Become a Great Artist in Just 10 Seconds is about chaos, confusion, and creation. The game, created by Michael Brough (868-HACK) and Andi McClure (Jumpman, Sweet Nothings), enourages players to let go of intent and embrace the messy, raw creation process to produce wonderful works of glitch art. Become a Great Artist in Just 10 Seconds is up for a Nuovo award at this year's Independent Games Festival.
Brough and McClure took time to answer a few questions, as part of our annual Road to the IGF series. Make sure to check the free game out for yourself here.
What is your background in making games?
Michael: Andi's been making weird computer things as long as I've known her. She's made dozens of computational vignettes, audiovisual pieces with and without interaction - for example check out her "Sweet Nothings" album. Her experiments span a wide variety of ideas; cellular automata, programming languages, generative art, shaders, fractals, hyperbolic geometry, glitches, emotions. She's also made some games that fall into more traditional categories like the 2009 platformer Jumpman. Professionally, she has worked in various software jobs outside of games doing hard technical stuff.
Andi: Michael used to teach math or something, I think, it's a little confusing, but somewhere around like five years ago he started making games full time as a solo developer. He spent a LONG time on a large 3D arcade game no one remembers called Vertex Dispenser, but then started making just a really large quantity of small rapidfire 2D games, which I think are what he's important for. I kind of think of a particular one of his earliest 2D games being the template all the rest were based on, a game called Game Title -- the elements there keep showing up again and again (cryptic glitch artwork, generative electronic music, deep and surprising mechanics, encouragement of cheating). Game Title and its expansion Lost Levels are also how I got to know Michael originally, as I ported them to Mac. Most of Michael's public attention seems to have come from a habit of making genre-breaking prototypes during the 7DRL jam and turning them into commercial endeavors, the last one of which -- 868-HACK -- is very probably the greatest roguelike ever made, it's tight and it's gorgeous and it's endlessly replayable.
What development tools did you use?
Andi: The way I most prefer to work is to have a split where the basic graphics/sound stuff is programmed in C++ (where I have a lot of control and speed) and the kind of game logic is programmed in something high-level and flexible, like Lua. I found a bundle called UFO which is LuaJIT packaged together with some LuaJIT-compatible C libraries. So that meant I could write in Lua, Michael could program all in C, which he prefers, and we could use SDL for graphics. By the way, you'll notice I don't mention anything about like, art programs or asset pipelines or whatever here. That's because there weren't any. Everything was generated in code.
Michael: It's written entirely in C89 with Microsoft Visual Studio.
How long did you work on the game?
Michael: We made it in 72 hours for Ludum Dare, plus a day to fix some things.
How did you come up with the concept?
Andi: I had this idea of an arcade game where all your attacks were manipulating the playfield using generative art techniques. So on Friday night we sat down and started making graphics filters. By the end of the night Michael decided he was plenty enjoying the graphics filters by themselves, and suggested we just turn the game into an art program.
If Artist had a message to convey, what might it be?
Michael: YOU can be an artist!
What are peoples' reactions when they first play the game?
Andi: Most people start by just banging the keyboard. This generates pretty patterns by itself so they keep playing. Eventually they find something they "like," then they'll realize that they can combine two keys at once or a few keys pressed in an order to get a particular effect. They'll start mixing random button-presses with adjustments using the two or three "intentional" techniques they've figured out. If people keep playing long enough, say weeks or months, they wind up inventing highly idiosyncratic, personal art styles based on combining a set of verbs they've discovered and avoiding many of the more disruptive keys entirely. And then they make a mistake amidst all this careful pixel surgery, and give up, and go back to banging keys on the keyboard.
Have you played any of the other IGF finalists? Any games you've particularly enjoyed?
Michael: I think Bounden is a really important piece of work, but it is not all the way there; there is a lot of interesting space between games and dance and it is really good to see people exploring it and I want to see more. I’ve only played Killer Queen a couple of times but it seems like a really good design -- though I struggle with the platforming. Desert Golfing is an admirable piece of minimalism. And 80 Days is just really good.
Andi: I really like Killer Queen, and I've only played a beta of Elegy for a Dead World, but I think it's incredibly promising. I also really love Curtain, which was an honorable mention for Narrative, I feel like that game speaks to me very personally.
Michael: OH YEAH CURTAIN IS SO PRETTY.