Making a Short Game: Planning a Short Game

in Design


So the IGMC has begun, and everyone is working away on their projects!

And if you aren’t, the clock is ticking! (And speaking of the clock ticking: Best to go ahead and pick up that awesome Humble Bundle now! Fund the IGMC and get a ton of great RPG Makers and DLC!)

So of course, the best thing to talk about is how to make a short game. I’ll be doing more of these articles as the contest goes on, but the first one I think this one is the most important.

The biggest secret to creating a short game is to plan a short game.

Now, I know, this is a kind of “Well, duh” comment, but you have no idea how hard that can be. It is too easy to have an idea, write it down, and suddenly it takes up an entire notebook, spans 30 years of in-universe time, and has over a hundred characters.

Good thing I installed all this server space for my game idea! (Look, I have to get images in here somehow, and Planning is incredibly hard to make visually interesting. Bare with me here).

Good thing I installed all this server space for my game idea!

You have to keep it small.

Pick one central idea. Pick one situation you want to deal with. This could be an external situation, such as a single battle in a war. Or maybe something a bit more personal. Maybe a father and son working through the issues that left them estranged for the last 20 years. Or maybe something not even in the story. A single mechanic. Or a specific art style.

Take that one thing, and plan everything around it. Make sure anything that doesn’t serve that thing is streamlined out of your process. In an hour-long game. In a game that is made in less than a month, you don’t have time to explore more than 1, maybe 2 ideas. Maybe pick up a single “B Story”. Much like a 1-hour tv show, you will possibly have time for a second background idea, one that perhaps ties into the themes of the main story, but deals with something else.

Much like this Humble Bundle is a wonderful B-Plot to our IGMC. (I know I'm shameless)

Much like this Humble Bundle is a wonderful “B Story” to our IGMC. (I know I’m shameless)

But, you must resist the urge to let your plan sprawl. Keep the plan tight. Keep it simple. Focus on what you want your game to communicate, what you want your game to be ABOUT. Losing focus can lead to rambling. And rambling takes time, both to create, and to play.

So get that game planned, get that game made. And good luck to everyone out there competing!

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