Has it really been a year since the first Indie Game Maker Contest? Sure has…and a lot has changed for me since then. I was an entrant last year and was approached by Degica and invited to join their staff shortly after the contest ended. We didn’t win anything with our game, World Remade, but it was a unique, fun, sometimes very stressful experience. I’ll be playing a much different role this time around (a judge) so I won’t be entering, but I figured I could share a few pointers for IGMC newcomers having done it once already.
Keep the Scale under Control
This is the most important, so we’ll talk about it first. Even if you work 24/7 (don’t do that, it’s a bad idea), a month is still a very short time when it comes to game development. The more custom systems you try and shoehorn into your project, the more likely you’ll be releasing an entry with major bugs. Keep the story under control too. The ideal length is one hour. You CAN make a project that’s longer, but the judges are going to have a LOT of games to evaluate so we’re unlikely to spare additional time for any one entry. Distill your ideas for a game into a compact storyline and one major gameplay concept, then do the best you can with it.
Hiring People is Good, but Remember the Odds
I believe that artists should be paid for their work, controversial as that may be for a number of employers. However, keep in mind that hundreds of entries are going to be submitted. Although you have just as much of a chance at winning as any of them, everyone also has an equally big chance of not winning. In other words, remember that you are probably not going to recoup whatever money you put into the project. You probably don’t want to promise anyone a share of the winnings as an alternative to payment either.
You may have an artist (or programmer) on your team who is willing to go unpaid for the sake of the project. That’s legit but for those of us who need outside help with some of these aspects of game creation, keep the long shot nature of the contest in mind to avoid going overboard with the budget.
Leave Time for Testing
Even one serious bug can disqualify a contest entry, which is what happened to a handful of otherwise very promising games last time. Don’t let that happen. Make sure you allow time for people to play through your game and time to address whatever issues they mind. This is not just in regard to bugs, either. Another person’s perspective is essential to improving the game as a whole, whether it’s a story problem or confusion with the battle system. During the rush of creation, we can become blind to the problems with our work and it often takes someone else to bring them to light.
Be Patient when it Comes to Feedback
Everyone wants feedback for their work. However, when it comes to an event on this scale, it won’t necessarily come quick. I remember seeing a thread on the RPG Maker Web forums last year by someone asking when he was going to get some feedback on his game. This was posted not even 24 hours after the contest ended.
The judges are going to have a lot of work once the submission period ends. We will make an effort to compile our thoughts on each specific game as we go, but the time that it would take to track down the creators and show it to them immediately after playing is probably time that should be spent playing more games. After all, not only are people eager to get feedback, they’re also eager to see who wins. So patience, young padawans.
The contest is coming soon! You guys excited? I think it’s gonna be a good one!