Some time ago, I attended an event called “Show and Tell“. Hosted by the organization “Seattle Indies“, Show and Tell serves as a place where indie devs can show off their work. Whether it’s a proof-of-concept prototype or a colorfully polished Alpha, people excitedly put their games on display.
One of the games I checked out was Snek, which was ostensibly a revamp of the classic game Snake. Tom Hunt, Snek’s creator, is a veteran software developer who has worked on such indie games as Hiveswap. In making Snek, Tom challenged himself to get back to the basics. Could he make a game in a week? Alex Schearer, another Seattle-based developer, is trying his hand at it as well.
What Are the Essentials to Game Design?
Between organizing events for Seattle Indies and developing award-winning games like Tumblestone, Alex is no stranger to the indie world. Like Tom, he approached the game-in-a-week challenge as a way to strengthen himself as a designer and developer. His two releases so far, Drive//Shaft and Arrowpoint, are testament to that.
One of the key aspects of good game design is a clear objective. In Drive//Shaft, it’s to drive towards the big glowing balls and rack up more points than your opponents. In Arrowpoint it’s to hit the targets. How Alex pushes those ideas beyond their basic premise is where his skill as a game designer comes into play.
Arrowpoint, in particular, is a stellar example of that. You begin the game on horseback, quickly figuring out you can look around and shoot a bow-and-arrow. The game starts you off with stationary targets that you can easily pick off while your horse ambles forward.
As you progress through the game, the targets start to move in more difficult and interesting patterns. The climax involves an encounter with a gargantuan sky-whale that puts your archery practice to the test. Arrowpoint is a game where you learn by doing.
While these are simple games, they’re fundamentally fun. Alex’s commitment to creating a fully playable experience within the span of a week raises one of the most important questions of all: How do you make a game “fun”?