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Challenge: Make a game, sell 1 copy by Oct 31st (ludumdare.com)
101 points by allenp on Sept 23, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 56 comments

I am ... (takes deep breath) ... going to do this.

I'm posting to reserve my place, and to predict that my entry will be the most stupid-simple of all the HN-ers.

Okay, well in that case, I am also ... (takes comparably deep breath) ... going to do this. And I will attempt to create a game that is even more stupid-simple than yours.

Great idea. There's a point when creating a game stops being fun and begins to feel like hard work. It's the ability to push on past that point that separates the people who ship from the ones who don't.

I'm curious: What do people making games like this do about graphics? You couldn't possibly afford to pay someone, and I can't imagine that everyone with a game idea is also skilled at drawing and/or modeling.

There are tricks you can employ. There are certain graphic styles that are easy enough for non artistic people to pull off. Things like Geometry War's vector style, or pretend your game is 8 bit, etc. This game is beautiful with very simple graphics: http://www.kongregate.com/games/TerryCavanagh/vvvvvv-demo

Truth be told, really pulling off even "simple" graphics takes skill and an artistic eye. But often times for small indie games "good enough" really is. There are plenty of indie games with obviously developer created graphics that have done well: iShoot is a big one.

Even Minecraft's graphics have a very down to earth, homebrew feel to them. Which can both be easy to pull off and work well if you can find that sweet spot.

I wrote an article about this: http://www.gamedev.net/reference/art/features/CoderGameArt/

In general, this was trying to offer concrete advice that people could use right away.

Here's what I'd suggest (and what I'm doing for my games):

- Make sure you pick something that doesn't need a ton of art.

- First, try and make all the art yourself. For certain styles and games, this is not as hard as you think.

- If you're not happy with your programmer art (and you should be very careful here of falling in love with your bad art just because you drew it), then find an artist online and give them your programmer art to redraw. That way you don't have to "spec out" the art too much, the bad art is it's own spec and can drop right into the game hopefully.

    You couldn't possibly afford to pay someone
Why do you think that? I payed for graphics before, if you're doing some small 2d game you can get some decent graphics for <$1000.

So you have a few options - one would be to split profits with an artist (usually you would need to have some fairly well working code for an artist to take the risk).

Another option would be to use resources like Open Game Art - http://opengameart.org/ and supplement as needed (but of course be mindful of licenses).

Third you could use primarily geometry, or procedurally generated content, or ascii.

I think finding an artist willing to partner up is the best bet.

I pay my art guys a combination of flat rate + % of licensing (flash games).

Where did you find them? Finding reliable artists is not easy.

I'm a pretty active user / community member at http://www.flashgamelicense.com/ which has lots of art, audio and programmer types.

Even if you're looking at other platforms I'd suggest trying to find an artist there, there's some great talent.

You can also find art guys at sites like http://www.newgrounds.com and http://www.deviantart.com and whatever deal you make can vary, some will do it for % only, some for ridiculously little amounts of $$$, some will want ridiculously big amounts of $$$.

I tend to use the same guys (http://hardcircle.com/) unless it's a little project I can do myself. Not cheap but good quality:



See my reply to the other guy.

An avenue that I'm currently taking for a game we're going to release under GPL is to use pre-existing GPL'd graphics. Battle for Wesnoth for instance has an amazing selection of sprites available.

This is timely. I just thought of a really simple game that I want to make to learn iOS development. Definitely doing this.

Very timely. My plans this weekend are to finally finish my iPad game that's been over a year in the making :)

A while ago I gave a colleague a game idea & challenged him to get it in the AppStore within 1 month just to prove that ideas are worthless. Nothing happened, so maybe I should do it myself after all?

No, you shouldn't do it. (Edit: just testing your determination)

You would never succeed with such a ridiculous attitude!

Should I try to prove you wrong? :-)

I'm quite curious as to how many people will, after reading the challenge, actually move on to take it and get a game done. This is one of those simple ideas that you think quite often but never end up doing. Once it's out there, however; once someone puts it on the table - then it becomes a challenge. And challenges are great.

I for one, may just do this.

Awesome stuff. I have a new game hopefully luanching next week, and another one going to auction at FlashGameLicense next week. I love making games.

If you're making HTML5 games check this out too: http://www.html5contest.com/

Part of me wants to accept the challenge as I have a simple game sketched-out but another part of knows that I'll end up with the ability to post an app to the app store and $25 poorer and no game to show for it.

Go ahead and accept the challenge. You don't have to shell out the $25 until you're actually ready to post to the app store.

So go for it! The only thing you have to lose is a bunch of time and your self respect if you fail!

I would love to do this, however it is against my employment agreement to develop and sell games on the side. As cool as this would be, I really would like to keep my day job. :(

Would it be all right if you donated your profits to charity?

Wow, making selling a game into a game itself. How brilliant!

I've always wanted to write a tool like Game Maker that was built, itself, on game design principles. Make a level, get XP. Game mechanics that synergize give you combo points, that you can "spend" on a Mechanical-Turk-like marketplace to get people to contribute 5-10 minutes of work on your game, or playtest it. Every time an A/B-tested-metric you've inserted moves positively, you unlock new premade-resource-packs. Etc.

It's been done already! Has incredible graphics...

I wonder if freemium games could fit into this contest? Get at least one person to spend money on your Facebook game by Oct. 31st?

They say that earning $1 in ad revenue qualifies -- with the implication that the game would be free. Freemium seems even more legit.

Well, it's not a contest; it's a "challenge" -- a tool for motivating yourself to do something. I'm sure the organizers won't mind if you define your own challenge for yourself.

I thought this sort of thing would be interesting to HN because of the focus on the business side and getting out a MVP (MVgame?).

Does the MVP model work for games in general? It seems if you're submitting to Steam, the App Store, Android Market, etc. you'll either end up denied entry or get buried by the games with a certain level of polish.

I'm pretty sure MVP works for the kind of game that is most likely to become a viral hit. There is a considerably sharp line between these types of games(stuff like Farmville, Minecraft, Dwarf Fortress, Fantastic Contraption, Civilization, Sims, Rollercoaster Tycoon) where the mechanics are an aid towards making the player perform some inherently fun creative and strategic acts, and big-spend blockbusters driven largely by their built-in content(Modern Warfare, Final Fantasy, Zelda, World of Warcraft), where nearly everything is hand-crafted and scripted to give players a controlled experience.

The latter type of game looks better for marketing purposes and can command a certain kind of audience that wants couch-potato entertainment - but the first kind is ultimately more efficient and profitable, because it can exploit the user's imagination to a far greater extent.

What evidence do you have that the first kind is ultimately more profitable? The second group of games you listed are some of the most successful games of all time... even Civ can't compare to WoW in profits.

I'm not sure World of Warcraft is a fair comparison, given that it is a massively multiplayer subscription game with social ties, where the economics are totally different.

But if someone has the numbers, I'd love to see how its profit stacks up against, say, the number one best-selling PC game -- The Sims (and number two: The Sims 2). On the one hand, WoW benefits from consumer psychology; it's like buying a new AAA title every three months, and it takes effort to cancel. On the other hand, WoW must have huge ongoing administrative, overhead, and content generation costs.


Generally and traditionally, no. You're probably right about the requirements for getting into the various digital distribution outlets, but it seems that gamers are willing to forgive a lot of problems and missing polish for the chance to play something while it's still in development.

For example, I think Minecraft is a great example of a MVP, although I admit it's an unusual case. The developer started on it in May 2009 and as far as I know it was available to play or buy within a few weeks of that. It's now making a lot of money, as I'm sure you're aware.

Valve's efforts with TF2 were a step in the MVP direction. It was in development for years and years before a massively marketed release upon completion - so in that sense nothing like MVP - but the fact that they then kept on developing it and new people kept on buying it showed that games don't necessarily have to be this big "release and forget" deal where a slow start dooms the product to complete failure.

Realtime Worlds recently collapsed after taking $100m in venture capital and then releasing APB to mediocre reviews and terrible sales. What if they had been selling alpha versions of the game all along? Perhaps they would have slowly picked up fans over a long period rather than relying on the huge marketing push to find a critical mass of fans in a narrow time window before the world moved onto the next big thing. Perhaps the earlier feedback could have alerted them to the game's problems and given them the chance to pivot. Perhaps they could have seen the game's failure coming and given up before wasting quite so much money.

Another example of MVPs in gaming are the guys at Wolfire. They are developing a game called Overgrowth and releasing weekly alphas to those who preorder, thereby funding the development as they go along.

They were also part of the huge Humble Indie Bundle, so it's fair to say they're doing pretty well on the marketing/money front.

Dumb question. What does MVP stand for in this context?

Minimum Viable Product

MVP does not imply lack of polish.

Maybe you have a puzzle game and you launch with 10 levels instead of 50. You can always add more as updates later.

Maybe you're doing a side-scroller and your character can only shoot horizontally right now. You can add shooting at angles in later updates.

Maybe you write a racing game, but you only include one car type right now. You can add more later.

The summary he provides is also nice (of app stores, payment processors, festivals).

Alright, I'm in. I started an Android game for last year's developer challenge but didn't finish by the deadline.

Technically, I already did this a couple months ago. But the sales I made didn't cover advertising costs. )-;

And the game?

Mazespace of the Vor

I have a challenge. How about setting your sights a little higher and doing something that might benefit society. That can be a game but if everyone designs their own version of 'Angry Birds' then this challenge is idiotic.

To make it an interesting challenge, you should formulate a more specific goal.


This is dubious depending on where you're selling. If you're selling on the iTunes App Store then it's impossible to not make one single sale. Mostly because there are built in promotional mechanisms in the store. It's more interesting to try and make a unique and economically successful game.

Actually, that isn't the point.

The point was to get people to actually finish a game and turn them into 'people who have sold a game'. They're a couple of important ego boosts and carry some lessons.

Except you'll need to submit your app to Apple for approval by Oct 20 if you want to actually sell a copy by Oct 31.

That said, I wonder if it's possible to make a "this does nothing" game in 10 minutes and still sell one copy for $1 assuming it gets past the Apple censors. I think I have an idea for my submission.

Only problem is many people often create clones when they make games. Obviously your creativity is a qualifier for this.

Yes. Though clones don't have to be bad. Incremental evolution in gaming is fine.

Fun clones of fun games is also fine. They don't necessarily 'need' to evolve, so long as they are fun.

My concern is you get sued for selling pac-guy.

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