WGDS Panel Discusses Backyard Development

A panel at the Wisconsin Game Developers Summit this past weekend highlighted the struggles young developers face when making backyard game. The panel, called Backyard Game Development: Learning to Adapt When You’re Broke, Tired, and Lacking Experience, was hosted by hobbyist developers Ben Mathwig, Kyle Roberts, Ryan Skinner, Rob Flores, Heather McNabb.

The discussion the group gave centered around how to make your own indie games even if you have no experience at all.

The small team is responsible for the development of Have Time, Will Travel, a humorous 2D side-scrolling beat-’em-up. Players control different heroes that travel through time on a quest to stop an evil madman.

The game was submitted to the 2010 Intel Level Up competition and won first place in the desktop category after the initial winner was disqualified for copying code in their game. Have Time, Will Travel’s code and engine was built from the ground up by the small team.

The team had to get creative in their efforts when making their game. For instance, to make a sprite sheet, the group took photos of a member doing combat animations in front of a blue screen, Photoshopped the blue screen out, made a Flash animation with the pictures, and finally overlaid sprites on the final product.

In order to accomplish achievements like this, the team suggested knowing your motivation and thinking small; a new backyard development group isn’t going to make Bastion right away. It’s also important to work with your friends and those around you and not waste time waiting for the perfect teammate.

Another important mention they made is that it’s always to worthwhile to network. One group member in particular almost never got the opportunity to join the group due to his fear of introducing himself to the team.

As far as creating a game goes, the panel noted that it isn’t worthwhile to waste hours of work on small details that don’t push the game forward. Team roles should be defined, but it’s also worthwhile to get new experience by wearing multiple hats.

On top of that, the group said that developers have to be realistic about their own abilities, free time, and commitment.

The group met through conventions such as the 2010 Game Developers Conference by attending panels and actively seeking out interested developers. The five developers live all across the county and stay close through Skype and email.