A Jam and a Rant


Another iteration of Gotland Game Jam, this time I worked with artists Zenobia Homan and Jona Marklund to create the game Masquerade [download win32]

The theme of the jam was “the Play” and Masquerade is a top-down brawler where the participants are actors on a stage using costumes lying around to act out the roles of different kinds of warriors. In all honesty, this is design-wise not very different from simply picking up new weapons, but as we all wanted to make something complete innovation took a backseat to playability. It was a while since I last made a top-down brawler but what was really new for me was the basic AI of enemies with quickly changing abilities, luckily I did not need to worry about art so I had plenty of time to get it to a functional level. The end result is nothing spectacular, but a decent diversion if I may say so myself.

Some friends and acquaintances I have in the indie scene have told me that they usually do not go to these kinds of events to create games anymore, rather they just try to have a good time and meet people. I am starting to see why – not that I do not like making short games under pressure, but the tradeoffs you make are starting to become apparent. First of all, making a game in 40 hours can be a very demanding experience that you really have to prepare for and plan around, and fun as it is there are more enjoyable and productive things to spend your time on once you have done it a few times.

But also, there is some limit to what you can accomplish. I know a lot of people are championing rapid prototyping and I do not argue that it is a good way to create good games, I just do not think it is the only way. You can create great core mechanics in a short time, but for some ideas the greatness lies in the scope. The thing separating a great game from a poor one might be production values or long iteration times as well as a great core mechanic, and I think that by being short-sighted you can loose a lot of great ideas. Alec Holowka touched upon this awhile ago. I do not really buy into the whole “If a game idea is not fun after the first two hours of prototyping it needs to be scrapped” – mindset, it reminds me of the larger games industry, the impatient industry where books are written about the concept of the “elevator”-pitch.

In short, I think the amount of time we spend on being quick is staggering and it thus misses the point. Whether we are pitching a game to a publisher or trying to sell our own image as developers to the indie crowd I think the entire game development world could benefit from more wanting to create good games and less wanting everybody to know about them immediately.

… But then again, I guess there are a lot of people who are developing good games anonymously – we just do not see them.

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Posted on Mar 01/10 by Saint and filed under General game development, Homegrown | No Comments »