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If you just want to get to the question and skip the background, go to the next paragraph if not, keep reading. O.k., so, I'm 13 and I make games in my spare time. They've never really been shared with anyone or anything so I decided I would enter the STEM Video Game Challenge for middle schoolers. I decided to use Stencyl to make the game and it was January so I figured I would work on it at some point. After that I joined a play at my school which takes up a ton of my time and today I realized its March 3rd which means I have 9 days to make a game-gah!

So, I have to make a game in 9 days and I'm probably going to use stencylworks. I just need an idea that I could execute in 9 days and just general tips for efficient game development. Sorry that this is kind of a loose question and thanks in advance!

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I'm not sure if these kinds of questions belong to SE... –  jco Mar 3 '12 at 14:24
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Perhaps you could use one from the list at this url: gamedev.stackexchange.com/questions/854/… –  Matt Fordham Mar 3 '12 at 14:32
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@Bane, I'm fairly sure it doesn't belong, and was about to flag it. However, it's already gotten a great answer - more than once on SE sites, I've seen a bad question redeemed by an excellent answer, and I think this one qualifies. –  Cyclops Mar 4 '12 at 13:32
    
@Cyclops: while we might be grateful for good answers, a bad question stays a bad question regardless, and if it's OT it should be closed anyway. –  Lohoris Mar 4 '12 at 19:36
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Just remember, next week after you've finished your game, to come back and checkmark an answer. :) –  Cyclops Mar 7 '12 at 12:39

2 Answers 2

9 days? No sweat, man! I've made over a dozen games in one week each, with a 48-hour limit a few times.

So, here's what you've got to know.

First off, you need an idea. Now, you might think that the best way to get an idea is to not restrict yourself. Oddly, you'd be wrong. Humans seem to be better off exploring ideas within the confines of a stricter concept.

That means we need some concepts. Luckily, there are tons of concepts available for easy pickings. Here, for example, are a ton of historical concepts from the Experimental Gameplay Project (which I highly recommend taking on, by the way.)

Pick one. I recommend picking the most recent one. Tada, you're making a game about economy. What does that mean? I dunno! That's where it's up to you. Maybe that's a business sim. Maybe it's about recycling. Maybe it's about making careful use of resources. You've got a word - "economy" - and now it's up to you to make a game.

Write down a bunch of ideas. Throw out the bad ones. Pick the idea you're most interested in. Start writing code.

Now, keep in mind this is going to be a bit of a crapshoot. It's possible you'll pick a brilliant idea. It's possible you'll get seven days in and say "well, that idea was pretty crummy actually". If the latter happens, finish the game anyway and chalk it off as a learning experience.

Now, how do you make a game in nine days?

First: ruthless cutting of features. You don't need a title screen. You don't need an escape menu. You don't need good art or good music. If you get in five days and your game is done, yeah, sure, go back and flesh things out, but for now your goal is to get your gameplay working. Sit down and work until your basic gameplay exists. Then work until it's done. Don't waste time on finicky details, don't worry about making things look perfect. If you find a bug, think about whether it's worth fixing or not. If your character has a graphics glitch when he fires a gun, congratulations, you've just invented a weird kind of muzzle flash. If you're designing a clock and the face looks wrong, awesome, you've got a weird art deco clock. KEEP WORKING ON THE IMPORTANT THINGS.

Second: get rid of distractions. Yeah, I know you want to read Reddit. Don't do that. Stop reading Reddit. I've found that streaming my development as a video keeps me on-track - if I get distracted, everyone will know - but you probably don't want to set that up right now, you've got a game to write.

Third: Keep a list of goals. Again, cull it ruthlessly. Anytime you find yourself unsure of what to do next, that means you need to consult your list. If your list doesn't tell you, that means you need to improve your list.

Fourth: Make sure everything is worth the time. Yeah, you could download a good sound design package and spend five days learning how to make good sound effects. NOPE. You'll have time for that once the competition is done! Grab SFXR. You have five minutes per sound effect. GO. Are you an awesome artist? Can you make a great character sprite in a day? NOPE. Your main character is a square, your enemies are triangles. GO.

Good luck! This kind of a challenge is very difficult but it's also incredibly rewarding. If you really want to get into the games industry, I can promise you that releasing twelve games, one every month, looks miles better on a resume than a four-year college diploma.

As an example, here are a bunch of games I made under similar constraints. Yours probably won't be that developed - you just don't have the time or the experience - but it's certainly doable.

Are you playing those games?

STOP. GET TO WORK. YOU DON'T HAVE TIME TO PLAY GAMES. GO GO GO

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After reading this post, I smashed two lamps and drank 3 Monster drinks. I'm pumped!!.. and not even working on a game atm. –  Inisheer Mar 3 '12 at 17:04
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Yes, creating a lot of games looks good on a resume, but if they're not polished it actually hurts your chances. More time should be spent polishing one game than jumping around working on others. Also, a four-year degree is still very important. The projects only show that you have the passion for developing games. The degree shows that you have the necessary skills to work with their massively complex architectures. –  ktodisco Mar 3 '12 at 20:36
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This answer is an excellent insight into how some people tackle the ludum dare. Good read. –  Suds Mar 3 '12 at 23:59
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@ktodisco, I'm not sure "polish" is needed, but "completion" definitely is. You don't want six half-finished games and nothing else. About degrees - my experience has been that few people in the game industry really care about degrees. Experience seems to dramatically trump 'em. –  ZorbaTHut Mar 4 '12 at 19:32
    
As someone who has done Game Jam's more than once, I can confirm that this advice is spot on! Focus on what matters and carefully choose where your time is spent. –  theRayDog Mar 6 '12 at 19:37

if you need ideas you can look at boardgames, most of them have an easy rules and there are easy to copy. you can make an 2dplattformer like the mario games or an simple puzzle game. be sure you make it simple, you need time for graphics and tweaking everything.

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+1 I'd say use half of the time to create the game and the rest to polish\make it work ok. –  Valmond Mar 3 '12 at 15:00
    
@Valmond, I think it depends on the game. One of the best week-long games I did ended up with absolutely no time for polish, I spent it all on level design. The main character was a deformed blob, the wall textures were repetitive, there was no background, it's one of the worst-looking and best-playing games I've made. I agree that half/half is a reasonable rule of thumb, but keep an eye out for violations of that rule. –  ZorbaTHut Mar 4 '12 at 19:34

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