TL;DR: Please give the community monthly challenges to work on games, gameJam’s have been amazing in getting people to release that first game, but now we also need a time-frame to collaborate on the deeper questions of game development.
So I tried to participate in a couple gameJams here over the past month, but being a solo developer it has just been too much stress to do it all alone and I buckled under the pressure, previously I have found myself spitting and swearing from the tight deadline of a gameJam. Similarly weekends are the only time I really know I can go out and see my friends, probably the best way to let off stress I have.
As an alternative, or perhaps more specifically a parallel to gameJams, I’d like to see something of a monthly challenge; honestly, I’ve done 5 or 6 game jams by now and I get it, lots of people didn’t “get it” that you need to get in the habit of making fast prototypes if you want to make good games, but I shouldn’t be pushing myself to the point where I am frothing at the mouth over something that barely reaches the boundaries of innovation.
The very designs of games themselves have “bugs”, for example; FPS games are often fun only for the very best players, so maybe some sort of AI involvement might allow the not-so-good players to shoot and kill something for fun, similarly RTS games have not evolved very much since the first Company of Heroes which suffers from issues with the player having a base that can be exploited, then there are the issues with the siege combat in total war games that have never been fully resolved. We simply need a much larger time frame, which includes rest and reflection upon the game design if we are going to solve these issues.
I think gameJams have been revolutionary in the way that they have resolved issues in the way people approach rapid game development, but so often I see repeats of the same ideas, basic FPS or TPS games, physics based games where you pick up stuff and put it in boxes, tower defence games and simple point and click / adventure games. I’m not saying gameJams are bad, it’s just that a gameJam does not allow the time to pause and think for a few days on how to approach a fundamental problem that may be encountered in so many game design genres.
Monthly challenges are not the only thing that could be done to improve this situation, I have noticed that the Twitch stream does not have the time to delve into WIP projects as Dana and Chance did in the earlier days; now it’s mostly commercial stuff because people are releasing things, that’s all good but the smaller projects still need some lime-light. I spoke about this a year ago when I suggested that the UE4 forums have a showcase ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7l1NgDH_k1A ).
A monthly challenge would give developers the change to submit multiple versions of their games into the thread and get feedback, which could ultimately lead to improvements in the art and science of game development as a whole. If you took a time machine back to the year 2005, the difference between concept art and 3d modeling then and now has been a total revolution, with what was exceptional then, being the norm now.
Finally I want to say that we Unreal Engine users are a unique breed, we by large come from a AAA FPS background we didn’t get into game design in the hopes that we could create some “little-old-me” platformer game with retro graphics, we got into game dev because we wanted to improve the most badass 3D AAA titles, as Unreal Tournament was/is, and as a consequence we don’t gel with the larger indie communities like LudumDare or the Unity/GameMaker communities.