Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Participating in the Peanut Gallery

Posted by Rampant Coyote on December 23, 2011

While Markus “Notch” Persson (of Minecraft fame) livestreamed his progress during the Ludum Dare competition last weekend, one guy (Mister Speaker) spent some time seeing what people were talking about in the accompanying chat channel.  The results are funny and sometimes sad. Think about it: One person (Notch) is doing the project, oblivious to the chatter. And then there are dozens if not hundreds of people watching his progress and offering their own comments and criticisms, and getting into some serious flamewar arguments over it.

The author’s own comment, at the end, sums up many of the comments: “It was obvious that most people liked the idea of making a game, but balked when confronted with the part where you actually had to put in a bit of effort.”

I assume this comment is based on a number of remarks that he didn’t post. While some of the comments he shared are pretty obnoxious and downright wrong, there also seemed to be some honest, earnest questions from people who were just clueless newbies. There’s nothing wrong about that. We were all there once. Sure, you can say they could have just looked up the answers to their questions on the Internet, but in a group of people where some of them at least acted like they knew what they were doing (though based on some of their comments, I doubt that was the case for many of them), why not just ask the question aloud? Or, in text.

I talk about people making games. A lot. The subject has fascinated me long before I became a professional game developer. Although I guess it could be because I was fascinated with the idea of making video games almost as soon as I discovered they existed. When I was a kid I’d read little bios or interviews with guys like “Slug” Russel, Gregory Yob, and Nolan Bushnell with enthusiasm. Discussing the process and people involved in making games is one of my favorite things, almost as much fun as actually making them.

Actually, it is sometimes a heck of a lot more fun…  Making games is a lot of work, and sometimes it’s not all that fun. But it is a lot more satisfying in the end. I would suggest that it’s a lot easier to be a critic than a creator, and the anonymity of the Internet acts as an amplifying echo chamber for criticisms. So if you want to see this kind of thing “in action” and talk about it, that’s cool IMO, just tone down the rhetoric a little bit, ‘k? 🙂

But more importantly — if you feel the desire to make a game, take the plunge! If you can be happy lowering your sights and creating something that isn’t quite up to competing with the latest multi-million-dollar AAA extravaganza from EA, but maybe more in line with EA’s original offerings (Hard Hat Mack, M.U.L.E., Archon, The Bard’s Tale, Murder on the Zinderneuf, etc.), you have a better opportunity today to get started and do something cool than perhaps any other time in history. As an example, I direct your attention to Matt Barton, co-founder of Armchair Arcade, author / co-author of books on the history of video games, who recently “went indie” and has now just completed his third indie game in about as many months.

So what can you do in next three or four months?

Here’s the link to the article:

What I Learned From Watching People Watch Notch

Filed Under: Game Development, Geek Life - Comments: 2 Comments to Read

  • Matt Barton said,

    Thanks for the mention, Jay!

    I remember one of the developers I interviewed explaining that most games start off as a raw surge of pure joy. Nobody needs “encouragement” during this phase; time flies by. Eventually, though, the ratio of fun to work begins to change, and when it reaches the point where it’s more work than fun, most people quit. However, it’s the ability to keep hammering away at this phase–the polishing phase, really–that makes all the difference.

    As simple as it is, this game ended up taking a lot longer than I originally planned, and it was EXACTLY the sort of mundane, “I thought this was gonna take five minutes” type stuff that ended up taking hours upon hours. A good example is getting the “best time” displayed on the mission report. It took me the better part of the day to figure out how to make Gamemaker combine two strings of text in just the right way…Who would’ve thought it’d be so darned complicated?

    At any rate, I’d be curious to know at what point your fun to work ratio tends to equalize when working on games.

  • Andy_Panthro said,

    I felt he was a little harsh on those watching Notch. Not many of the people chatting whilst watching the livestream would necessarily have the skill, inclination or the time to make a game of their own. Conversation is always popular though, and far easier to participate in!