Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Game-Design Normal Curve

A.K.A., a really self-centered timeline of my game-dev non-career.

My friend Exar sent me this video we made a while back with most of the games we made about 3 years into game development, and wow.  They're great.

Or no, they're not.  But they're actually playable.

I've been making games for (six? seven?) years now and here's how it's been.

Year One:
Ohmygosh gamedev!  Ohmygoshohmygosh this is so fun.  I can't draw but there's sprite libraries everywhere let me just borrow some here and there, and wow!  Dodge the ghosts!  Done!  I am so cool.

Year Two:
Game Maker is really super nice I don't know why people don't use it more, you can do anything in it ever.  But I guess I should try a little C++, I hear that's standard.  WOW nevermind this is impossible, sticking with GM.

I can draw a little now and I'm starting this great game called Blobworld which is really pretty good and I'm happy with it.

SEQUEL TIME, it doesn't matter that I never released the first one, 'Blobworld: The Ice Age' is coming soon!

Nevermind!  I'm going to work on it up to version 0.92 and then just completely stop.

(Turns out, this is typically what I always do).

Year Three:
YoYo Games is putting on this competition!  Wow!  I can totally win this, let me make this gizmo-based game called 'The Infinity Engine' and oh, wait.

It's literally impossible for anyone except me.  No, really.  I am the only person to have gotten past level 3, and there's 25 levels.

I should probably fix that.


(Plagued by this for the next four years, no one ever knows how to play my games).

Year Four:
Zerosoft Games is hosting a team competition, let me join.  Fuzion Creative and I spit out this rockin' Death Worm clone 'Tropically Correct', and we land second place.  We later start working on a long-term company called Fuzion Creative / Awoken Entertainment.

Everything goes straight down from here.

Year Five:
This is about the time I transfer out of a top-level private high school, even after getting a full ride there (a $20,000 scholarship).  The people were too college-oriented and lacked hobbies of any sort; I couldn't learn anything from them.  But it turns out, lo and behold, the people at the new school are exactly the same.

That was disappointing.

I kind of lose faith in game design and people in general.  Sort of slugged out Wrapple development for a really long time before Fuzion Creative picks up my slack and submits it anyways.  It nabs 'Staff Pick' on YoYo Games.

I then release 'Holiday Bombings' and 'Retroplat' later in the year, both for Zerosoft competitions.  Holiday Bombings wins 3rd and Retroplat get a runner-up award.  Retroplat turns out to be really successful; a certain Mr. Larson asks for an interview with me and Indie Game Comics features it in a webcomic.  All three sites, the interview, IG Comics, and Zerosoft, are now down, along with any proof of those occurences.  I submit it to a random side competition and it places a nice 4th.

Still not very happy with game design, or life in general.  I start realizing that there's no future in indie game design at all.

Year Six:
Total lack of attention span.  The GMC Jam starts running every few months, and I join the first four or so.  'Diagnosis' gets the closest to winning one (at 2nd place) and 'Pannenkoekenhuis' gets (12th?  I think?).  Pannenkoekenhuis later becomes my flagship game, which I remade in Flash and threw up on MochiAds, who later decided to spam it literally everywhere.  Google "pannenkoekenhuis game" and you'll see what I mean.  I'm still getting random hits on my blog from it.

The plan was this: Make a Flash game, post it on MochiAds or run it for sponsorships, use the money to start larger projects that recursively fund other projects and eventually make enough to start a full-fledged company, or at least to pay for college.

I make about two dollars with Pannenkoekenhuis.

Someone introduces me to a guy in Belgium who needs a Flash developer, and we work together on a few games which I'm not allowed to disclose because they're still being shown to potential sponsors.

'Cantilever Bridge' is born.  It's my ugly duckling.  It's a book disguised as a game, where one city decides to unite itself with another, of which it harbors heavy animosities toward.  The bridge is built, civilians kill each other over nothing and a war starts.  Your character is drafted in and you kill people along the bridge, but it's steady enough that you never realize until the very end that every single character has died, either by your hands or by circumstance, except for the Old Man.  He then decides to blow up the bridge while still on it, leaving you completely alone, in the wrong city, with no way to get back.

Only one person understood the story.  I was proud anyway.

Some people on YoYo Games start the Rapid Development Competition, in which you have 4 hours to make a game from scratch.  The people are generally nice and I actually manage to win one with 'Coma', which isn't particularly prestigious since there's about, on average, eight or nine entries.  But the competitions are cancelled, then revived, then cancelled, then revived, until somehow they end up in my hands as host.  I rebrand it as the 4 Hour Jam where it's all nice and cuddly before it dies out, once again.

Some time around here I somehow manage to not pass out for three days, and 'Fix It' is made for a GMC Jam.  raocow picks it up to review and it's all good fun, except for the fact that, once again, the game is impossible and no one but me can beat it.  But I'm proud of the concept; it's a simple room-based platformer where walls and objects exist on separate layers, which can be flipped back and forth like pages in a book.

And, by this point, I've completely dropped the idea of serious game design.  Just, why?  It's so much more fun making games that absolutely suck and watching people react to them.  One that I enjoyed making, called 'The Bleed Man', has a guy that you click on constantly to draw blood spots on him as he slowly shrinks away in pain.  (I didn't even bother to restrain the blood spots to his body; they appear across the screen in empty space just as much).  'You Broke The Big Thing!' involves a boss that doesn't attack you and a completely irrelevant story (irrelevant everything, really).  'This Town (ABEFTTOU)!' involves the ludicrous setting of two people on a tiny globe, trying to shoot each other in the back and somehow being completely unable to turn around.  They throw energy-harvesting balloons in the air to make them run faster and drop dead babies to slow down the other.  And in the informal RDC's I become known as "that guy that makes the really shitty games that are somewhat funny anyways."

Year Seven:

Sometimes I look back at my old games and think, hahahahah, hahahah, ahah, wow.  How did I have the attention span to make that.

There is no reason I should've spent time on all of that.

No reason.

Just wow.

The Game-Design Normal Curve:
  1. Learn how to make games.
  2. Make good games.
  3. Forget how to make games.
  4. Make complete shit.


  1. Gotta say it was an interesting read. I might write a history of stuff I've done in the past too.

    1. Go for it. You'd have a lot to write about.