But under the surface, my game development life has been roiling with barely constrained productivity and awesomeness! :D
In December, I participated in my first official game jam, the 72-hour jam for Ludum Dare 22. It was awesome. I teamed up with the artist, fledgling game designer, Flixel programmer, and all-around amazingly creative guy knivel, and I had the most intensely fun, productive weekend of programming and game development I'd had all year. No exaggeration.
The theme was ALONE, and after I suggested a game where you try to get away from all these people who keep bothering you, knivel basically came up with the entire concept of The Love Letter right then and there.
Oh, did I say "The Love Letter"? That's the game we made. Of course, we didn't have time to add a tutorial, or make it so you could actually win the game, but even then people seemed to like it, and told us to finish it, and voted us to first place in the "Theme" category of the game jam! Yay! :D
You can read more about our adventures here, in my Ludum Dare blog posts.
But anyway, that brings me to the point of this post, which is to kindly inform you that WE FINISHED THE LOVE LETTER AND IT'S VALENTINE'S DAY AND YOU SHOULD PLAY THE GAME NOW IT'S REALLY COOL!!!!!!!! :DDDD
This project has marked a turning point for me in many ways. For one thing, the game has done much better in playtesting than any of my previous games. People like it, and it's easy to understand and get into. Kind of like Pillars in that way, except an actual game instead of just a little prototype. Of course, we still haven't had a full public release yet, but even so far it has had a very promising reception. (By the way, have you played it yet? You should.)
But more importantly, I discovered that I can enjoy being the programmer on a game, working with a designer, and that this can be just as much fun or even more so than simply trying to be the designer myself. What I realized is that when I fully trust the designer - knivel, in this case - to the extent that I feel like he would make the same design decisions that I would make except faster and better, and when we occasionally disagree it is an opportunity for us both to expand our own perspectives and make a better game together then we could on our own. It's hard to be the programmer and the designer at the same time. It takes time to mentally switch between roles. When I work alongside a designer whose creativity and design sense I really admire and trust, it frees me to focus on the groundwork of programming while he scopes out the game design possibility space from above.
It also really helps to work with an artist and designer who also knows programming and can hack in features without my help if necessary! :) Just like I can fix pixel art mistakes if I see them. After my experiences making games with knivel, I don't think I would choose to work with a code-illiterate designer unless I had a really good reason to. It's so nice to be able to explain to a designer what I'm doing, what problems I'm running into, or what awesome thing I just figured out, and have that designer actually understand me. It's all about that connection, like we are just parts of one unit, the team. Without that common understanding, it's easy for friction to come up in our interactions.
So there, I'm getting more picky. ;) But in a good way. :) I'm learning what works for me.
The Love Letter was also the first project where I got really into working on it, fitting it into every crack in my schedule I could find after the game jam ended and we started fixing up the game for the release I now have the pleasure of announcing. I'd bring my laptop on the bus and work on it there. I'd work on it while eating dinner. I'd keep working on it and stay up late. I was so into it, I didn't want to stop. And I couldn't wait to get back to it. :)
Finally! :p A year ago I remember being similarly obsessed with reading Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, and thinking to myself, "If I wanted to make games as much as I want to read the next chapter of Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, I'd be making a lot more games." And now I've gotten to that point. I know what it feels like. I can tap into this with my future projects too. Which is great to think about.
But I also need to get some sleep, if I want to stay motivated, not to mention... alive? So I think I'll wrap this up.
I also participated in the Global Game Jam for the first time this year, and made another little game with knivel and the same composer (and this time you can actually get to the end). It's not quite ready for prime time yet - we're planning to give it the same sort of treatment as The Love Letter, but I'll be sure to let you know when it's done. :) Now that we're finished (or are we?) with The Love Letter, I'll probably be getting back to this game pretty soon. After I get some sleep, of course. ;)
Oh, and also, I wrote about my first ever game jam, back in October, on the Fugazo blog. It was not nearly as successful as my latest adventures, but it was educational. Hehe. :)