Up until July 2016 Felipe Nunes had no experience making games when a couple of friends that had been making games for about two years asked him to join a game jam. Felipe hesitated, not knowing how he could be of any help, when he got offered the role of game designer. In the end he accepted the invitation and so started his game development journey.
The theme for the jam was ‘time’ and Felipe gave it his best shot trying to come up with cool ideas for the theme that were doable in the short amount of time. The result was a nifty 2D puzzle platformer called Timers. Seeing how quickly his friends could turn his ideas into actual gameplay felt amazing and if Felipe learned one thing during that jam it was that he liked making games and would continue to do so.
During the time that followed he joined several more jams with the same group of people and started to really get the hang of the tools. One friend in particular seemed to have the same work rhythm as he did, being able to work long nights with very little sleep and so when life happened and the group got separated he mainly continued making games with this friend.
By the summer of 2017 Felipe had gained a good grip on the tools of the trade but kept struggling with a personal foe : a short attention span. No matter how hard he tried he kept shifting his focus to new ideas before finishing the previous ones. A talk by Rami Ismail about the 4/44 rule gave him the idea to make a game very quickly applying the time division Rami suggested. In short this division states that if you have 48 hours to make something, you should spent the first 4 hours on the core of the game and the remaining 44 hours on finishing the game. Felipe applied this to a 24 hour period of actual worked hours. He succeeded and finished his first solo game, faulty controls and all, happy to have proven that he could finish a project before jumping to the next. He repeated the challenge and made another game in 24 hours before deciding that he could apply the same principal to a week. He has been making one game a week ever since.
The first day of the week is used to develop the core mechanics of the game using only grey boxes to iterate over the game idea until it is fun to play. The remaining four days are used for adding visuals, audio, polish, … including one full day solely for marketing in order to get people playing and to get feedback.
This last day, spent on marketing, created a community around Felipe that cared about the games he made and about what he was doing. Suddenly he had someone to deliver his games to, making him even more productive. Every time he published a game people would play it, give feedback and help him to grow his skills as a game designer. Felipe decided to start a Patreon in order to be even more connected to the fans of his work. Six people signed up, giving him a group of invested people to discuss ideas with even during development. Now he could iterate even faster, getting player feedback before finishing the game. In return these fans saw how hard Felipe was working every day in order to finish his games making them even more dedicated to his cause.
The limited amount of time spent on each game had an impact on the way Felipe had to design his games. Early console developers didn’t have enough data storage available to deliver games containing a lot of content. Instead they opted to make the games rather difficult so a player could still enjoy them for a long period of time. Felipe had similar constraints because he didn’t have the time needed to create a lot of content and so he resorted to making difficult games as well allowing him to create something interesting containing only a handful of levels.
The small amount of time also demanded a small scope, a result of the triple constraints we know in project management. For this purpose Felipe kept the core mechanics as simple as possible, trying to focus on one creative idea at a time. In his opinion the process of managing your time is the most difficult thing in game development and not overwhelming yourself with features is the best way to do this well. At the start of his journey he would list 10 ideas and force himself to cut 8 from the list. He would then choose one of the remaining two and try to make it work. By now he has a way better understanding of how long something will take to make, making the decision process much easier than it was in those early days.
After several months of making one game a week Felipe has made about 80 games and published more than 20 of them. When I asked him if he would recommend this experiment to other developers he immediately said yes. According to Felipe it has been amazing for his confidence, has learned him how to work more quickly and allowed him to grow a community.
Ultimately Felipe wants to be able to make a living doing what he loves most : making games. He has decided to take the lessons he has learned and apply them to a month. If making a game each month works out he might start making a game every two months, six months, … His first monthly game is in development right now and you can follow his progress on Twitter, support him through Patreon or play his games on Itch.
To sum up what you can learn from Felipe's story:
- Dare to jump into something new, it might become your passion.
- Create a process that works for you and iterate on it.
- Set clear goals and achieve them.
- Get your work out there in order to create a community around it.
- Do what you love.
If you'd like me to tell your story on this blog, or have any questions on how you can find your own process please contact me through the form on this website.