DualMondays is a more or less weekly column by Jim Spanos (a.k.a. Dualnames) on game design, adventures and all sorts of highly intriguing things.
Well, normally this would have been another philosophical rambling about some topic, but today, I felt the need to bother you with the very recent and wonderfully successful Point and Click Jam. Of all the jams I watched closely or participated in this year, this one seemed to out-polish them all. There were absolutely no amateur entries here. It felt like a bunch of veterans were against each other, fighting for the first spot. This may be a correct first impression, however, upon closer inspection, that is not exactly the case.
The majority of the contestants, hadn't even done an adventure game before (some I believe haven't even made a game!), so why does this not feel as amateur hour (pointing at the Pewdiepie VS Indie Jam)?
Because, there's no way to pull off certain genres with half-arsed efforts, which explains the duration of this game-making competition and any other adventure game competition. Think about it! Even OROW (abbreviation stands for One Room One Week), that is about making an adventure game in one room/screen, lasts a week. For it is quite known and obvious to all developers, that you could make a platform game in a matter of hours, but as a genre, adventure games are focused on the story and atmosphere, and it's rather hard to set up pacing, flow, story arc, character design, interface, puzzles within the span of a day, let alone in a less time than that.
It's a genre that begs for lots of hours of work, but also for quality. Arguably and regardless of the design of your game, polishing it is a vital element. For adventure games in particular, it works on every little part they consist of, making it something you simply have to do with. And here I am two paragraphs in and I'm already transforming back into Plato.
Anyhow - about the Point And Click Jam.
It was organized by the good people down at GameJolt, and the rules were quite simple (and a bit on the annoying side too). In 15 days you had to make an adventure game of the point and click kind, whereas the interface was left open for developers to either make one that had already been famous from games of the era or construct a brand new one. The resolution was forced to 320x200 so that you could get that "1991 feel" and you could work on your story before the jam begun (but just the story!). The ultra annoying bit for me, was the palette restriction. To make things more challenging and closer to the Lucas Arts / Sierra Era we all loved when we were growing up, the rules stated that you had to use a certain palette (a number of colors) to make your entry.
That was of course set to maintain a retro feel, along with the rule that also made clear that you're not allowed to make use of a technology further developed after 1992 or so (contemporary technologies in making the assets of your game had to be used). While this did help create quality entries in a weird masochistic way, I found it rather unappealing. The jam should have at least broadened the restrictions by allowing the use of transparency, if not alpha channels on sprites.
Regardless I consider the jam to be highly succesful, as, through it, wonderful games such as "A Fragment of Her", "Max Greene", "The Exciting Space Adventures of Greg And Linda", "Void And Meddler", "There Ain't No Sunshine", "A Cosmic Song" and others, spawned. I highly suggest checking all the entries, but the ones mentioned are worth an extra bit of attention. Wait, aren't adventure games dead? :P
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