A short comic.
A week ago the Independent Games Festival announced its Student Showcase selections for 2010. The Student Showcase has for quite a few years been a great place to see some of the best unique games and the upcoming future talent within games. Standouts from year’s past include such games like Cloud who’s team went on to create thatgamecompany (and their two award-winning games flOw and flower) and Narbacular Drop who’s ideas and team members were eventually repurposed in Portal for Valve.
This year is as strong as any other with standouts like Continuity, Paper Cakes, and Devil’s Tuning Fork. But the game that stands out as a whole experience the most is the lovely Dreamside Maroon, a game of sorts that definitely takes a little inspiration from games like Cloud, Flower, and Noby Noby Boy.
In Dreamside Maroon you play a strange little creature with a singular goal: to walk on the surface of the moon. Naturally the only way to reach the moon is by jumping on top of your infinitely-growing vine and snake your way through the starry night. There are no enemies and the puzzles are few and far between. The game is mostly pure exploration as you ride your vine across the floating islands searching for little lanterns to light and fireflies to collect. This non-threatening gameplay combined with a soothing soundtrack and a lush visual style creates an immensely relaxing environment.
The most obvious cues for Dreamside Maroon come from the games of thatgamecompany. The gameplay is highly reminiscent of flower with the same focus on moving across a landscape and finding little objects of interest that further progression. There little in the way of confrontation or conflict, but instead the player gets to dictate their own pace in completing the game. Superficially also the game lifts a lot of the stylistic elements of these games with watercolor paintings used during cutscenes and abbreviated lines of dialogue and text extending the story.
But the growth and shrink mechanic of the game also reminds me a lot of Noby Noby Boy, the game/toy/piece of abstractness from the mind of Keita Takahashi. There’s a little bit of that ingenuity in the design of the levels, especially in places where the growth of the vine and its weird movement patterns naturally lead to the next area of exploration. And creating a little spiral around a lantern trying to collect the newly-released fireflies feels just right.
Like most student game entries Dreamside Maroon suffers a little from areas that could use a little polishing. The level design is weak in a few places and they could integrate the uniqueness of growing and stretching the vine in a lot more interesting ways then they do currently. But still, the experience of the Dreamside Maroon overrides these concerns while you’re playing it. Here’s hoping the developers of Dreamside Maroon can take this idea and run with it.
In an excellent two-part interview with CVG (part 1 and part 2), Mark Morris of 2006 Seamus McNally Grand Prize award winners indie darlings Introversion gives some pretty frank answer on the problems with developing Darwinia+ for Xbox Live Arcade and some of the pitfalls in general with being an indie.
(Note: At one point Introversion created a whole website talking about the difficult process of bringing Darwinia+ to XBLA including detailed posts talking about every step of the process with accompanying internal emails within the company and from Microsoft. They said they had cleared this information with Microsoft, but apparently someone else thought otherwise so this great little resource is now gone. One of the most memorable passages from these disclosures was that during the release party for Multiwinia they rigged an actual counter to see sales go up in real-time upon uploading the game. The counter was moving so slowly they had to check and make sure that it was functioning properly.)
One of the interesting topics broached in this interview is the general business on how Introversion (and most indie studios for that matter) survive in their business.
How much does Introversion need Darwinia+ to be a success? Are you banking on it financially?
Morris: Our success is inextricably linked with every project that we make. We haven’t been able to get away from serial game development yet, which means that all of our money is generated from sales of the previous game and some back catalogue sales that really help out – Valve helps us a lot.
There is a minimum sales figure for Darwinia+, a level that it has to achieve. If it doesn’t achieve that then we don’t have enough money to continue going – simple as that. We know how much money we’re going to make from the back catalogue next year so we have to hit this minimum sales level.
So if fans want to see more they should buy this game?
Morris: Yeah, basically. That’s the message. There isn’t any other mystic source of income for us, we haven’t got reserves.
Being an independent developer who effectively doesn’t do either freelance games or licensed products, but exclusively works on their own projects is a tough road. It’s tough when a studio is a simple one or two-man operation and it becomes even tougher once you start becoming a larger indie studio like Introversion (which I believe has over 6 employees working full-time). And in a situation where you’re only as good as your last product it produces enormous pressure to not only deliver hit after hit (or at least moderate success after moderate success), but also do so in a timely fashion.
Introversion is lucky in a sense that they managed to survive one misstep, the poor marketing/release strategy for Multiwinia. And if Darwinia+ is successful on XBLA it looks like they’ll be back on track to deliver Subversion (the game) which even in its early prototype phase is already intriguing. But it’s sobering that one of the original stalwarts of the rise of indie gaming with such critically-acclaimed and loved titles like Uplink, Darwinia, and Defcon is still a single poor release or unfortunate delay away from ceasing to exist.
So it’s probably about time I started this website proper. Hi and welcome to One Week/Game (just pronounced One Week Game). This is a year-long project for me and my brand Ludoko Studios which I’ve been releasing games under since 2007.
So what is the goal of One Week/Game? The goal of OW/G is pretty simple. Make a new game every week for an entire year.
Wait a second. Back up there you’re saying. Make a game a week for an entire year? You’re probably thinking right now that you’re talking to a lunatic, a man clearly out of his mind driven to extremes by a tortured soul (or some nonsense like that). Okay, but before you close this tab and never visit again let me try to explain my rationale for such an ambitious and frankly crazy project.
First off I’m far from being original and daring here. There’s a proud history of artists and creators in various fields attempting similar projects of this scope and nature. Jonathan Coulton famous did his Thing a Week from 2005 to 2006 writing 52 songs in a span of a year. And within the games community there was the original Experimental Gameplay Project at Carnegie Mellon’s ETC program (from which such notable indie developers like Kyle Gabler and Kyle Gray first got their start) which developed a new game every week for an entire semester.
So it’s certain possible with the right motivation and proper amounts of effort. So then why am I personally doing this? How does this benefit Ludoko Studios and me?
Right now as an independent game developer I’m at a crossroads of sorts. You can only run so long on meager earnings and freelance jobs doing other things before you need to start thinking about whether or not full-time game development will work out in the long run. So this year I will inevitably need to make that big decision if making games should be my “real” job or if I would be better off doing something else somewhere else.
So in a sense OW/G is my way of doubling down on my gamble. Because my biggest problem as a game maker right now is that I simply do not make enough games. Especially for the size and scope of the games that I’m involved in my productivity should and needs to be significantly greater for any sort of success. The discipline to be productive when setting your own schedule, your own deadlines, your own milestones to me is one of the hardest part of being an independent game developer. So unsurprisingly its when there’s been outside self-imposed deadlines like Ludum Dare where I’ve shined my best. Last year with Ludum Dare I completed two games in less than 48 hours, Into the Pit and Echolon. OW/G is my way of attempting to reach that level of productivity.
So for better or for worse I’m giving this a shot. The first cycle for OW/G was from January 12th to 18th and has technically already passed. So the 1st cycle has stretched a few extra days as I add on a little more polish and basic backend stuff to push the game to a point of playability I’m satisfied with. This game from last week – Towerfall – will be released tonight for everyone to enjoy.
My plans are to keep this simple. Outside of the basic goal of completing a game roughly every week I’m not going to set any ground rules. Some games (like Towerfall) may take a little longer than a week. Other games may only take a few days. Some games will be completed during special events like Ludum Dare or the Global Game Jam. Some weeks I might try to make a game for an upcoming holiday or to fit some theme and other weeks I’ll just do whatever the heck I want. And I’ll be documenting the process the entire way with timelapse videos, post-mortems on development, rants on making games, in-progress updates, and all sorts of random other stuff.
So hopefully we can all have some fun. And make some games.
Self-improvement goal #1: Working harder on a consistent basis
To the surprise of exactly no one, games don’t make themselves. Games are the result of a lot of blood, sweat, tears, teeth-gnashing, and overall agonizing labor. To start, build, and finish game is a task that isn’t easily done with half-hearted dedication.
One of the biggest hurdles I’ve yet to fully overcome as an independent supposedly needing-to-be self-sufficient game developer is the skill to consistently be working hard on a game. Even now after six months on focusing on game development as my primary employment the rollercoaster that is my work ethic is still quite volatile. There are days were I easily can work 12 hours straight and there are other days where I’m lucky to achieve 1 hour of good work. The inconsistency hurts because it prevents accurate scheduling, its disruptive to people I collaborate with, and overall it just sucks to go through a day accomplishing little.
So my biggest goal this year is to develop this skill of hard work over consistent periods. So far over the past week and a half of 2010 I’ve tried to follow the advice I heard from Matthew and Steve from Flashbang and their development practices as discussed at last year’s GDC Austin. Regularly scheduled work periods and actually maintaining a commitment towards those scheduled periods. Single-tasking. And trying to respect the separation between work and play.
Additionally I’m attempting to utilize tools to enforce work through peer pressure. Greg Wohlwend of Intuition and Mikengreg has set up a Ventrilo chatroom (Tigvent) that goes a long way towards recreating the collaborative office environment for people working alone. My renewed focus on blogging here is partially to force me to remain relevant and engaged in game-making and the community. And I have a few other projects up my sleeve that I want to reveal that will also ensure such focus going forward in 2010.
So there’s my self-improvement goal numero uno for 2010. Now all I need to do… is actually do it.
While exploring the open world of VVVVVV (pronounced like six V’s) searching every nook and cranny I stumbled across the first beautiful image in videogames for 2010. The world of VVVVVV is full of secrets and it pays to explore every inch of the space to find new teleporters and shiny trinkets to collect. But while stumbling across these little caverns I discovered something larger – a room so large that it takes up around 4 screens worth of space. And within this room lies a amazing Technicolor glowing elephant that fills up every corner of this space. The elephant doesn’t do anything except sit there and glow with a single tear in its eye. The character Captain Viridian like he does for most of the game silently walks by. Except the usual smile on his face switches out for the frown reserved typically for deaths and cinemas. It’s strangely eerie and unsettling as a brief staccato of surrealism within VVVVVV.
It’s a wonderful moment, but for better or for worse to it belies the true nature of VVVVVV. VVVVVV, the new game by Terry Cavanagh, is with no doubt the first great indie game of 2010. Taking inspiration from the ZX Spectrum and games like Jet Set Willy and Manic Miner, Mr. Cavanagh has crafted within VVVVVV one of the most punishing gaming experiences in recent memory.
VVVVVV is – for all intents and purposes – a gamer’s game. There’s a simple storyline where you learn that you play as Captain Viridian, leading his merry ship of other characters (all of which have names that start with V), when disaster strikes. An emergency teleporter is used, things go wrong, and before you know it you’re crash-landed on planet and needing to rescue all 6 of your crew. Your method of choice (and the only method of choice) is your ability to flip. The Captain doesn’t fly or jump or even skip across the world of VVVVVV. Instead by reversing his own gravity the ceilings become floors in VVVVVV and vice-versa. It’s a mechanic whose initial simplicity is deceiving as the game VVVVVV ruthlessly sets out to explore just about every permutation of this mechanic possible.
And that’s where VVVVVV really shines. While rescuing your compatriots across 5 different levels connected by an overworld Viridian never learns any new skills, never acquires any equipment or weapons or armor. What he was in the beginning is who he remains at the end. Instead Cavanagh in each different level sets out on exploring a variation of what is possible with the flip mechanic. In one level you may encounter tripwires that reverse your orientation without regards, in another you need to race against the scrolling screen as you traverse a tower. And in perhaps the most mind-bending of these you’ll need to wrap your head around a world where every room is a loop upon itself.
Each level in VVVVVV is subdivided into individual rooms each usually containing a puzzle or obstacle (although more complex puzzles can span multiple rooms). The puzzles grow quite devious over the 2-3 hours of gameplay, starting off simple and requiring little physical dexterity, but eventually in some cases become masochistic exercises of muscle memory. It’s all expertly done and outside of one or two puzzles which require an inordinate amount of trial-and-error never becomes about overcoming one’s frustration to complete the game. VVVVVV’s structure comes down to individual micro moments then. Each room has its own checkpoint where death is but a momentary delay from retrying the puzzle all over again. The game lays out it challenges in tiny morsels, easily consumable and perfect to minute breaks.
It’s perhaps due to these micro allotments of game where the only failings of VVVVVV emerge. Success is only momentary and while the challenge grows as the mechanics of flipping are explored the game lacks a tangible sense of progress beyond revealing the hidden corners of the map. When the game ends there’s no satisfying culmination of skills nor a narrative breakthrough, but merely an end because that’s all that was developed. Not that the game doesn’t fully explore the systems and mechanics, VVVVVV has a deft touch in exploring each concept without overstaying its welcome. But there’s a bit of the sense that closure is slightly fleeting in VVVVVV.
But regardless of the ending the journey is by itself an accomplishment. As each room unravels its secrets and each improvisation of the game mechanic is dealt with there’s no doubt that what the game has is a fountain of love and passion behind it. VVVVVV with its unusual title and contrary graphics and its punishing gameplay stands out like few other titles – pure and concise, clever and brief.
Note: For better or for worse the price tag for an indie game has yet again become a subject of discussion online. VVVVVV is currently being sold for $15, an amount that while certainly not cheap isn’t anywhere as exorbitant as some would lead you to believe. It matches well with the general prices indie games of similar size and scope are priced elsewhere (indie/mainstream favorite Braid was also initially 15 dollars) and while the initial playthrough is on the shorter end of things, there exist time trials and other modes to extend the length of the game. Ignoring the clinical comparison of metrics, the ratio of ingenuity per the time spent in-game is extraordinary and that alone makes VVVVVV worth the price of admission.
(That’s pronounced like six V’s in a row like V-V-V-V-V-V)
VVVVVV is the newest game by one Mr. Terry Cavanagh and is super awesome. Don’t trust me (and I don’t blame you) then look at these reviews.
Bytejacker says “VVVVVV is retro not just in style but in focus: it’s clearly a game first and an artistic adventure second, with the player being bombarded virtually nonstop by hardcore platforming gameplay from the moment it begins to the moment it concludes.”
Anthony Burch at Destructoid weighs in musing that “VVVVVV understands exactly how hard it is. The game takes every precaution to simultaneously maintain that difficulty and allow the player to celebrate in triumphing over it”
I’ll be back tomorrow with my own review of VVVVVV!
For this year’s Independent Games Festival I submitted Ludoko’s Paranormal Puzzle Society. While I didn’t get into the final competition, I did receive a rather lengthy amount of feedback from eight anonymous judges assigned to review my game.
Paranormal Puzzle Society scored best in: Visual Art
And scored worst in: Game Design
Not a bad game at all really, but beyond the fun theming, didn’t find much compelling about the overall gameplay experience. Just a solid connect-three all and all.
Interesting game, I think the theme could be more explored – essentially you lose all of the ‘paranormal’ bits and just focus on it as a puzzler. But it is a fairly interesting one, at least in th endless mode. Not sure what to make of all of the issues with adventure mode.
I had a fun time noticing diagonals to make long lines of colors. My 4-year-old daughter did too.
A couple improvements we would have liked:
–The wilds don’t really look like wilds. We got used to it, but it took a little time. Maybe tint them the color of the chain when they’re selected as part of one?
–It would be nice if the chain line would automatically reroute (if there is a real route) when I accidentally drag over a tile of the wrong color.
I have become completely hooked. In the absence of the adventure mode (I really want to see it!) we’re flying a little blind in terms of what’s expected of us, but I also had a lot of fun just discovering how the different icons affected the gameplay in Odille’s mode. The fact that there’s a time limit brings an element of that manic Bejeweled Blitz aspect to the gameplay, and early on you honestly start to wonder how it could be possible to get a high score. Once you find its rhythm though, it’s an absolute blast. I love the visuals too… the characters and the overall presentation is gorgeous.
The game is well presented, sharp graphics and solid feedbacks give a solid puzzle experience. The two modes I saw on endless were interesting but lacked some depth in my opinion, the matches are too short and I had trouble realizing if I had gotten any better.
I have the feeling that this game would feel more at home on an iPhone in its current presentation. I was unable to try the adventure mode though (didn’t work), so maybe I’m missing something.
Sadly, the advertised adventure mode was unavailable, so I’ve based my scores solely on the endless mode.
At first I thought this was a pretty vanilla matching game but it proved to be really addictive. I look forward to playing a metagame with these kinds of puzzles integrated into it. I am a massive fan of Puzzle Pirates and I think not enough games use this kind of idea.
The artwork is superb, again looking forward to seeing more of it. More more more.
Audio-wise I got fairly bored with the music pretty quickly although I would imagine that the full release would have an option to keep sound effects while removing music, and also some more variety in the music. Sound effects were fine.
Technically the game was fine, no slow down and all graphics worked fine. A massive bug in Remy mode allowed me to achieve an arbitrarily high score – just click on the board while a line is being destroyed.
Which leads me onto the next bug – one minute in the game is about 50s in real life.
I also found that on entering a high score name, the text field for name entry was not automatically selected when I hit “submit” – I had to mouse over and select it myself. Also, the field supported carriage return (I hit enter and my name disappeared, having been moved up a line; I hit backspace and it returned), but gave me an error when I tried to submit the name. Maybe better to simply disable the enter key for this field.
I imagine that the game will have a tutorial included for the adventure mode. I found the tutorial in the current build, but it should have been the first thing I saw, or at least a link to it should have been there on the first screen. At first I thought the arrow on the title screen referred to the scores. Even if players see a tutorial in the adventure mode, I imagine you’ll be allowing them to play endless from the main menu anyway, in which case a tutorial should be evident. So it should really be easier to access it.
Minor point: arrows in the UI didn’t highlight.
Overall – visually great, looking forward to the rest of it. Good luck!
– Love it, love it. Endless “Odille” game is a fast-paced falling-block game, and the art is absolutely cute as a bug
– Haven’t really played a tile-match game like Odille before; unsure whether this is trodden territory or maybe “borrowing” from another title, but it has good ‘feel’, really nicely put together, pretty addictive
– “Remy” mode is interesting, and i like it, but not as engaging or gratifying as odille mode
– Not basing my score on “adventure” mode, obviously — was it scrapped?– but I did feel its absence 🙁
Hi there. I tend to take notes during my first playthrough in chronological order, so you’re seeing my impressions/reactions in the order I had them. Then I usually go back through and flesh out/clarify them, and maybe add some final thoughts at the end. With PPS, I played it cold without reading anything about the controls or gameplay. Obligatory caveat: you’re going to get real, unalloyed feedback from me because that’s what you paid for. I hope you find it to be useful and constructive.
(Note: one side-effect of this realtime-notes approach is that my wrong-headed assumptions about how the game works are preserved in my notes. Don’t worry, I figure it out eventually.)
FIRST SESSION FEEDBACK SPEW:
Clicking on Ludoko Studios as it loads takes you straight to website… which is probably more annoying than useful when you’re only clicking to get on with the game.
Dayum, this game be PRETTY!
Adventure mode = not working. To Endless!
At first I thought the shapes had to match as well as the colors, but then I figured out color was the thing after a few shuffles.
Sound is great, rewards/effects are great.
I often feel like the game should be spitting out more pieces more often, esp. after I’ve provably exhausted the board.
I rarely feel like I have a chance to save myself when the clock starts ticking. Kinda wish there was a way to earn back a significant amount of time… as it is, when I hear that ticking, there doesn’t seem to be any amount of shredding through big combos that can get me out from behind the 8-ball.
OMG SHAPES WORK TOO okay, that was like 12 playthroughs but I’m there now. I guess that explains why I didn’t get new pieces when I thought the board was out of moves…
Love the ascending pitch of the combo boops.
Music is making me crazy a little bit.
It sounds silly, but I was very happy when the Pause button was available for use. Great polish.
In the clutch, the laughing level-up guy occludes enough board for me to resent his presence.
My brain is starting to rewire itself to play this thing properly now. Very tricky to optimize for, I find myself watching for peripheral, orthogonal groups I might be bisecting on my current chain as I’m building it.
OKAY! Best Run: 346835 3:49 13x 8x What fun!
– Some of the items’ purposes are difficult to figure out in-game. For example, I still don’t know what the roses or skulls do, or what makes them different. At first I feared the skulls, then I saw that they didn’t seem to hurt me in any way, and then I just stared using them because they functioned as wild cards, but I always felt like I was missing something. At first I assumed the roses were for big points, but then I saw the multipliers and thought, well, that’s not it. So I used them as wild cards too. Based on my personal experience, I suspect that whatever they do (if they do something more interesting than what I described above) is too subtle in its feedback for the player to notice, and possibly too subtle in its actual effect for the player to care about.
– The role that time and timers play in the game was difficult for me to parse out and understand. I don’t know that it’s too complex, but I suspect that this is an area where a tutorial would go a long way towards players feeling like they understand the rules of the game and have a fair chance to succeed. A tutorial would also really help with the item confusion I mentioned above. Even just an old-school arcade attract mode (where you just watch the computer slowly and simply play the game with the occasional pause for an explanatory text-box/arrow) would probably get the job done.
– I often hit the right-mouse button before releasing the left-mouse button, in the hope that it will cancel me out of whatever line I’ve just drawn on the board. Sometimes this is because I make a mis-move with the mouse, other times it’s because I realize I’m about to break up a much better combo elsewhere. It could be that if I’m wishing I could cancel combos, I’m simply playing the game wrong and over-optimizing points/combo vis-a-vis combos/time, but there it is for whatever it’s worth.
– The skill requirement for playing for more than 4 minutes is very steep compared to the skill requirement for 3 minutes. While playing, I have the constant feeling that I”m losing, and that failure is inevitable. I never hit “cruising altitude,” for lack of a better term. I never felt like I was eating it up as fast the game was dishing it out. Games with really short rounds are fine with me (I’m thinking of pacifism mode in Geometry Wars, for example), but I want them to be short because I made a clear mistake, not just because the competing curves of my speed and the game’s speed inevitably crossed right around the same time they always do. If you empowered me to improve my survival odds more significantly, I think I’d play the game more and feel more rewarded while doing it.
– Similarly, the rate at which I level up and gain new shapes quickly outpaced what I was good enough to deal with. It might be worth doling those out a little more slowly, or giving the player a mode that lets them start with more shapes early on and just practice. I often go from Dude I’m Awesome to Oh My God The Screen Is Full And I Don’t See One Combo so fast it makes my head spin. In general, I think the early game is paced well, but then it goes logarithmic.
– I want the characters and artwork to relate to the game more. I know it’s a puzzle game, so that’s going to be a rickety bridge basically no matter what, but in some sense I think you may be victims of your own aesthetic success here. The milieu of the game is so solidy realized, and appealing, that I found myself really wishing I could learn more about the characters and their world. I assume Adventure mode is the place where that stuff is supposed to happen, and that it might address some of the pacing issues I brought up regarding Endless as well. Regardless, let it be known: I would love to see more of that sort of thing in this game.
Finally, let me just say that this is a great block puzzler. Super-addictive once you get the hang of it, and it rewires your brain in a way that reminds me of Quarto or Ikaruga (where you’re constantly swapping perceptual lenses in the same gamespace). The art is not only clear and functional, but also stylish and very beautiful with huge appeal. Everything about the game’s presentation screams polish and professionalism, honestly. Well done!
The feedback was far more in-depth than I anticipated. If you look around you’ll see that some people got far less feedback. Part of this was helped because I had two judges provide an essay’s worth of feedback.
Interestingly enough I expected far more harsh criticism about the game than I received. When I submitted the game one of the major modes that I had written about in my instructions, Adventure mode, was scrapped for the IGF build for various reasons. Additionally I felt the core gameplay itself wasn’t superlative and still needs some major tweaking and would be penalized appropriately by the judges. For whatever reason the judges found the game more fun than I expected.
So yeah, I’m pleasantly pleased by the whole experience. The IGF itself still has some sorting out to do and there’s plenty of discussion elsewhere on what the goals and motivations for the competition should be moving forward. But those are thoughts best left for another time.
Straight from the horse’s mouth, three judges comment on the new system used this year for IGF judging. Jens Bergensten handles describing the new judging system used (including how scores were handled) while Alex May and Michael Rose both weigh in with comments on the overall process.
As a judge this year and a finalist last year, the change of perspective was very interesting for me. I was given 14 games to judge, and less than a month in which to do it. It’s a little over two days per game in my case, and judging by the general activity of the judge comments on the individual games, many judges, like me, left it quite late before starting.
The first obstacle to overcome is having misgivings about a game before even playing it. We’ve all done it at some point – be it a screenshot, or a clumsy game description or maybe a trailer of suspect quality, it’s easy to conclude that you’re not going to enjoy a game before even installing it.
But then if a developer has put, say, a month of work in, and produced something short but sweet – but then another developer has slaved away for a whole year, crafting something wonderful with a good few hours of play to explore, should one get precedence over another? It’s a tricky one, I believe.
I’m very pleased with the moves the IGF committee has made to make the judging process transparent to people. The feedback is enormously improved from last year.
In addition to the judge’s comments, I received feedback from my own IGF entrant this year Paranormal Puzzle Society. Tomorrow I’ll post those in full along with my own thoughts and comments on the process.
The subject of the latest issue of Wired magazine is failure. And rather unsurprisingly one of the subjects taking center stage in any discussion about major failures is the now-cancelled Duke Nukem Forever. The story of DNF is well-known by now, the delays, the engine changes, the drama behind its cancellation (and if not then the article is a great summary of the downfall of 3D Realms and the Duke).
The lead for the article sums it up nicely. 3D Realms had success, had time, and had the money to make its dream project. And while there were plenty of other mistakes make along the way to cancellation and vaporware infamy, the story of Duke Nukem Forever would be much different if 3D Realms didn’t have those resources available to it. And as the article tells its story it becomes very clear: the failures of Duke Nukem Forever are a direct result of too much time and too much money. Any other project would have been released a decade earlier because of the time and financial constraints typically associated with game development. 3D Realms had the luxury of not releasing a game unless they absolutely wanted to and that became the major issue with DNF.
To compare look at the idea of art from adversity. The production of Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo was a nightmare that resulted in an amazing film. Jaws was fraught with delays and filming difficulties almost driving Spielberg to give up on the project. Even ignoring the extremes of actual adversity constraints can be enormously useful. Hemingway once said his best work was the six word story “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” Or look at the success of rapid game development competitions like Ludum Dare or the Global Game Jam. 48 hours seems like no time to complete a good game yet some of the best games of last year (like Beacon) were developed fully within this time span.
Adversity and constraints are elements that are enormously useful in the process of creation. They force you to be creative, they force you to find compelling solutions to problems, and most importantly they often force you to just complete the damn thing. With no constraints placed on themselves 3D Realms doomed themselves to the sad ending that befall Duke Nukem Forever. Let’s not let the Duke’s fall go in vain. Place constraints on your projects and you’ll end up much happier (and successful) for it.