The practise of fun – #1GAM reflections

I participated in the #1GAM challenge last month. In this blog post, I’ll share a bit of what was going behind the cut-sceens while I was working on my game.

I was in the middle of moving (still am), both kids were ill, I had my main card game project going on…

…yet I decided to participate. Why was that?

How on earth could I find time to create a game starting 30th of March (that’s when I got the idea to join the event), ending 31st of March.

Luckily I had too little time to think whether I could do it or not. I decided I’d do the challenge, and that’s it.

Day 1:
I collected some notes from my previous designs that I come up with every now and then. I wanted to create something really simple, but something that gives player interesting decisions to make. Something easy, fast to play. Something for single player. Something with playing cards.

I had this idea about a game where you must balance “short term benefits” and “long term benefits” and also see what the lady luck brings to you. That was my starting point. I used some of my earlier notes, and soon I had the barebones version done, and list of cards that I’d need. I started the design thinking that there should be maximum of 32 cards, because that’s the smallest Tuckbox size for game crafter service (I wanted to make sure I could also order this deck physically if I ever wanted).

I then drew art, and colored it. I shared my progress via twitter too.

Then something interesting happened. Not sure if it was day 1 or day 2, but nevertheless: I redid all the art (10 cards). Somehow the colors of those chaps wasn’t pleasing my eye, so I decided to redo them… really quick. And I feel that the new art (that took minutes to draw – I needed to take care of the kids too here…) really fit well. I was very pleased.

Day 2:

Then it was the release date. Final day of the challenge. Odd thing to say “final” when there’s just 2 days, but to me it was final. It was feature-freeze time (I’d hope) and start wrapping things up.

I decided to simply use the existing engine I had for solo playtesting. I thought that would be easiest way to get release happening. I took the engine, and made couple of playtests, prepared art, tweaked a few factors (reduced cost of some cards, changed amount of cards and such) and it was good to go. I also prepped website and created rulebook.

…all this while packing my office preparing to move, and taking care of sick kids (you know: preparing food, reading stories and stuff like that).

In the evening, after kids finally got to sleep, I had couple of hours to get everything in shape. I did the final tweaks, prepared release package, set up paypal… and there it was. My game was online. Thinglings was created from zero to existance, in just 2 freaking days.

Conclusions

After getting the release out, I felt really good. First of all, I think this sort of game idea (at least some high level mechanics) had been with me for long time. Or at least near me. The 1GAM contest was the proper push to help me refine and execute the idea. The march deadline was really tough, which forced me to make firm decisions regarding how to do the game.

The interesting thing about the deadline was that I really took action. I used whatever worked, and even took time to polish the art, and just made sure that I’d get the product out in decent manner.

Overall, only good things happened: I got a (small) fun game out, I drew some art which other devs seem to like (so do I), I think the game is actually quite fun and decent… and generally I just felt really good for being part of the challenge, and succeeding (using my own metrics here to measure success)

To me, the march challenge was a really good reminded why these challenges should be remembered. They are simply pure fun to do.

There’s something cool about being able to create something out of nothing.

The outcome:

If you want to try the game, check out the webpage: Thinglings

Tools:

Here are all the tools I used to create my game from start to finish.

My PC/win7:
- BlitzMax (engine)
- Blide (bmax “editor”)
- GIMP (for image manipulation)
- Notepad++ (editing files)

iPad
- Paper 53 (drawing art)
- Notes (the basic app for writing text, not sure what’s it called in english)

(Also bought PS Touch app but didn’t eventually use it during the challenge)

And couple of self-written pieces of software for Windows:
- Duckduck (I use it combine gfx + text, it’s one great tool if you ask me. I should sell it)
- Tabletop thing (Don’t have a name for this, but basically a very simple tool for prototyping card games, solo, offline)

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