I’m James “Jayenkai” Gamble, and I LOVE games!
I usually attempt to create a brand new game every single week, and when not doing that, I tend to spend the time porting those games to different systems, or bulking them up to make them bigger or better. I’ve recently joined the OUYA Developer list, and am bringing a series of my most recent games over to the console.
As A Player
When playing games, I tend not to delve too deep into a game. I prefer to load up a game, play it for ten minutes, then switch to the next one. It’s a sort of ADHD of gaming. I have little or no attention span, and barely give games enough playtime to warrant the price of admission. In the golden-era of 8-bit gaming, this wasn’t a problem, since most budget games cost less than a Fiver, but as time moved on I found it more and more difficult to keep up with my own strange multi-game addition. As prices rapidly crept up, the gameplay seemed to expand into “depth” and other areas that, frankly, I have little or no patience for.
The moment that games started coming with ten minute “tutorial” levels, or worse, “intro stories”, was pretty much the day that I gave up on proper gaming.
Instead, I found myself turning to Demo Disks. A couple of cheap magazines each month would bring a nice handful of quick, simple demos that would give me enough gameplay to last until the next month.
Nowadays, I get to pick and choose from hundreds of internet demos, and the vast library of Indie titles that is currently coming from the wonderful Indie-Developer community. It’s a fantastic time to be a bit-gamer, and there’s oodles to keep me playing. With ultra cheap “Mobile-Game” prices, I think I’m finally happy with the masses of games that are available to me, and am comfortable paying for the experience.
That’s not to say I wouldn’t still spend 50-60 on a AAA title every once in a while. But it’s good to know that, even without doing so, there’s still a huge amount of gameplay available to me.
As A Developer
With all my ADHD riddled gameplay experience, I inevitably got bored playing all these things, and started to play around with my computer’s interface. My 1980’s Amstrad CPC came with a built in BASIC language, and also a HUGE manual that pretty much explained everything you’d ever need to know about programming. I spent hours at a time reading the massive guide, trying out the examples, and slowly but surely building up a curious habit.
It wasn’t so much the making of a particular game that I found interesting, more the fun of trying out strange, different gameplay mechanics.
I would create a fun little “toy”, play with it for a bit, then move onto the next thing.
Over the years, the little toy games got larger as I grew more comfortable with the tools available. I moved onto Amigas and PCs and continued to build these little playthings. Games that simply existed for the brief ten minutes of playtime that they needed. Learning, and building, but having plenty of fun doing it.
I’ve been doing AGameAWeek for about 4 years, now, and it’s grown out of this urge to build. As I got better and quicker at cobbling together these games, I found that I was starting to build up a slight schedule to the thing.
I opted to stick to a “Tuesday Release” schedule, and try my best to ensure I’ve always got something prepared.
I don’t always manage it, though. Sometimes I might want to make a game a little bit bigger, and will take extra time bulking it up. Othertimes I might have failed to come up with anything, so will simply call the week a loss, and try again a week later. And then there’s life, which always manages to get in the way.. And resting! You should always time for rest!!
And so it continues to this day. Each game is given a strict week-long deadline, and I try to cram as much of a gameplay experience as I can into it before plopping the game online, and swiftly moving onto the next one.
In keeping with my “10 minute” gaming heritage, I try to ensure that every game starts off with a good kick. I rarely give the player any sort of clues, but try to make everything as obvious as I can, so that they can quickly and easily understand the rules to the game.
I also try to start the player off at a point where the game is in full force. My general theory is that if someone’s going to be downloading one of my games every week, then they probably won’t want to play through 10 minutes of boring “simple” levels each time. Instead, I try to start my games around about the “Level 6″ point. Where the game’s starting to get good, and the action begins.
This past year I’ve switched my development language to Monkey, which allows me to quickly and easily port my games to Android and iOS devices, as well as making games for Windows, and browsers, and even more recently OUYA, too.
I bought my OUYA a couple of months ago, and have played merely a handful of games on it. It’s strange that I still haven’t yet sat down to properly play on the thing, but, honestly, I’ve had SO much fun porting some of my recent games over to OUYA, that I’ve not yet had enough time to actually play with it!
Developing for OUYA is a breeze. As long as you’ve got an Android version of your game, it’s simply a case of mixing in some Controller code, adding a dash of TV Overscan, and ensuring nothing needs a touchscreen based tap to work.
I’ve learned that an alarming number of my 2013 games seem to focus on Touchscreen controls, since I was enjoying my newfound Android development, and as a result, an awful lot of them aren’t particularly workable as OUYA titles. Sure, the OUYA controller might have it’s little touchpad, but in reality, the controller is more about Buttons.
Some of my games do work with buttons, though, and they work SO much better with a proper controller! I’ve spend the past couple of months rebuilding and fixing up some of my favourites, and re-releasing them onto OUYA.
I’ve even spent most of November rebuilding NeonPlat, to make it a much more OUYA compatible experience, even adding in Multiplayer which obviously would never work on a touchscreen!
I’m having such a blast with the controller that I’m considering making it a focal point of my 2014 development, in much the same way that Touchscreens were the main target of 2013. Of course, I’ll also have to make the games compatible with touchscreens, too, so it’ll be a challenge to come up with games and control schemes that work well on both sets of inputs. But that’s half the fun of making new games. Trying out new techniques, and new abilities, to see what does and doesn’t work.
And in the world of AGameAWeek, there’s really never anything that can’t be attempted. Everything that can be tried out, will be tried out! And although I might not always manage to keep up a rate of one-a-week, and not all games will end up as much fun as they could be, I’ll be trying my best to keep it up, and making the experience as good as it can be.
I hope you can join me on my adventures, over the coming year.
You never know what beauties might emerge from the randomness of experimentation.
James Gamble, A Game a Week