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Thursday, March 27, 2014

2 Day Simple Game Challenge

Presenting Feed The Plant! The shortest and simplest game I've ever made.
     Flappy Bird is an example of how far a simple game can go. Naturally after a hit like that there are hundreds of imitations. I hear about 60 clones being uploaded a day and scoffed at the idea of joining the frenzy. Countless times I hear "Hey Yotes, why don't you make a game like Flappy Bird?" and just roll my eyes. But then I got to thinking...

     Everyone is rushing for the leftovers of Flappy Bird's explosion, but they all upload the same game. They could at least try playing with the mechanics instead of swapping the sprites. What if there was only one set of pipes and multiple birds pass through it? What if they got eaten by a monster on their way through? What if you wanted that to happen? And after a doodle of a piranha plant eating bird on a note card I got serious.

     I was curious about my ability as a game developer. I see game jams all the time and wonder how people turn things out so quickly. My smallest and fastest project was Candy Shop Catch and even that took over a month. I feel like I could make a game quickly using everything I've learned so far, but is there any proof? I also found the idea of making a Flappy Bird game in under a week to be a great test for myself and a morale booster for spending the rest of the year on Unicorn Quest.

     As I'm typing this I have the finished game running in Unity and my phone. I'm working on promotional materials tonight so I can upload it to Google Play and post a video of it tomorrow. 

      I think of it as a self-imposed exam. I really don't count on school to teach me to become a better developer, so I need to push myself. If I can make a interesting variation on Flappy Bird within 2 days I'll be very proud of myself. This project is my chance to flex my newly formed game dev muscle. I wanted to make a complete and shippable game in the span of two days just to be able to say I can.

     I want to know that when I see a game jam pop up, I could participate if I really wanted to. I like knowing that if I ever needed to, I could churn out a simple, polished, and fun video game within a week. I also like finally having an answer for all the people asking me about what games I've made and quiet the Flappy Bird suggestors I know. I'm also meeting my girlfriend's extended family for the first time soon and it will be great to show them a game literally anyone can quickly understand and get attached to.

      I really feel like this is the one I can show my family and get them genuinely hooked (and not just because their son made it). Candy Shop Catch is my most popular Google app for a reason. It's a game for a bigger audience. I like making a variety of games for a variety of people. I can do hardcore RPGs and casual arcade games. I think this will be my favorite of the latter types for a while. And judging by how much my girlfriend loves Fall Out Bird, she might enjoy this thing a lot.

     This is one of those games that you'll need to see in person. Once it's in your hands you can see how special it feels. The colors, the controls, and the simplicity. I finally have a game that I can quickly show people and get them hooked on with no explanation. Unity made it really easy to pull off everything I had in mind. I even got to make all custom sprites, adding to my stash of reusable assets.
The pillars move up and down and various speeds.
     I was really surprised at how good I got the flap controls to feel. I was expecting a lot of trouble with the gravity, but my experience with Candy Shop Catch gave me a head start.

     The rainbow colored birds, the pastel background, the novelty of a plant eating flappy birds, the difficult but fair core mechanic, and the polished presentation all come together to make a little project that I'm very proud of. I feel like I've come a long way and now I have physical proof of my ability. I can make any game that I want. I work for myself and can make diversions from the main project to try out new things. This is what it's like being an indie game developer, and I know for certain it's what I want to do for the rest of my life.

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