Six Months of Games

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.

February: Exploit

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.

March: “Sugarcore

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.

8 thoughts on “Six Months of Games

  1. Nice, I really like the games though I’ve yet to try out the downloaded, and I’m surprised I’m the first to comment on this. Maybe it’s just not been out that long *heh* My favourites I guess are “How to raise a dragon” and “Exploit” due to how they’re played out, and the fact I just plain love fantasy stuff. Overall, I think your a pretty good designer/developer, the games are quite enjoyable and well, and I look forward to playing the other 6 games you plan on releasing. ….heh…. …. …Alright! I’ll admit it, I wish there was a sequal(Perhaps about a differnt creature, possibly about gryffens..?)/remake(with more choice or something?) or something to “How to raise a dragon” …Exploit, nyeh the thought just crossed my mind now, I also think that’d be an interesting storyline to follow or similarize, both were enjoyable and had quite good educational values.

    ….In short, I both enjoyed liked both games, and wish there was sequals/similarized type games. Thanks for reading! ^^

  2. I’m a visual artist, so critiquing your visuals is all I feel arrogant enough to do.

    They were well executed and suited their purpose in Bars of Black and White and in Exploit (and in the Majesty of Colors they were exquisite), but in Sugarcore and How to Raise a Dragon they cause the games to suffer.

    In Sugarcore: the gradient tool is instantly recognizable to anyone who’s used Flash and implies laziness. Players who don’t recognize it will still unconsciously link it to the numerous worse-executed games floating around the internet’s bilge. It just gives it a “look,” you know? Use it sparingly. The portraits and floating clouds in the background are a little sloppy looking, as well, and they don’t fit in with the smoothed style surrounding them. Okay, this is a nice way of saying they are poorly drawn.

    In How to Raise a Dragon, the pixels are not a bad idea, but they are also sort of sloppy looking. They are used in lieu of more detailed graphics to avoid having to draw, right? They are probably better than the alternative, but the use of pixels should not become your crutch. Instead it should be used to artistic effect. In Majesty of Colors, the pixels worked for a lot of good reasons:
    1. They fit the concept. The people were only a few pixels because it was natural for them to be so small compared to the huge monster. Also, they contributed to the player’s experiencing the action through his unfamiliar/simplified point of view.
    2. They made the only-one-mechanic thing feel more reasonable. We are familiar with older games being simpler. Not that it would have stood out otherwise, but the visuals from ancient times made us accept the simple controls (or control, rather) more heartily.
    3. They made a statement. The game already asserted “this is art!” but the graphics said “not only is this particular game a work of art, but it grew from a history of games that are also art, but which have received less recognition than they deserve as such!” which was pretty sweet.
    In How to Raise a Dragon, though, they don’t do any of those things. I appreciate the layered backgrounds and distance having larger pixels and thus being less clear, but the contrast between large and small pixels could be used to greater effect to promote the hugeness of the dragon and the feeling of getting larger. The beginning might feature very large pixels which get smaller with each stage. The dragon would start simple, and become more detailed (and more impressive) as it grows, and people could be kept a consistent size and shape, which would prevent the discontinuity between the look of the wizard at the end of the first stage and the villagers in the last stage. This sort of happens when moving from Adult stage to Hero stage, when the dragon becomes larger and more detailed, and it works! Which makes me wish that it happened for the rest of the game.

    But I understand that these are month-made games, so visuals are not the most important aspect. When it comes to creating a game with a longer development period, I hope you consider getting help with the graphics. Sometimes drawing it yourself will work with an idea, like Bars of Black and White, Exploit, and Majesty of Colors, but usually I think your games will look more appealing if someone else handles it.

  3. A random thought on Dragon’s hit counter: I find that this game, more than any other you have produced, lends itself to hitting the refresh button. With all the ways to play through it, there are several things to mess around with and try. Unfortunately, the most interesting branching occurs in the SECOND to last stage, with the final stage containing a scant handful of endings that do not vary significantly enough to bother playing through. Also, the walk right for 5 minutes thing gets tedious. Without a choice to skip from the adult stage back to the main menu, the refresh button is the only recourse for those like me. I myself have done the adult stage at least 6 more times than the hero stage which follows. While I am sure your advertisers don’t mind the extra hits, if your counter does not recognize such behavior, I think it will give misleading results.

  4. …Ah
    I wondered if I was missing something there. Unfortunately, since I had at least 20 minutes of gameplay before the first time I would use such a button, clearly I had time to completely forget about it. An on screen button might work better, but that would mean cluttering up the nice clean interface with a HUD. I don’t know what the answer is there. Maybe a little note on the dragon designer interface?

  5. Hi so I’m just wondering, when the year is up and you finish your quest, are you planning on going back and fixing or upgradeing the games you’ve made? Or if not, could you consider it? Because you’ve made some really good games and I think they have a lot of potential :).

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