So since it’s March, I obviously had to talk about Nanoreno! For those unfamiliar with the event Nanoreno, it’s basically a month long game jam held by the Visual Novel community in March each year where you create a game from scratch. This is my 5th year participating and honestly one of the highlights of my year. This year we are working on an otome set in the 1920’s about a group of misfit magicians trying to run a speakeasy. Check it out!
I will say right off that Nanoreno is a fantastic event for Visual Novel creators, experienced and new. There is always something you can learn doing something within a short deadline and I highly recommend everyone to try it out whenever you get the chance. The experience is truly invaluable.
It’s the last week and things are getting right down to the grind so I’ll be keeping this fairly short! I still have a fair bit to do on my own projects after all~
When you just have a month to make a game you have to be ready for it. There are a lot of things that contribute to your ability to be able to undertake this type of challenge and even then there will be unknown elements that can come in and basically screw you over. However, there are definitely things you can do to increase your chances! These will work well on any project, not just a Nanoreno one.
-Know thyself. Seriously. Do not lie to yourself about your abilities. When you say you can totally do all that stuff in a month you need to turn around and ask yourself how exactly? What are you planning to do if it goes wrong? And are you really going to be able to avoid that new game for an entire month and only sleep 3 hours a night? Pfft, please. You are human, you need to acknowledge and understand not only your strengths and weaknesses, but also how you actually work. If you know you struggle to focus then for the love of all that is good take that into consideration.
-Know thy teammates. Even if you know exactly how you work, if you have teammates then they will most likely be another matter entirely. I think Nanoreno is an absolutely fantastic time to try out different partnerships since once the month is over you can either stay together as a group, keep the connections or part ways. However try and be careful who you jump into bed with. If you invite someone on board and they either leave halfway through or abandon their share of the work then you will have to have contingency plans in the works. Teamwork is always super important on any project, so any type of discontent can damage the project. Try to pick people that you think will suit both your personality, your project and your skill/ethics level. Even with the best intentions it might be a coin flip on whether you will sink or swim. Just try your best!
-Know thy project. Before you start, plan. And plan. And then plan some more. You should know exactly what you need to do by the start of the month and you should be able to hit the ground running. You shouldn’t be doing your thinking phase through this part, just the doing phase. Stick to the plan to reduce wasting time. Even if you think you’ve made a mistake, sometimes it’s best to just live with it and learn for next time. Doubling back and redoing things can potentially kill the project so avoid it when you can.
-Know thy scope. If you have never made a game in a month (and even if you have), the very first thing you should do is chop everything out of our project except the very, very core elements. Get rid of anything that isn’t absolutely 100% critical, as in your game would literally not work without these things. This is your ‘Must Have’ list. These are the things you put above all else, they are the things you do first. You can then look at all the parts you have cut off and divide them into ‘Important but not Critical’ and ‘Nice to Have’. Once, and only once, you finish the ‘Must Have’ list, you can move on to the ‘Important’ list and then on to the ‘Nice to Have’ list. Basically you are arranging everything from core elements to polish. A game is still a game without polish. However it isn’t if you never finished the script. Finish the base first, worry about the icing later.
-Know thy timeframe. One of the worst mistakes you can ever make on a project, regardless of scale, is putting things off until later when you ‘have time’. You should do things whenever you can, every day if possible. This goes double for Nanoreno because you can put money on the fact that things WILL pop up near the end of the month when you thought you would just be able to work on your game. You get sick, your mum gets sick, you have visitors, you find a massive bug, you get stuck on a scene, something takes longer than you think. There are literally so many things that can go wrong and the closer you leave it to the deadline the more likely you are to be tempting fate. If you leave things to the last week without working consistently in previous weeks you are pretty much painting a target on your butt. You’re so much better off finishing early and being able to put some polish on the game then not sleeping for the last week and still not getting the game out on time. Once time passes you can never ever get it back. Keep that in mind when both looking at your scope and timeframe.
Finally DO NOT FEATURE CREEP. DO. NOT. FEATURE. CREEP. EVER. Tattoo it on your forehead, put a sticky note on your screen, slap yourself if you even think it. A game isn’t a game until people can play it. While an unfinished project is a good learning experience, a finished one is an even better experience.
Nanoreno is my experimentation time. With projects in general I usually have a goal I’m trying to reach, something I want to learn, something I want to push myself towards. I usually pick this out before I even start itself. It might be a style I want to try, it might be a new skill I want to learn, it might be a different work pattern. It’s rarely about saving time. If I’m doing something that I think will take more time than usual, for instance Taarradhin’s painterly style, I reduce the scope of the game right down to balance it.
The thing with Nanoreno is that it’s just one month, one short project, where you can do whatever you want without being tied to it beyond that month. I try and do everything I can to NOT do my usual process. It’s the best way for me to make the best of the event as a learning opportunity, and I contribute my skill jumps to this type of focused studies. Longer projects tend to tie you to your mistakes of the past rather than letting you explore new options for the future. They have other benefits of course, but purely look at projects as learning experiences, short ones have a lot going for them.
I’m not entirely sure this will work for everyone. I’m pretty sure my personality plays a big part in me doing this. I tend to have a drive to always want to try new things out and I’m usually dissatisfied with wherever I am at any particular moment. I have a pretty good grasp on my abilities paired with an obsessive tendency to get things done no matter what. I am ridiculously hard on myself when I need to be, but I can also let things go for the sake of a finished project. Knowing these things about myself has definitely been formative in my work processes, especially for Nanoreno. I really do think that understanding how you work can go a long way in finding a work process that functions well for you. Work with your crazy instead of against it.
I hope you all enjoy The Blind Griffin when it’s released :)