Turns out, games these days are a LOT easier to make. The real game engines are so good that they make GameMaker look like a joke. I bought this pragprog ebook for $20 and the first thing I thought was "Wow this book is short. Is this a full book?"
By the end I was pretty sure I could reasonably make any 2-dimensional game I could imagine. March was a short month because I used a lot of the time to learn SpriteKit, but I did what I set out to do: make a game and release to the App Store.
So here it is.
Ball Hit Targets
iPad only, head's up multiplayer target shooting game. I was drawing inspiration from a popular commercial from the 90s.
As you can probably guess, I ran out of time for branding and theming the app.
So why am I doing all this?
1.) Games are fun
No one will call you a shit-eating bastard if there's a minor bug in a game (I assume). Remove a feature or break something slight in a productivity app and someone is about to get very, very mad. There was that flappy bird fiasco, but if I ever earn game $$$ like that you can call me whatever you want.
2.) LEARNING TO RUTHLESSLY PRIORITIZE
"MVP" has become a buzzword that everyone likes to claim they're doing. Usually it means either a product that got exploded well beyond scope of what it should have been, or it's a single page email collection tool.
The former burns a lot of money and the latter is about as useful as asking your mom if she would pay you for the app. My mom is great and she would buy all my apps, but it doesn't tell me what I'm building makes sense or has a market.
And if you think you have all the time in the world to build your product, I promise you that you do not. Another faster company is better than you and WILL beat you to market. They will iterate you to death; their 14 iterations will DEMOLISH your 1 grand design. Then you can fire your grand designer and try a new grand design, you big dummy.
3.) Fame and Fortune
Ha, I wish. But it does say something that the highest grossing apps in the app store are always, always games. And the competitors in other categories are usually big companies and not indie developers. Indie developers are lucky if they can live off of app sales.
Game developers are too, but there's always the potential of making a game that really sticks with people that could earn well more than you could ever make with a business application. Games are the media Of The Future and relying on skills that exist in the static readonly world is probably a loser's game.
All but a few of my favorite games in the past few years have been indie titles, and it usually comes down to a single factor - a core gameplay mechanic that is so good that it props up an entire game on its own. And the stories in modern games resemble bad sixth grade novellas more than proper fiction; 343 Studios put out a game where "Save the eggheads" was canon and part of the plot. I used to wonder why I skipped all text in games, and then I realized I didn't. I skip text in games with bad text. I can't read bad translations or overly dramatic nonsense. And yet Sorcery! is probably my favorite game right now, and it's all text. The difference? Good writing.
4.) To lose money
I don't necessarily want to do this, but it's necessary. Without a business model or marketing strategy for any game I release in a month (if any game made in a month will be worth anything), I will lose money. Getting sound/art/writing/anything at scale and on time costs money.
Unlike software developers, artists and sound designers are scrooge-like and do not release anything for free. If you label your work free and require attribution and only allow non-commercial works, FUCK YOU. You can license however your heart desires, but do not call that free.
This whole endeavor will likely cost me a good bit of cash, so I'll consider what to do next when my year is up. I'm hoping the investment in learning and releasing will pay off, but we'll see.