6 Games in 6 Weeks: First snowfall

We are done with the first week of our 6 games in 6 weeks challenge. This means the release of our first wave of week long games too. A big part of this process is the to learn more about developing games together and faster. We also written an article on the development of our other game, I Am Bomb. This article will reflect on the past week’s development for one of the two weekly games, Snowfall.

A thank you note in the form of a journey home.

A new kind of game

Between the two of us who developed the game, Snowfall was a new kind of game for us in many ways. It was the shortest amount of time we took to produce a game, with previous projects taking months to finish. It was the first time we worked on a shorter game experience. Our previous goal was to maximise the amount of time a game could capture the player for. Not to say that it’s still not, but with Snowfall, we were purposefully creating an experience designed to be short. A shorter game can pack a tight, undiluted narrative impact.

Snowfall was birthed from a narrative. We mainly have backgrounds rooted in mechanics design, often leading to us defaulting to a ‘cool’ mechanic as the starting point for our games. This was not the case with Snowfall. We came into Snowfall knowing that we wanted to create a short, vignette game experience which delivered a message in the way only games can.

Setting the narrative context at the start

With Snowfall, we wanted to design a game by mashing together a specific narrative prompt with a specific game genre. These ended up being “She put on her jacket on a cold night” and “First person”, respectively.

Despite feeling like we knew what we were getting into (emphasis on ‘feeling like’) we ended up stumbling on the obvious constraints of this week long project. We mainly struggled with delivering in a timely manner and focusing on the game’s purpose.

An early build of the walking simulator

Struggles and lessons

We started designing on Sunday, with a goal of dedicating Thursday night to playtesting our game. That left us with 5 days to produce a version of the game which best represents the experience we want to create. Unfortunately, we ended up still finalising the core mechanics on Thursday afternoon. Playtest night ended up being a test of pure mechanics, missing the mark entirely with the deeper story experience we wanted to create.

In hindsight there are two lessons here. The first being an obvious project management flaw; a lack of a project time line or road map. Even for a short project like this, if we had a timeline detailing what should be delivered each day, and we inspected it daily it would be a lot easier to realize we were behind schedule. This earlier realization would have allowed us to adapt to the project circumstances, re-prioritize features we loved, and have a more prepared build ready for playtesting.

Getting buffeted by the snow when in the open

The second lesson was to focus on the game’s purpose. We started Snowfall with a specific goal, “to deliver a deeper experience in a quick, casual play setting”. Our target platform was mobile, and we wanted to bring this deeper narrative experience to the short play sessions of mobile. However, what we ended up creating and testing had almost nothing to do with the experience we set out to create. We only had a set of mechanics with no narrative context at all. So despite having a functional prototype we could run play tests on we were no closer to knowing if we achieved our goal or not. A stronger focus on the game’s purpose would have changed the kind of prototype we built. Next time instead of “what do I need to run a play test” I would ask “what do I need to test my game’s purpose?”.

Results

All in all, we’re happy with Snowfall. We had a positive reaction from the team at No Moss that we hope you, our players, will have too. Despite our struggles, we were lucky enough to achieve the original goal we set out to do. If you’re interested you can play it here or check out a time lapse of the development.

Snowfall is currently a small slice of what we envisioned. We ended the week talking about plans to drastically improve the game’s feel and atmosphere, taking the game into VR and how to make the narrative more nuanced. We agreed to work on a different game next week but I’m glad the week ended with us hopeful about the potential of this new game under our belt.

Snowfall

You can follow us on Twitter to learn more about what we’re currently working on, including the games made for the 6 games 6 weeks challenge, or find some of our previous work here. Check in again next week to read about the second week of games at No Moss Studios.

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