And Then You Keep Making Games

Right, it’s Monday evening so it must be time for me to eke out another post about my Year of Games. Today I thought I’d at least mention the not-so-secret sauce we call Keep on Keepin’ On.

It was always the case, from Let There Be Smite! on, that I had the “next game” in mind while I was in the middle of making the current one. Not that I worked on the next game (though I sometimes wonder about trying that out as a way to keep fresh), but rather that it was always clear what to do once the current game was done and released.

That meant a couple of things. One is that as soon as I finished any given game, maybe with a gap of a day or two at most, I’d start working away on the next one. The other thing that it meant is some pretty hefty doses of near burn out on game making. On the balance, though, I don’t think I’d want to do it any other way just because my inner making-things voice always warns me that if I take a break from it all, I might not start again. And so I have a kind of voice in my head that abuses me pretty swiftly if I’m not onto the next project fast enough.

I’m not sure if that’s something I can recommend as if it’s a “method” of game making – rather, it’s just how I seem to feel about it. It fits well with smaller projects, of course, because I’m really only working on any given game for about six-ish weeks at a time. And naturally life intervenes at various stages and means I can’t get anything done on a project for a while. Nonetheless, I like to always have something underway, rather than pausing between. When I got massively disrupted before coming to New Zealand, for instance, I was actually in the middle of working on a music game, so felt like I was still “doing something”, even though I made very little progress. I made Let’s Play: Ancient Greek Punishment as a kind of break from that music game, actually, just because it was fairly easy to implement. (As one person complained on a forum somewhere, it’s “just a bunch of flash animations”!)

The impression I get on starting out, anyway, is that you’re probably better off making a bunch of games, one after the other, without too much concern for polish, or replayability, or audience reception. At worst, you’ll have plenty of practice with putting things together rapidly, and at best you might actually make some stuff people enjoy – an experience I’ve been lucky enough to have. Best of both worlds. It’s probably tempting to work on some large-scale passion project from the get go, but I suspect that could be a bit soul crushing, basically. Still, not having tried that approach, I can’t say for sure. Just that what I’ve been doing has worked for me.

One thing I can say for trying to churn out games is that you might go fast enough to leave some preconceptions about “how games are” behind, just because you won’t have time to think it through. I’m not sure I’d have made something like Trolley Problem, for example, if I’d stopped to think too hard about whether it was really a particularly good idea. But having made it, I’m very glad I pushed on blindly!

With all this in mind, I’ve blithely claimed I’ll make 20 games in 2012. That actually already strikes me as pretty stupid when I think about the pace and the fact I’m not that close to finishing my current new game. Instead I’m angling more toward claiming I’ll get to 20 games this year, which would only require me to make 12. One a month is maybe doable, pending various developments in the year itself, of course.

On with the show!

9 January 2012
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