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Looking to Music for Inspiration

November 17, 2009

I tend to talk about two things a lot on this blog: music and games. As much as I consider myself a game designer, the only thing I have been for longer is a musician. Sure I made my first board game when I was 4, but I was banging on things to make rhythm when I just a toddler. I’ve gone from recorder to piano, to trumpet, to bass guitar in my lifetime, and recently some six-string (although bass has been my favorite out of the bunch). Interestingly, I find creating a game and creating a song to be in a very similar category artistically, and have found that if you run your team like a band as opposed to like a movie studio, what you come up with in the end tends to be a much more original product where you really have an appreciation for everyone’s contributions.

Alice in Chains’ Jar of Flies EP was recorded in one week after they had been evicted for not paying rent. That is the inspiration I keep with me whenever I make a game. Whether you are a fan of Alice in Chains or not, that is an accomplishment, especially when that EP spawned two hit singles and hit #1 on the US Billboard Top 200. Some masterpieces take a lifetime to complete, some take a week. Keep that in mind.

My latest game, entitled Zombie Slaughter Tour 2009, will be releasing soon. I started it on October 23rd, coincidently the last time I updated this blog. It will have been in development for less than a month and I couldn’t be prouder of that fact. The game runs great, has been described as being “oddly addictive” by Ichiro of Dejobaan, and I kept Jar of Flies on as inspiration the whole time. I created the game as a birthday present for my sister’s birthday, who also happens to be the star of the game, and continued to polish it for the next couple of weeks afterward. This game also features an online leaderboard to add to the addictiveness, and learning how to program that was definitely an adventure. So really, this was my first foray into the world of network coding, hardware acceleration, data parsing, and all in less than a month.

Would I love to keep going on it? Sure. I have other obligations to get back to that I have been neglecting, but I made sure to get my team’s permission to make this. Remember that if you want to go and do your own thing, whether it’ll take a week, a month, or a year, get the right permissions, especially if there’s money involved or you owe someone else something. If you’re ever ahead of schedule, like so far ahead of schedule that it’s going to take a while for the rest of your team to catch up, that’s a good time to stretch and do something different. This project not only allowed me to expand my programming horizons, but also got me to set my recording equipment back up to record voice work and guitar tracks. So far this has been my favorite experience in game development.

Layne Staley on Jar of Flies: “They gave him two jars full of flies. One of the jars they overfed, the other jar they underfed. The one they overfed flourished for a while, then all the flies died from overpopulation. The one they underfed had most of the flies survive all year. I guess there’s a message in there somewhere.” That’s how art is. Sometimes you’re overfed on one thing and you die putting so much effort into that one thing, never branching out, and in the end the effort was futile. Then sometimes you take just a small bite, and ration that bite out for as long as you can, and in the end you deliver a masterpiece. So which Jar of Flies are you going to live in?

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