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What I Learned from Making a Game in 5 Days

As a judge, I obviously couldn’t enter the Indie Game Making Contest this year. But I did have a little bit of a lull between the end of our Humble Bundle and the beginning of the IGMC judging, so I decided on a whim to participate in the Golden Age of Game Mak contest on rpgmaker.net. This small event was celebrating the commercial release of RPG Maker 2000, an engine I used in my formative “Game Mak” years. Perhaps against my better judgment, I committed to making a short game in 5 days. I did it…kind of, and I definitely walked away with some good insights on creating content in a small window of time.

Minimize Extra Work

What I mean by this basically a combination of efficiency and time management. You don’t want to be spending time on anything that’s not going to have an important role in the game. A good example of this is locations. Every area that the player visits will take you a decent amount of time to create, even if the place is only visited for a brief moment. I tried to limit the amount of locations in my game as much as I could to cut down on time spent mapping these places out. I even had the ending of the story play out as an ironic echo of the intro, meaning I could use the same map for both.

Resource Versatility

This is a continuation of the first point, except now I’m talking about work that you have done for you rather than your own work. Make the most of your artist’s time (and your money, if that’s involved) by requesting resources that can be used in multiple instances. Let’s use music as an example. Rather than have each scene set to its own unique song, you could get a few ambient tracks that work well for multiple settings. I only wound up using 4 songs in my 45-minute game (5 if you count the game over jingle).

The hammer and screwdriver are strictly metaphorical.

Work Each Day

This was covered in our list of productivity tips from last week and obviously it’s a no-brainer for a five-day contest! If I lost even one day, I would have been screwed. Still, even when you have a longer time frame, make sure you get something done each day. Too much time away from the project and you may start to care less about finishing it. Get in the habit of making progress each day and you’ll be cruisin’ towards the finish line!

Leave Yourself Time For Testing and Submission Details

This one is where I dropped the ball. I made sure to have the game tested, but when the final deadline for submissions was drawing near, I was lagging. Part of that was due to an annoying bug that took hours to resolve, but it was also one I could have seen coming earlier had I used more foresight. In the end, I was in such a hurry that I rushed the submission process and that blew up in my face. While I had finished my game, I wasn’t actually able to submit to the contest in time. That’s not a big deal for a tiny contest with no real prizes, but you sure as hell don’t want that to happen with your IGMC entry. Make sure you have time for whatever might go wrong as you finish everything up.

Has anyone else done a contest with a laughably short deadline? Were you able to finish? What worked, what didn’t? Let us know in the comments!

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