Monday, February 17, 2014

2014 7DRL Challenge


We're just about due for the annual 7DRL challenge. It starts on March 8th and runs until March 16th. I've had some ideas bouncing around and I've decided to participate for a second time. I won't reveal too many details just yet, mostly just because I'm still ironing them out.

I feel like now is as good a time as any to step back and consider what I gained from the previous 7DRL challenge and why I want to do another one.

First off, 7DRLs by their very nature have pretty straightforward deadlines. You either release a winnable game within 7 days time or you don't. Pretty simple. The subject of whether or not development on a 7DRL is a bit controversial and one I've covered briefly before. But it's also pretty irrelevant to the main point: the original 7DRL release of Dead Man Walking was a complete and winnable game. That seems like the natural goal of a 7DRL or any deadline for a video game, really.

Having to release something in 7 days time, even working with a code base I'd written for a previous project, was not the easiest task. But it was an important one - it forced me out of design. I didn't have the time to waste constantly redesigning core game mechanics or I would fail the challenge. On a personal level, I wanted to succeed more than anything, so failing was not an option I considered valid.

Dead Man Walking itself did pretty well, even just as a 7DRL release. According to the Rogue Temple evaluation Dead Man Walking scored a bit above average. It wasn't a standout success, but that's okay. In terms of retained popularity, it also did fine (at least according to blog analytics). Some of the Dead Man Walking posts here take some fairly high scores in terms of view count for the blog as a whole. Still, overall I'd be lying if I said it was super popular - but that's deserved. I didn't do a lot to advertise it or network or anything fancy. I posted it to a few places I regularly visit, but I didn't really try to "sell" the game at all.

I would say that level of success is about where most of the successful 7DRLs wound up, though there was some notable exceptions. Perhaps the biggest success to come out of that challenge was Michael Brough's absolutely fantastic 86856527.

Another thing I learned while doing the 7DRL is a thing I had been slowly converting towards on @Star Wars and that is the concept of having simpler mechanics. I'd say it's quite an important element of most successful 7DRLs, though perhaps not a literal necessity. I enjoy the game design process quite a bit, but it can be a bit of a trap. It's pretty easy to take a neat idea and convolute it to the point of worthlessness. This is where simplification helps. One of my goals with Dead Man Walking was to try and distill the mechanics down to their bare bones and let the challenge emerge out of interesting scenarios. It's debatable how well this actually worked, but it was a definite goal. And it's a goal I will pursue once more when making my second 7DRL, because I think it's a big part of why Dead Man Walking was not terrible.

I suspect the new game is going to end up being a bit more ambitious than the original Dead Man Walking was. Hopefully I can use whatever ability I've gained over the past year to manage that ambition and trim it down if needed. To wrap this up, I plan on releasing a few more details over the next couple weeks as I get more details finalized.


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