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  • Rhythm Doctor: A Student Game Developer's Diary

    - Hafiz Azman
  • Rhythm Doctor is the first game I've worked on, that ended up being selected for the 2014 IGF Student Showcase! This diary is a (rather embellished and exaggerated) narrative about the process of creating a game for the first time, and was first published in an Engineering magazine at my university, Cambridge. Please excuse the student lingo!


    December 29th, 2012 - First Release

    This moment has been two years coming now. I'm about to release a demo of my first game. It's called Rhythm Doctor. A college friend at LSE is doing the graphics. And statistically, it's going to bomb big-time. I know that. I know that because I've read it countless times now: first games always fail.

    It's a mantra I've seen repeated throughout the web, as a warning to naïve first-time game developers hopeful to make the next Angry Birds, "or at least, like, top ten on the iOS charts, you know?", as if thousands of other people and entire companies aren't trying to do the exact same thing. These are usually the people who start out wanting to make a game just to chase the idea of being famous. It doesn't usually work.

    My first game is going to fail.

    Sure I could go on and say oh I made this for myself I don't care what people think. But... I don't want it to fail. I've worked, well, hard on this thing. Two hundred hours of my life has gone into this one demo most people are going to play for all of half an hour. I've found every single part of it to be more of a ridiculous challenge than I originally thought: A simple level select system with cutscenes has become a 600-line affair, and creating a system to parse level code into proper music turned out to be several times more complicated than our first-year Engineering computing exercises. Having all of that effort in a lonely game nobody has heard of would be quite a shame wouldn't it?

    But truthfully, the real reason I don't want it to fail is just because I don't think I can bear to watch it fail. Someone told me once that when you do anything in the public light, you're basically opening yourself up to being judged by the world, you're saying to them come at me bro. Whether it's applying for a job, running for election, even applying to Cambridge, there are people out there waiting to watch you fall. And once you do, you'd better watch out cause a parade of smug Schadenf*ckyou is headed your way!

    But regardless, I'm feeling a bit ballsy tonight. Let's do it.

    The name being short for The Independent Gaming Source, the TIGSource forums act as a way to ask for feedback on works-in-progress and generally get noticed in the indie community. I log on to the forums. Subforum Developer, subforum Feedback.  Here's my competition today: a few lonely threads here and there, and some with a few pages of eager replies. And then of course there's goddamnMinecraft (alpha) with its 245 pages of overenthusiastic comments, posted by the now well-known name, Notch. It's funny to look at the first page, the modest unassuming messages when his project was still in its infancy, and see how the one-man developer has become a multimillionaire two years later.

    Anyways, it seems topics here either flourish, or are forsaken by the hivemind to a lifetime of 0 replies.No prizes for guessing which category first games would fall under, eh?

    But I can't think of that, not anymore. I've already spent ages doing so-called ‘last minute' checks and improvements. Today, the world has got to see this.

    I start a new topic. What shall the title be though? Rhythm Doctor. Nah, it needs a hook.

    Rhythm Doctor - the hardest rhythm game ever? No, that just makes it sound like I've got the classic indie game syndrome of believing harder games are always better games. Hmm.

    Rhythm Doctor - a one-button tough-as-nails rhythm game! Yeah that'll do. It makes the player think, "One button? And hard?! Impossible!"

    Or at least, in my mind's eye it hopefully does, enough to make them click the link. Now to get them to actually play it. I write up the post as properly as I can, screenshot, direct link, the works. And then there it is, sitting just above Minecraft (alpha): 0 views, 0 replies, created ‘a few seconds ago'. I'm starting a revolution from my bed.

    wrldGame.started = true;


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