We love working together as a game development team. With time passing by, we decided to add some spice to our everyday duties. We needed something extra that will make our work even more enjoyable every day. Becoming an original and fun gaming studio was always our aim, just as getting more and more enjoyment from what we are doing has been a goal! This way we can find inspirations for new projects and inspire others! In order to achieve this, we created Bushido Gamethon which is a monthly game development challenge for each member of our team. What is it and how it works? Keep on reading and you will find out how cool it can be when you change just a couple of rules! ;)
Where did the idea of Gamethon came from?
Actually, it wasn't very complicated. Part of the inspiration for the Gamethon came from similar actions and ideas by Google and Valve. After a few reviews of our current schedule and projects, we realized that we would like to inspire each other and make something cool and fun that will bring us more joy during the times when we aren't focusing on game production. We always have many ideas floating around, and some of them were suppose to be in current games or created as separate projects, but unfortunately it usually doesn't happen. So with some thought we realized that maybe with a different approach we could give some of those ideas a chance to come alive.
Each of us is an individual with our own mind, perspective and ideas. So the idea of challenging each other and bringing our own perspective to game production received a green light. This way we can do a small project, a demo or a working game in a limited time without being judged by publishers or the market. In the Gamethon, anyone can start their own dream project. (The one that has always been in the back of their mind.) This way each member of our team gets a chance to show their own perspective on how a game should look, what mechanics a game should have, how a game should be monetized, and by what means a game could succeed. New ideas (and possible better ideas) for games can come to life and have a chance to be finalized in real code and graphics. Prototypes for these ideas can be created and tested to see if they work before being implemented into the final release of a game.
With this approach we can free our minds and forget about limits and rules. During the Gamethon, each of us has our own idea and the means to create it. It is pretty inspiring when you don't need to consult on every step of your own project. You can choose whatever tool you like, and then experiment and show others that your game can also be great. Then it can possibly become one of our future studio projects. This is really a good way to start something fresh. You can have a break from the day-to-day work and from constantly working on the same project. Did it work? Yes, definitely. I will show you the final results later in this post.
So, how does the Gamethon work?
The whole team gathers in one place on a scheduled Gamethon day. All of our duties are set aside and we make sure nothing will disturb us during the challenge. We are prepared to speak about our ideas and the ways to create our game. Our ideas are not limited by tools or the means to creating the game. Our game can be done any way we like. It can be done with an editor like Construct or Gamemaker, or it can be drawn on cardboard and the game play can be based on a dice throw. Each of the team members get an unlimited pool of ideas and tools to use, but he needs to show a working version of the game on the final demo day. There is only one limit - time. We have only a couple days to do as much as is possible to finish our individual projects.
What are the Gamethon steps?
1. The first step is to show your idea to all team members. We speak about our ideas a week before we start working on the Gamethon project. It is called the pitch day. You will not be judged in any way. You will not be criticized. This is the moment when your own idea is shown to others, and you you have every chance to prove your project is cool, fun and will become a great game. After describing the idea of game, you may be asked a couple questions.
In this moment, it is possible to decide to work alone on your project or join someone else if you like another person's project very much. You may decide freely about this. The freedom of choice is very important and gives more flexibility to attendees. It also helps to find out which idea can have the biggest chance in the near future to be made into a studio project.
2. The next step is the game creation which takes two days, and it happens on Thursday and Friday. We chose those days because someone may wish to polish up their project during the weekend. Of course it’s not a mandatory. The project creator can do this depending on his own will. You have all the time you need until Monday to try to achieve what was planned. This is the moment where the projects gets a life.
Before starting to work on a project, everyone describes the elements of the game they plan to work on, the engine/technology, or the ways they have chosen to create their game. It is very important to describe what kind of demo you will manage to create before the demo day. It has to be a working demo because the game needs to show the basics and mechanics of your idea. Here everything depends on the level of your preparation. You may already have a plan on how to write your code and how to use the available tools. You can also start with a bare skeleton of an idea which can change during the creation process. There are no specific rules as I mentioned above. Your aim is to make the best project possible. Help from the other team members who decided to join you is very important because you get additional hands to finish your game faster. The way you plan the work is up to you. The most important thing is to finalize all the tasks you planned and be ready for third and final day of Gamethon.
3. Monday - Demo/prototype day. This step is the most fun and exciting day of the Gamethon. No matter how much you managed to do, you will see the reaction of the other team members to your project. This way you can observe their reaction to the game features, and you can see if it is understandable to them. You may find additional bugs or problems. Demo day shows the potential of your game. People from your team are the first players to see it, and they can tell you what they liked or not. You don't need to worry about the final result. This is fun! There is no consequences if the game won't work or if there are bugs. This is your idea, and if it works then the team can tell you if it might become or will definitely become one of the future projects of the development studio. Of course it is not 100% possible that you will finish the game in such short time. You may freely decide to continue working on your project during the next Gamethon if you like your game project that much.
Has any of our Gamethon projects became a studio game?
We already did a couple Gamethons and the results have always been exciting. From all the ideas, we chose a game with the best potential. We had ideas and demos for adventure games, strategy games, and arcade games, and all of the ideas and demos were more or less complex.
Here are a couple example of our games ideas. You will notice how simple they are and how much work they would still require. This is why Gamethon was created - to start with a good base and idea, and then develop it into a demo and possibly into a real working game if the project is chosen.
"Graffiti man" is a very simple platform game. The main goal of the player is to paint as many fragments of walls as possible before they are captured by characters that are chasing him. The steering was also very basic - keyboard cursors and "A" button for using the spray.
"Small Council” is an idea for a strategy/decision game. The player is a king and has to make decisions which will be good for his career and his kingdom. He makes his choices according to events that happen randomly. Depending on the decisions, the player has to live with consequences of his bad and good choices. He may even be betrayed and killed if he makes a bad decision! As you can see in the screenshot below it was written as simple HTML code with a couple of graphics added and scripts written.
“Mad Scientist” is an idea for an adventure game with loads of puzzles and riddles to solve. It was inspired by classic the “point and click” adventure games. The goal of the player is to save his scientist friend who was kidnapped by the scientist's competition, a maniac doc who wanted to steal the scientist’s invention. The player wins when he solves all of the riddles and puzzles and avoids all of the traps and manages to reach a room where he can save his friend. In this case, the game was made as a prototype, and because it didn't have any script implemented (the game was created by non-programmers with a prototyping tool), we decided to operate the game manually by moving the elements with a mouse and using our voice to narrate the player during the game play.
As you can see, there can be a variety of ideas and solutions for game play and demos testing. These are only three simple examples, but which of these ideas became an official studio game?
Only one idea was accepted by everyone as the most fun and exciting and the best fit for our company strategy. The idea that won was a simple, multiplayer card game based on Solitaire. The game is a great fit for social networks, and it can be monetized according to our current strategy. It is easy to play, and it can be made as a mobile version (cross-platform) with some modifications. The most important fact is that it is made with HTML5!
In the screenshots below you can compare the transformation of the game from a demo at Gamethon with...
… the final version of Poker Solitaire created as a studio project. I'm sure you can see the difference between the demo and the final release.
I think the above screenshots are the greatest proof that leaving some responsibility in the hands of just one person (or a couple of people) can also give you enjoyment and a new game project. We are very excited to see what the results will be after the release of Poker Solitaire.
The time and energy is worth it do have these Gamethon challenges. It is not only fun and a step away from everyday duties. It is also a great inspiration for us and may be for the other developers. These events give our team a chance to be freethinking and come of with creative ideas, and most important the Gamethon can give life to a real game that is published globally. We will continue the idea of Gamethons because they give us more energy to keep moving on. I believe that one of our next games will also come from a Gamethon challenge. Maybe you should also try it out?
(Artwork in this post are copyright of Bushido Games Limited)