15 Years!

Understanding the new restriction

We’ve received a number of questions and feedback on the control restriction on the theme for OGPC 8. We’re aware that this is something that we’ve never tried before, and we want to explain the reasoning and motivation behind the change in our take on the theme this year.

Year after year, we see teams fall prey to the same downfalls. Our theme is often too broad, giving the teams so many possibilities that it leads to argument and deadlock. This leads in turn to teams having grand and massive visions for their games, which are never fully executed. While we have no doubts in your abilities, some of us were in your shoes not too long ago, and we faced the exact same problems.

Each season, we spent months and months in planning and discussion, trying to nail down a concept, before deciding on some monster that needed to be slain in the last week before the competition. It never turned out like we had hoped it would.

Another issue that always comes up is the relevance of the gameplay to the theme. While teams invariably make excellent and outstanding games, many of them lack any sort of connection to the theme beyond a paragraph at the beginning or changing the appearance of some items. We want to encourage teams to really think about what message their game is sending, and how to best convey that through not just the appearance of a game, but through its gameplay.

This year, we discussed adding a “mechanical sub-theme”. The purpose behind the idea is to give a more tangible line of thought to pursue and to reduce the period of crippling uncertainty that every team faces when trying to come up with a game idea. We came up with the idea of making a separate sub-theme restriction closer to the themes of Ludum Dare and similar game jams. We went through many ideas, discussing whether to give multiple choices, etc. What we found was that having too many choices meant that we’d run right into the same problem, so we decided to make it even across the board with limited controls.

We had hoped that the control restriction would get teams through the planning process faster, limit the scope of the game to something doable, lead to more creative types of gameplay, link the gameplay to the theme, and make the games more accessible to new players. Five birds with one stone: who could resist? Of course, there are some downsides, some of which we hadn’t foreseen when creating the theme statement. For instance, while a lot of creativity is working within restraints, games are about freedom and innovation – and trying to force those things defies their very nature. We also realize that this change could be seen as favoring story-driven or point-and-click games over action-heavy titles, but we assure you that this was not our intention. While action titles may find themselves forced to make more significant changes than other genres, please don’t let this dissuade you from making a cool action-based game.

We’re not trying to eliminate any particular genre of game, we’re only trying to make teams rethink some parts of games that are often taken for granted. Okay, if you were set on making an educational typing game, we’re very sorry, but otherwise, there are many things you can do to adapt a game style to simpler controls. There are many possibilities for games of every shape, size, and color which utilize a limited control set – so many, in fact, that it’s worth an entire other post. Again, you may need to reconsider parts of the genre in order to make it work, but that’s part of what we want to inspire you to discover.

We don’t have plans to change the theme at the moment. However, we’re still in discussion about this matter, so if you still have any questions or concerns, please continue to give feedback through our social media outlets. We all have the same goal: to make OGPC the most awesome and fun game-making and learning experience around, so we’re always happy to hear from you.