The Six Week Challenge - Giraffe
What is the 6 Week Challenge?
At the beginning of 2021, I started teaching at my former university. This came about at a very convenient time as it reignited my passion for game development; teaching other people how to do something you love is a really easy way to start enjoying it again. During this time, a number of students asked if I had any significant projects under my belt, anything that I would consider myself proud of. While there are some that come to mind - shout-out to Dark Nights with Poe & Munro - most projects I'd worked on up to that point were either unfinished, overscoped, or not a good representation of my ability at the time. So I sat with that for a few months.
September brought about the new academic year, providing a natural point for me to start working on something new alongside my now full-time position teaching. My commute is around 3 hours each way so I'm not lacking the downtime to work on something in my own time, but I don't want another project that I overscope and never finish. This was going to be something worth showing off.
This initial drive led to coming up with a game that was a single mechanic, something mindless and easy to play (which inherently would be easier to make). Enter Giraffe, a game designed for mobile which, in the same vein as Flappy Bird, asked the player to simply tap the screen to avoid an endless series of obstacles. A concept so simple that I had actually completed the core gameplay within a few weeks. I had built the prototype and begun polishing the game faster than most other projects I'd ever worked on.
The three week mark came around and I wanted to force myself to hit an end point, not to continue working on the game forever. The three previous weeks were productive enough, and perhaps the following three would be a reasonable time-frame for the final polish and preparation for a release. Of some fashion.
This isn't to say that the game is perfect; the time limitation has definitely provided a lot of personal reflection on my own abilities, made me think about what's actually important for a finished product, and given me a new respect and appreciation for playtesting and feedback. That last element I foolishly left until the last week of development, and still didn't implement or action a lot of the responses I received. Lesson learned.
Going forward with this challenge, of which I'm currently on a 'Week 7 Reflection + Planning' period, I'll definitely think about the design limitations I could apply to myself. When designing Giraffe it provided an opportunity to figure out how to overcome certain challenges, like how I keep players engaged when they can only tap the screen. Perhaps looking at previous game jam themes or modifiers can unlock some interesting elements.
These development blogs will probably become helpful as the challenge continues, I didn't want to start them during the production of Giraffe just in case it didn't go anywhere, but they can provide a sense of accountability for me, and an insight into my design and development process for anyone else. Prepare for an update next week on what game number two will be...
Giraffe is available for free on itch.io
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