Which just leaves number 3 on that original list, Barista!
My 100 Hour Game (that has evolved into a 200 hour game) has been on hiatus for the past few months but it is, as the walrus said, time.
This week I finally finished the primary game music, one of the last major blocks. I have also completed the victory and defeat music and started adding the dozens of sound effects.
The main track, now named Dark Roast, is a remix of the music from Tap Tap Power. Tap Tap Power was my first foray into games development, created with my good friend Tom Krones from Till The Money Runs Out.
The music was originally conceived as a chip tune in keeping with the game’s theme, but it has been brought out of the 8-bit world and now completely betrays the fact that I was trained as a drummer.
The Native American grandfather telling his grandson about the two wolves is lucky that he only has two—everyone has their own set and I have at least seven. Like the dwarves, each has its own distinct personality. I am yet to decide if they want to devour me or protect me. I think it’s a mix.
Our wolves follow us wherever we go and, right now, mine are lying under the kumquat trees outside enjoying the Hoi An sun. The ones capable of enjoyment, at least.
There’s a saying among game designers: “Your first ten games will suck—so get them out of the way fast.”
Over the New Year I read Jesse Schell’s outstanding Art of Game Design and it is a phenomenal work, full of immense insights about game design and, frankly, creativity in general that are presented in a friendly, approachable way. It doesn’t seek to provide a comprehensive solution to game design—in fact, it argues that there may never be such a thing.
So the 100 hours is up and here’s what I managed to achieve in that time:
Clearly, the game is unfinished (I would like the cartoon exuberance of the title screen to be reflected throughout the game) but I could still release it today and it certainly wouldn’t be the worst thing the App Store has ever seen. However, I would only be doing it to meet this arbitrary deadline I set myself. I can and should make this better.
So even though it won’t be released within the 100 hours, it could. I count that as a success.
But even if it wasn’t ready for the App Store, I would still count it as a success because I have thoroughly enjoyed working on it and I know in my bones that it is something that I am going to see through to the end, however long it takes.
Which is the much more important thing.
Deadlines and Goals
Personal deadlines and goals can often be a good motivational tool to get us started, but they can easily turn in to weapon against our own self esteem. We often underestimate how long things take and overestimate our own abilities, willpower, and motivation to get those things done.
This can lead to these deadlines being missed and the goals unmet, which turn the good work we have done into failure and disappointment. Instead of seeing what we’ve achieved, we only see what we haven’t.
For personal projects, deadlines and goals should be MacGuffins—Randy Pausch head fakes—designed to get the plot of our lives moving towards something bigger without having to pay attention to that bigger (and often paralysing) thing.
The deadlines themselves should serve as moments of reflection, in which we re-evaluate the work we’re doing. Is it everything we thought it would be (the daily grind of a creative life, for example, often doesn’t quite match the romantic expectations of it)? Are we still enjoying the process? What was the larger goal and is that still something we want?
Sometimes, in doing the work, an unexpected aspect of that work might grab our interest and make us re-evaluate what it is we actually want. In that case, do we really want to carry on working to these goals and deadlines that were set before we knew this stimulating new interest we’ve discovered even existed?
The enjoyment of meeting a goal or a deadline or completing a project is fleeting and momentary and hollow. It will never make up for all those spent hours if we hated each one of those hours (of course, we won’t love all of them—ask me about provisioning profiles and certificate signing—but on balance there should be many more good hours than bad).
Finally, we should never feel beholden to our past selves. As soon as we start doing the work they set for us, we gain knowledge about ourselves that they never had.
The game is functionally complete and I have begun to play and tweak and play and tweak. I look at what I’ve made and consider it in two minds: the first is that of the craftsman. I turn it this way and that, feel the weight of the objects beneath my fingers as I slide them around the scene. I watch as everything works as intended, and I’m pleased at what exists.
After the excitement of working on a text adventure game engine, I’ve gone back to Barista while I wait for me and Mike’s schedules to line up and today I have mostly been thinking about: data structures!
Last week a friend of mine, Mike Sowden, contacted me with an innocuous message about Lifeline, a new mobile game he had discovered. It was a cross between a text adventure and a choose your own adventure, but with a modern twist, taking advantage of push notifications to create a sense of real-time communication.
You’re texting with Taylor, an astronaut who has crash landed on another planet. He messages you, pausing to ask your advice and you get to direct his course of action as he attempts to survive and arrange rescue. The actions play out in real time so if he has to, say, hike for an hour, you won’t hear from him for an hour.