In a few days, the Seven Day Roguelike Challenge of 2014 (7drl) will begin. You might want to pay attention even if you have no interest in developing games. Because in a couple weeks there will be literally hundreds of neat little games popping into existence. All new. Some quite good and original.
You should really make your own game though!
To be honest, I used to think game jams were kind of worthless. They seemed to produce a lot of incomplete junk. When Jonathan Blow started talking about his distaste for game jams, I was further convinced there was nothing to see.
Then last year I decided to participate in 7drl on a whim and it was beyond awesome. For someone who has dreamed about making games for many years and yet never got past the fucking around with prototypes stage, it was immensely satisfying. I made a game that got a lot of positive feedback. One person said the "game's atmosphere and mechanics made it immensely compelling;" another said that "it strikes a perfect balance between survival sim and roguelike." I'm not trying to boast. I just never would have believed that I could go from nothing to creating a work that elicited that kind of feedback within a single week. Something about the short deadline and the knowledge that others were doing the same in parallel motivated me to do something I failed to do for years.
And of course I found plenty of fun games to play.
The top rated games to come out of 7drl 2013 were great. What shocked me though was how some games made in the 7drl were later turned into polished products.
Hoplite is probably the best game I've ever played on Android.
868-HACK (originally 86856527) is brilliantly designed and has amazing replayability. After writing a bunch of critically acclaimed games and receiving lackluster sales, developer Michael Brough wrote this game for last year's challenge, later charged $6 on the app store, and sold over 6000 copies.
It sounds like one game that started in the 7drl, Quadropus Rampage, even saved a struggling two-person indie studio from bankruptcy.
Sure, these games were polished after the challenge, but the core was there within a week. The developers had minimum viable products that they could get tons of feedback on quickly.
Why should a programmer care about 7drl? First consider the history of Rogue and its descendants. Here's Jon Lane discussing Rogue's influence:
"Two things made me think that this game could be a commercial success. The first was that when I was running a network-wide analysis of system usage we found that Rogue was burning more CPU cycles than anything else. The second was that Dennis Richie, of UNIX fame, was quoted as saying that Rogue wasted more CPU time than anything in history."
Then consider that, by definition, roguelikes are a programmer's dream game. The bulk of effort that goes into most games has to do with asset creation: making art, making music, writing content.
For roguelikes, art is optional. You are practically encouraged to use ASCII. Music is optional. Sound is optional. Detailed text isn't usually present.
Content is made procedurally. Systems are front and center. The way you make a roguelike fun is through game mechanics. That means, among other things, clever algorithms, smart AI, and carefully balanced stochastic processes. Naturally, the replayability of fun mechanics makes it quite easy to outlast nice looking assets.
You have no idea how to make such a complex game, right?
Wrong. Plenty of well received games from last year had unbelievably simple mechanics. One example is Nya Quest. It focused on a single directional facing gimmick and it looked like this:
And yet it was rightly praised for being fun. It was rated in the top 20% in fact.
Finally, you're going to say you don't have time. I understand.
"If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves." -Thomas Edison
You'd be surprised at how easy it is to draw something on the screen that moves around. A simple game isn't far off from that.
You know, there's a 0 hour game jam (the 1 hour shift during DST) out there and people actually manage to make games during that. Surely with 30 hours (a dedicated weekend) or 100+ hours (a dedicated week) you can come up with something worth talking about.
I can't wait to talk about my game. :) It's going to be a ridiculous game about vampires. Here's a small teaser:
todo: make game