It’s a few days after the jam is over and I’m still motivated to work on this game. This is a really good sign.
How it came to be
When I found out that the theme was “10 seconds” I was in the midst of a nice long walk, checking Twitter idly. I spent a while going through possibilities, particularly the pun idea of “10 secondaries” that has appeared a few times in other entries. But the idea of an online game where you only had 10 seconds to play was intriguing, especially when I added the idea of waiting in a line to do it. Enforced waiting is actually a big part of most sports, not just for logistical reasons, but because it sets the pace of the game. Even sports that are implicitly “always on” like soccer and basketball have defined time segments and will further break those up following goals or penalties. And when you wait and watch specific players, you can build some empathy for them. Multiplayer games where you’re just continuously fighting your own battle don’t build that kind of connection.
Simultaneously I had some interaction mechanics waiting around to be used – a challenging, high-momentum, low-friction 2D plane where collisions cause death. I had first used these over a decade ago in a long-forgotten jam entry called “Spaceboard,” which was a simple time trial racing game with lots of deadly obstacles. That game proved to be very addictive, and recently I had started playing the Mario series again and realized that the Mario games were satisfying in part because the controls were made to be this way too – at first, a bit too slippery and frustrating, but rewardingly difficult, when played at a high level.
With the Mario games in mind, I remade the Spaceboard mechanics and had a prototype sitting around with a character that could maneuver very rapidly, but needed precise control when braking to avoid overshoot. And so I combined the two ideas of a player queue and the challenging movement prototype, and then added taking a token to the goal(ball? coin? still not sure myself) and planting mines so that there was indirect interaction and a changing landscape. Mines were a major obstacle in Spaceboard – although in that game many of them had the ability to chase you.
Finally, I had usable technology sitting around since I had remade Heartbreaker, my entry for LD21, as a generalized rapid-prototyping multiplayer system with some ability to adapt to other games, handling details like the connect process, rooms, etc. while allowing each room to focus on the gameplay-specific protocol using Haxe serialization as the transport(no fancy efficient binary here). As a result most of my time was just spent knocking out the Heartbreaker stuff and reworking it to the new gameplay – the player queue and one-player-at-a-time stuff being a cause for major reworks. I only did one late-night crunch, on my last “night” before it was due, when all the basic protocol and player queuing stuff was out of the way and the game started to come together.
How I’m getting players
Online multiplayer has a problem in that it’s hard to get a playerbase started. Fortunately I have a strategy that is addressing this for the purpose of current development, which is to schedule a session every day at the same time (7 PM Pacific) and then advertise it a little across multiple IRC channels and my Twitter as the time comes near – IRC is particularly great for this, especially when you go to channels with “gamer” types. I manage to get a few players every time, pretty consistently. At least half of the players drop out really quickly after being frustrated by the controls, but the ones that stay tend to get very addicted.
The open question is whether I can sustain this and turn it into a percentage growth. As they say, nothing lasts forever, but I think I have a good chance to build a community here, especially since there’s a lot of stuff that is just begging to be tried out. The opposite was a difficulty I ran into with Heartbreaker, where it wasn’t clear where to take what I had already made, so I let it go.
Mostly simple stuff! Little improvements to the instructions and indicators. There are bigger change ideas but they aren’t the most important things right now.