In January I resolved to release a game every month during 2009. There have been six months, and six games so far. I’m halfway done, and now is a good time to look back on those six games and how they turned out.
January: “Bars of Black and White“
A room-escape game, of sorts. Jay is Games called it “truly compelling and emotionally evocative,” and several people have called it their favorite game in the genre. It was easy, certainly, and short, and I should have made the barcode scanner more obvious to acquire, but I’m pleased with how it’s done. As for numbers, it’s been played about 1.25 million times.
A story-based puzzler about hacking and international intrigue. Released 4 days late, but I swear it was done by the end of the month. Exploit is my longest and most “game-like” game. It came out just how I wanted it to, and people liked the action-movie plot, the tricky-but-not-overcomplicated puzzles, and the level editor. People are still sharing levels on sites like Kongregate. I was most struck by a review on Newgrounds: “The ending is happy, but ominous… you have broken dozens of federal, state, and international laws and pinned them on a foreigner, burned to death in an elevator, as convinced of the righteousness of his crusade as you were. The game refuses any easy answers, and the victory is bittersweet. Perhaps a pastry would be a good idea.” 1.1 million plays.
A game about candy mining that plays like radial Breakout with a sugar high. This game was actually developed in 2008, just after “The Majesty of Colors,” and held in reserve for an unproductive month since no sponsors picked it up. I think it’s a solid game, but it feels a bit lightweight and trivial. Folks who don’t mind the pastel colors and dig the cute humor seem to enjoy it. 315 thousand plays.
April: The Bryant Collection
A false narrative released on April Fools’ Day. It’s an interactive fiction game, and didn’t get much attention. I’ve posted a couple of times about the mistakes I made with the game, but really I’m decently pleased with it. “Tower of Hanoi” is probably the strongest segment in there; the best pure puzzle I’ve done. “Morning in the Garden” is second, as I think I nailed the characterization in a rather simple conversation. Plays are hard to track, but are probably decently low; the download page has only been visited about 1200 times.
May: LORE and Belief
This is my tabletop roleplaying system and setting. It hasn’t received much response at all, so it’s hard to gauge success. The comments I’ve gotten so far have ranged from tentatively favorable to quite positive. I just got a comment that, if I’m understanding it right, is from a South Korean thanking me for a system that’s easy to understand for non-native English speakers. That makes me pretty proud. Tabletop systems take more effort and time to play, so I’m fine being patient to hear back about LORE. LORE‘s been downloaded over 250 times, and Belief over 150 times.
June: “How to Raise a Dragon“
A coming-of-age story for a dragon. Just released, but it’s doing quite well. It just won a runner-up spot in Kongregate’s weekly contest. Rock, Paper, Shotgun called it “another exquisitely minimal, decision-led adventure” with “a distinct beauty to its pixellated, multiple-pathed tale.” I think the cuteness resonates with people, and I’m proud of the little twist in the fourth (“Elder”) stage. Almost 900 thousand plays in a rather short time.
So those are the first six games. I feel like this game-a-month goal is really honing my skills as a designer and a developer. I feel much more comfortable in my own abilities than I did in the beginning, and I think I’ve produced a decently good and diverse selection of titles. Doing a game a month isn’t an unheard-of feat; jmtb02 of “Achievement Unlocked” fame has also released six games this year, and the folks at the Experimental Gameplay Project regularly released (small) games made in seven days. But it’s a personal achievement that’s helping me grow as an artist and as a person. I look forward to finishing out the year with your help.