Why are my sprites flickering instead of jumping? Logic error!
What I Learned from Game a Week
What went wrong: My goals and expectations for the Game a Week challenge were unrealistic. Maybe embarrassingly so? My biggest misconceptions involved audience size and estimating what I could accomplish in a short amount of time.
I imagined I’d have at least 100 people playing my games each week. However, the numbers were more like 2 to 5! My total stats for all 4 games over the last 6 weeks is around 100 plays total!
What went wrong? My primary audience was my Facebook friends. My first mistake was not marketing my games to them ahead of each launch. Once I began posting screen shots of game characters, stressing the launch date and then following up with postmortems afterwards, my numbers went up. However, they only went up by 10 or 20 plays.
Why? My games were all made in Scratch. Scratch is an amazing tool for learning how to program! But it runs in Flash. A lot of my Facebook friends use phones and tablets which don’t run Flash. So the people that were most likely to play my games couldn’t play them.
On to the time estimation error. It’s good to dream big, but it’s disappointing to players when the game is confusing. “Spin a Web!” was my most ambitious game and my least successful. I spent more time on game mechanics than on teaching the player how to use them. This failure is one of the reasons that I’ve decided to stop programming a game a week. I want to be able to develop better game mechanics and to have the time to figure out how to get the player to understand them.
What went right: I finished 4 games! This is a huge step! Game a Week taught me how to finish games and not just start them.
I didn’t program in a vacuum. Feedback altered 40% of each game. I’m happy with the quality of feedback I got and how I used that feedback to improve the games.
Learning how to market my games was not a step I anticipated taking when I started the Game a Week challenge. However, it was a necessary step. In the past few weeks I’ve learned to make a habit of promoting my games! I learned how to be a more active social media user and how to make quicktime videos.
Where do I go from here: My biggest hurdle is learning how to program. I’ll continue to make games in Scratch. It’s a powerful tool for learning programming concepts and making quick prototypes. However, I’m going to shift my focus to programming in Game Maker so I can make games that people can play on their mobile devices and consoles. I look forward to designing games for touch screens!
A video of my game Name a Shape!
One of the many programming errors that I missed in Spin a Web! Credit goes to Raighne for finding this one!
Game a Week: Week 5 Postmortem
Game #4: Spin a Web!
What went right: I spent more time on the coding end of game design this week. I’m proud of the game mechanics I programmed. I’m happy that I was able to make a rudimentary version of every mechanic that I wanted initially.
Special thanks to Colleen Lewis and her video about Iteration Patterns. I got really excited when I figured out how to use an iteration pattern to program Big Spider’s web. (Spoiler alert: You’ll only see this script run if you die in the game.)
What went wrong: I struggled with how to promote this game. When talking to potential players, I learned that people REALLY do not like spiders or insects. The concept of being a spider, spinning a web and eating insects was repellent to everyone. This was a blind spot for me. (I had a bug collection when I was a kid, and I kept a cricket as a pet. Holding a tarantula was one of my coolest experiences as an adult ever!)
By the end of the week, I realized that I should have put emphasis on the idea that this is a drawing game. Whenever I told people about the game they reacted with disgust. If I then mentioned that the web is hot pink they were like, “Cool!” I give myself a 2 out of 10 in marketing this week. I’m not surprised that my game stats are really low (8 plays) so far.
I spent 80% of my week debugging the game. I wish that more of my time had been spent on pacing, rewards and feedback for the player. I have a lot of ideas about how to do this and I’m collecting player feedback (hint, hint!) and look forward to making Spin a Web! a better game!
I wanted the sun to rise in the background like this.
My Favorite Game-Breaking Bug: 10pm Saturday night, I begin programming the final animation. My goal was to have the sun rise in the background while the spider was falling asleep. Getting the sun to rise WAS easy, but… It kept rising in front of everything! Because it’s the last animation in the game, I had to change the code, test the game all the way through, and watch the sun rise in the foreground AGAIN and AGAIN, each time I failed. I went to bed late. I got up early. I tried 10 more bug fixes.
9:15am Sunday, I finally grasped the problem. It was a forever loop! I had the foreground forever moving backwards 10 layers to keep it behind all of the game action. So, I programmed the sun to move forever backwards 13 layers. I had the two scripts trigger at the same time and (yay!) the sun moved into the background! SUCCESS!!!