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Experimental Gameplay Redux
After a couple years of large-scale, long-term development (when Gabler and partner Ron Carmel were playing with Goo and Gray was trying to shoehorn creative gameplay ideas into the studio responsible for EA's Madden series), the lure of quick, instantly gratifying game design has proven impossible to resist. Gabler and Gray have returned to their experimental roots by re-launching the EGP website this morning with a slightly different format. "The new goal is to release new games every month," Gabler says. "Each month we pick a theme, and each person has seven days out of the month to work on it."
That means a new round of failures and successes to experience and, more importantly, new games from a pair of once-unknown grad students that have since become household names in the indie development community. Last month's theme was "unexperimental shooter," which the duo inevitably interpreted as "not your everyday Doom clone." Gray's first contribution to the new EGP is a "funk-styled arena shooter" called Frobot: Fueled by Dancing. "The main idea is to convert businessmen into disco-dancers by shooting them," Gray explains. "The more backup dancers you have, the stronger your character gets. You can also kill the dancers if you're not careful (as can your enemies), so it adds a slight layer of strategy as you try to maneuver yourself around the arena."
Meanwhile, Gabler has produced the first outrageous failure of the new EGP with Egg Worm Generator. "I thought I would be really clever and make a game where you annihilate a terrifying procedurally generated evolving race of super creatures that learn from your actions," he says. "But I ran horribly out of time, and there are no guns or bullets or shooting at all. And the terrifying race of super creatures turned out to be really cute and adorable. And all you do is watch them try to learn to walk like babies with missing legs and too many arms. Failed."
With the new EGP up and running, players can once again watch a couple of gaming's biggest indie successes fumble through the design process for their amusement. Perhaps the next World of Goo will be born from a new EGP prototype. Until then, Gabler and Gray are happy just to provide gamers with a monthly dose of entertainment and aspiring designers with a source of inspiration. After all, Gabler says, "As long as you have fun with it and keep it simple, I'm sure you'll discover amazing new things."
Jordan Deam threw away nine drafts for this piece before arriving at this one. In other words, prototyping doesn't solve everything.