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GDC Austin: Swink, Wegner On Blurst's Rapid Prototyping Madness

At the Independent Games Summit on Austin in Wednesday, Flashbang's Matthew Wegner and Steve Swink explained how their rapid prototyping of web games like Off-Road Velociraptor Safari gave them larger life lessons.
In an amusing, forthright talk at GDC Austin's Independent Games Summit on Wednesday, Flashbang Studios' Matthew Wegner and Steve Swink explained how their rapid prototyping of web-based games like Off-Road Velociraptor Safari gave them larger life lessons. The Arizona-based team, which also helps to organize the Independent Games Festival/Summit, launched the web portal Blurst.com earlier this year to aggregate their Unity engine 3D web-browser game titles, which also include Time Donkey and Blush. Originally, they thought the small team might pick one of the Internet's favorite previously-made Flashbang games and scale it up to a $20 console or PC digital download title. But they decided to "unify our games under one portfolio", and then wanted to keep making smaller games for the rest of 2009. Surprisingly, they decided on an 8-week cycle for making games from start to finish. Thanks to a robust engine and a number of efficiency-specific models, they crank through titles like Crane Wars and Paper Moon swiftly. Some of their optimizations are more conventional, including simple things such as "no interruptions". High-intensity work is really important to the Flashbang staffers, who all wear headphones in the office to help stop interruptions, and Wegner noted: "You need to understand that people's time is really important." Wegner says that the best thing the studio did was paying for people to go the gym. It goes back to the concept that "you should try to achieve happily, as opposed to trying to achieve to be happy", something the team has tried to infuse into their lives. Swink particularly suggested that, as an indie, you can look way beyond your work circumstances and ask how you can "optimize your life", and then fit your game work into that. In addition, the duo advocated for cut work hours somewhat if you can, commenting: "If you reduce hours, you begin to view work differently." The team tried working from 10am to 3:15pm, four days per week, on a number of those 8-week games. They found it actually worked fairly well in focusing people into doing targeted, specific work. Wegner and Swink particularly suggested using 'single-tasking' to really concentrate on one task for a limited amount of time, such as 48 minutes, which is "short enough that you can guilt yourself into it", concluding that smart process can really make your game projects efficient and different.

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