June 1, 2012 2:00 PM | John Polson
Moore sees his constrained but motivational, one-hour jam as a practical way to get developers actually creating and to see if a feature is fun, circumventing time-consuming discussions and design docs. Further, he believes "strict timetables evoke a certain kind of innovation rarely seen in gamedev."
Moore is no stranger to creating commercially viable products in a short amount of time. In fact, Moore made Steambirds in a weekend and his iPhone title IceBurgers in 8 days, and the longest project he's worked on took 30 days. "I have trouble believing anything beyond content generation would take more than that (unless you're dealing with 3D, or ports, or whatever)."
He has live-streamed on Twitch.tv various 5- and 15-minute game-making challenges, which he claims get more popular every time he does one. "Every time I [jam], there is a big chunk of people in chat saying they are coding along with me, trying to do the same thing. Anyone that comes late laments that they wish they were involved." For those people and the rest of the dev world, he has formally made his Jam O'Clock announcement ahead of time.
As opposed to a jamming for depth, which Moore has also participated in, he agrees that his jam is more about breadth. "Instead of having a narrow focus on a very tight game design problem, it would have a very broad focus on what the right problem is to tackle."
This editor has personally observed one of Moore's successful 5-minute jams. With only a few minutes of advanced notice given on Twitter, the chat grew from 10 to over 60 viewers. As Moore began his jam, complete with a countdown clock, viewers started chatting and cheering frantically. Game development suddenly felt like an intense spectator sport.
While the lightning jams sound like random pure fun, Moore's rationale in doing them is grounded in building efficiency. "I'm table-flippingly angry that some people spend more time writing design docs or discussing on skype potential features of a game, when you could actually see if it's fun in under an hour.
"I'm not talking a WHOLE GAME (you need a weekend for that!), but an individual mechanic, feature, or tweak? It should take less than an hour to hash out the lowest common denominator version of that."
Moore further asserts that any decisions made in game development can be made in an hour, "if you stop worrying about actually engineering things perfectly to be awesome code for the future (all programmers struggle with over-engineering). The short time constraint forces you to just DO IT and not write a whole framework around it."
This behavior seems to extend to students, too. "They think it takes two months of design docs and at least a year of dev to make a game, even the SIMPLEST of games, like the LD48 style.
"Showing off a game made in just an hour is a way, via over-the-top dramatacism, to show what is possible in an hour. If you know what is possible in just an hour, imagine what you can do in a weekend, or a whole week?!"
For some developers or developers-in-training, setting aside time and finding motivation to make a game can be daunting. Instead of participating in a 48-hour jam such as Ludum Dare, travelling to events such as GDC, "they'd rather just sit at home and lament that they never have time to do anything," describes Moore. "Well you know what, motherfuckers? GOOD LUCK SAYING YOU DON'T HAVE TIME FOR A ONE HOUR GAME CHALLENGE.
"But seriously, people get excited about 48-hour game jams, but when it comes time to deliver they often flake out. One hour is more accessible. Sure the quality drops significantly, but making SOMETHING is better than making nothing."
And then there's the entertainment factor to get excited about. Moore thinks people will watch a jam for only so long, though. "It's fun to watch someone code for five minutes, stressing out. Fifteen minutes can even be fun. Sixty minutes is pushing the extreme outer edge of fun as a spectator sport. I would never call a two-hour jam 'entertainment'."
More than entertaining, Moore wants the jams to be educating. He hopes people will learn lessons from observing short jams -- such as what is possible in a short time and how to unlock their own potential -- and extend that knowledge out to week-long or month-long games, and make something epic. "I'm tired of seeing games that have taken several months to build, and though I'm assured the back-end is rock-solid, the gameplay falls flat or it's just plain boring."
[Coming up, IndieGames will hear from Ludum Dare officials Phil Hassey and Mike Kasprzak and QWOP and GIRP developer Bennett Foddy on the viability of rapidly developed games. (image source)]