If there’s any bit of advice I’ve run into time and again, it’s this: you improve a skill by doing it over and over, and failing at it a lot. Most artists I know vocalize the importance of drawing the same subject matter constantly, learning from your mistakes, and then improving. It would appear game design is no different.
Rami Ismail – one half of the successful Dutch indie game studio Vlambeer – recently made a post in which he described a challenge to produce a game every week. You can read that post here. His idea is the same as the one I mention above; learn through failing. A lot. Discover what works, and what doesn’t, and use that knowledge to improve yourself.
Too often, I’ve tried to focus on working on a singular game. Spending a grotesque amount of hours on a single game hasn’t made me improve at failing. Instead, it has been a source of frustration. After pouring hours into a project, I’d ultimately hit a wall. The lessons I could walk away with were few and far between. No more. Starting today, Monday, March 10, 2014, I will begin Rami’s challenge. I will learn to be good at failing.
You can read the general rules Rami lays out in the post I’ve linked above, but for the lazy, here they are:
- Make a game every week – I can start on a new game after midnight Monday, and must stop by 11:59 pm on Sunday.
- Release the game – I will upload the game for people to play every week, in order to get feedback. This will likely occur on a site such as Kongregate.
- No revisiting – After the week ends, I cannot touch the game anymore. Every week must be a completely new game.
- Avoid patterns – Try to make the games as diverse as possible. Don’t make non-stop platformers; instead, try to switch it up.
- Reflect – Get feedback from those that played your game, and improve from that feedback.
In addition to Rami’s rules, I’ve added a few of my own:
- Use Unity – Everything gets made in Unity. This actually violates the fourth rule outlined above, but my goal is to not just learn game design, but to also attempt to push my limits of Unity knowledge as well.
- Self made assets – As many of the assests must be as original as possible. I cannot resort to just downloading stuff from the Unity Asset Store; as much as is reasonable, either something is produced by me, or remains whiteboxed.
- Sunday posts – Every Sunday, I will try to make a post here on my site, discussing my game for the week and my motivations behind it, including a link to a playable build. I will post more often if I can.
I’ve lately struggled with motivating myself to work on my games. I hope that giving myself a week long deadline for each game will encourage me to produce as quickly as possible, but to also learn how to break through the barrier that often stops me from getting to work shortly after getting home. Only time will tell. I suspect the feedback will be a key motivator as well. Being able to show something to someone, no matter how many warts it has, will undoubtedly push me forward.
Making a game – in addition to working at my full time job – every single week will undoubtedly eat heavily into my very limited free time. It doesn’t help that I’m electing to begin this endeavor on the week that Titanfall is released. But currently, I feel motivated and excited to grow.
I’m looking forward to my failures.