convincing and honest it's story and characters are. It's clear from the get go that every foot of space in the house, every object, every untold backstory has been lovingly crafted and carefully considered by the Fullbright Company. Over the course of three hours or so, I feel like I really got know this family by creeping around their house and looking at all their stuff. While I realized early on that I was basically lurking around in a stranger's home, pawing through all their stuff, I got over it pretty quickly and found myself immersed in this new type of narrative. Anyways, I've spoiled the game's format and shape, but I don't want to get into the content itself. Just go play it.