Sketches for my Untitled Adventure Game

You may have heard the anecdote from the book Art & Fear, describing a study where a ceramics teacher divided his pottery class into two groups. One half was graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, while the other half was graded on the perfection of a single pot.

Surprisingly, by the end of the semester, it was the quantity group that had produced the highest quality pots. This group spent time actively creating many pots, learning and refining their craft through hands-on practice and repetitive action. Meanwhile, the quality group was mired in theory and planning, trying to conceptualize what might make the perfect pot, thus spending less time on the actual act of creation and having less opportunity to learn from their mistakes.

I was reminded of this anecdote recently, after reading Tyler Glaiel’s article Make and release lots of small games before making a big one, which covers some of the significant advantages of making short games.

Since releasing my Adventure Jam game – The Alignment Paradox – last summer, my game dev activities have mainly involved trying to write the story for a new ‘big’ game, and come up with characters, potential puzzle ideas and game mechanics, but none of this involved any actual game development. I hadn’t even opened Unity for 6 months, and I was getting out of practice, and not making much progress due to perfectionism.

So, embracing the advice from Glaiel’s post, and the message of the ceramics anecdote, I decided it was time to start making games again, so over the last couple of weekends and a few evenings, I’ve made and released a whole new game! It’s called Moon Logic, and you can play it for free here:

The game is a single room, and it basically has one main puzzle, and very little in the way of story, but it’s a complete game, and it feels good to be making games again. Beyond that, I got tons of practice in the many different workflows involved in making a point and click adventure game. I feel a lot more confident rigging and animating a character in Blender (I also learned how to export an 8-direction walk cycle all at once using a Python script, instead of one direction at a time like I did for Faking Bad). I got more familiar with Unity and PowerQuest, including stuff I hadn’t really used before, like Regions, animation triggers, and the HD template. And above all I had a lot of fun, and the satisfaction of having people enjoy playing a game I made. That never gets old, no matter how short the game is!

Sketches

Before his untimely death in 1997, Jeff Buckley was working on his second album, which would have been called My Sweetheart the Drunk. Sadly, he died before completing it, but the demos he had recorded were released posthumously as Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk, suggesting that what he had worked on up to that point were rough sketches, as he tested ideas to hone in on the sound he was looking for.

Similarly, I consider this kind of micro game like a sketch in a sketch book, that helps sharpen my skills and explore new ideas.

I plan to do more of these sketches while I continue to develop ideas for a full-length game. Not only is it good practice and great fun, but along the way I will develop potential art styles, new puzzle ideas, and figure out things that work and don’t work, all of which will make the development of a full game much smoother and more enjoyable in the end.

This is just my preference. I know of a few game devs who have jumped straight into developing a full-length game without any experience with shorter games. If that works for them, then great. But I often wonder if, instead of spending two years working on a single game, what if they spent the first year making micro games instead? Maybe the experience they gained would enable them to make the full-length game in half the time, and maybe like the ceramics students, they would end up with a better game as a result.

What do you think?


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The Alignment Paradox
Faking Bad
Solitude - A Flicker of Hope