The Agony of Defeat

Started by Jay Loomis, September 23, 2010, 10:24:29 PM

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Jay Loomis

Ok, so maybe it isn't agony. I'm sure that I'm not the only one who was defeated by the contest itself rather than the competition. Were you working on a game but unable to get it done in time? Here's a place to talk about that.

My number one problem with my game, NULL, was that I didn't really bounce any ideas off a gaming buddy until too late. I went through the whole week thinking and scribbling and getting nowhere. Then on Sunday morning a friend was over doing something else and we talked it through. He didn't say anything revolutionary, but just talking it through with him unblocked me. Then I spent the whole afternoon/evening writing away but I simply didn't have enough time left.

So my lesson is this: talk about your ideas with friends early!

I talked about the fictional premise of the game several times throughout the week with several people and, consequently, I was crystal clear about that part. It was mechanics stuff that I was stumped on.

My number two problem was trying to do too much. When I started, I had a clear idea about what I wanted from my mechanics: have a simple chart or series of charts that walk you through random outcomes that provide cues and inspiration for GMful play. I got bogged down trying to differentiate maneuvers and things when what was called for was a single chart for all efforts. And then I had what I'll call, "The Lumpley Problem", that is, my design started to morph into one of Vincent's games (Apocalypse World in this case). Dangerous traps. Anyway:

Lesson number 2: decide what you want the game to do well and do that one thing well instead of trying to fix everything about gaming all at once.

Anybody else have any lessons learned or other helpful info that might  aid others in actually getting their game done next time?

Jason Pitre

My biggest piece of advice is to take advantage of "New Project Energy".  Dive into the game design immediately and don't stop until you get your core concept down.  While New Project Energy won't last you long on a major project, it's a godsend for these mini designs.  It was my greatest benefit.
Genesis of Legend Publishing
Telling New Stories around the Digital Fire

Jonathan Walton

Obviously I didn't compete this year, but things that stopped me from finishing games in previous years include:

- being too ambitious, trying to make the most mindblowing game instead of something short and solid
- starting with a concept that I really had no idea how to execute mechanically (it's okay to have some things left to solve; but not the fundamentals)
- spending too much time posting, reading, and commenting, rather than working on my game
- focusing too much on layout rather than the game itself
- only talking to people on the internet, rather than in person where, as Jay found, conversations are more productive
- writing a game that I was more exciting about having written, rather than playing (i.e. wanting to be a designer, not wanting to play a game)
- starting to write a game I wasn't all that interested in at all

I feel like I learned a lot form those experiences and, actually, have historically done better in smaller contests rather than Game Chef, which for some reason stood out as this intimidating one where I had to try my best instead of writing a short, cute little game.  That's bullshit and I think the best games are often the ones where you take a fairly basic idea, run with it, and execute it really strongly, rather than the ones where you have to struggle through this gauntlet of design issues.  A week really isn't long enough for that struggle to take place, I don't think, at least if you still want time to finish your game.  But sometimes having that struggle and not being able to finish is still valuable in the long run.  It teaches you where your limits currently are as a designer, and that enables you to start working on overcoming them or at least start stretching your limits.

Callan S.

You might have needed to think about it for a week and talk with a friend about it - just talking to begin with might not be the entire creative process.