E. Darwin Hartshorn: //Boilerplate

Devgame Internship progress journal #1: Momentum

For the one of you out there who is following my project progress (hi mom!), Bestiary has been back-burnered because I have an opportunity to work an internship as part of my Devgame class. So w00t.

I started strong, but at the beginning of February, I stalled out.  Here is a list of reasons. The difference between reasons and excuses is that reasons result in solutions.

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Dev Game 02: Stand on the Shoulders of Giants

Theodore Beale is a groundbreaking game designer and Satan Incarnate (the ground he broke was the invention of the FPS escort mission).  He’s teaching a 10-session online course through a technical college in Zürich on game development and, by the looks of things so far, it will be worth your while to sign up for the eight remaining courses.  I’m not going to write up a full report in this space, since the organizers surely deserve remuneration, but I plan on writing up a takeaway each week.

This week’s takeaway is stand on the shoulders of giants.

One of Mr. Beale’s little factoids was this: Grand Theft Auto is Pac-Man.

You’re Pac-Man, your mission destinations are the dots, and the cops are the ghosts.

There is nothing truly original.

It’s rare for a game designer to come up with something new to the world of game design.  And even then, it wasn’t new to the world at large.  Before there was Pac-Man, there were physical, meatspace games like tag and capture-the-flag.  Innovation comes not from inventing new things, but combining old things (tag + TV screens = Pac-Man).

Dev Game Session 1: Make Yourself Useful

Theodore Beale is a groundbreaking game designer and Satan Incarnate (the ground he broke was the invention of the FPS escort mission).  He’s teaching a 10-session online course through a technical college in Zürich on game development and, by the looks of things so far, it will be worth your while to sign up for the nine remaining courses.  I’m not going to write up a full report in this space, since the organizers surely deserve remuneration, I plan on writing up a takeaway each week.

The takeaway this week is make yourself useful.

It’s About Connections

Like most things, getting into game dev has a lot to do with connections.  If you want to join a company, knowing someone who knows someone is going to get you farther than an application or portfolio.  Even if you want to go lone wolf, like me (and Beale gave me food for thought on that count, too), you need connections:  You need to have a community of people who want to play your game.

To Make a Friend, Be a Friend

How do you make these connections?  Well, you have to reach out to people.  You have to give them something of value.  You have to hang out and be friendly.  Some examples I can apply in my own work.

  • Simple art contributions.  I do pixel art from time to time, and I’m pretty quick at it.  Throwing together a sprite or tileset once every other week or so would be a relaxing break from Bestiary, and could be invaluable to people learning game dev who could use some consistent, well-made royalty-free art.
  • Featuring awesome stuff.  I’m working on developing a Mignola-esque art style for Bestiary.  Why not feature a lesser-known artist or two from deviantArt who serves as inspiration for my own work?  Why not do that for other artists as well?
  • Digging into communities.  I’m making Bestiary because I’m disappointed in available virtual pets.  The concepts of Pokémon and Digimon can easily extend to darker, more mature themes, and in fact should, since the original fans of those franchises are now quite a bit older.  Jim Butcher made a monster-training fantasy series that can be taken quite seriously.
    The original fans of these shows almost certainly congregate on the interwebs, and I’d almost certainly get along with many of them.  So I should.

Make Yourself Useful

There was a lot of awesome stuff in session 1.  I took six pages of notes, and I definitely need to spend some time really, really examining what I want to do in game dev, and what that will look like, as a result.  But the thing I want to leave you with is this:  even the lone wolf dev needs people.  And to get people, you have to reach out and give them a reason to keep you around.  You have to make yourself useful.