Ryan Smith has been developing games for years, but it wasn’t until this month that he actually finished one.
Mixel Man is a game that is as basic as Flappy Bird: it’s a pixely 2D runner where the player taps the screen to shift the runner between the foreground and the background in order to dodge big spike poles. It took Smith five hours to develop. He knows it’s simple, he knows the audio and video quality won’t be dropping any jaws, but he could not be happier with Mixel Man because it’s his. He finished it, after years of scrapping projects, he finally can say he finished and released a game.
Why did Smith only spend five hours on the game? Simple, Smith had just finished a ten hours work shift and knew that in about five hours time he would be too tired to continue.
“After a ten-hour work day, I came home, grabbed a couple of beers, and forced myself to hammer out a game in 5 hours,” Smith explained within a Reddit post. “I completely removed myself from caring. I thought to myself ‘This is going to be the worst game ever created, but by golly, it’s going to be finished, and I’m going to release it.'”
The idea for Mixel Man emerged as Smith tinkered around with the game’s design in Photoshop. As he created Mixel Man and the spike obstacles, he got the idea to rotate the spikes vertically and that developed the game to its current format, —unlike most other endless 2D runners out there which have you jumping over obstacles.
“It’s really unique in that usually when I start to develop a game I think of the gameplay first, and then build everything around it,” Smith explained to Gamezebo. “With Mixel Man it was the other way around.”
The pressure of finishing the game within those five hours forced Smith to focus on only the bare necessities of the game, as opposed to spending too much time on one thing and getting nowhere. In that rush, he discovered an idea that turned out to be Mixel Man’s defining mechanic. Without that rush, Mixel Man would probably look like the other countless 2D endless runners out there.
As it turns out, Mixel Man is not that bad of a game. The game currently has a 4.4 star rating on Google Play and somewhere between 1,000 and 5,000 downloads.
“So far people seem to enjoy it for what it is, a simple free game to challenge yourself for a couple of minutes,” Smith told us. “As for future plans, Mixel Man is going to stay the way it is, but I’ve started work on a “sequel”, of sorts, which will expand on the gameplay idea and introduce a couple of new challenges – and definitely won’t be something done in five hours.”
I’ve been playing it off and on the past few days, and my best score is fifty-eight seconds. In an age where a game like Flappy Bird can flap its way to the top of the charts, a game that looks (and plays) as basic as Mixel Man is not that far off from being a hit. If anything, Mixel Man should encourage developers that even if they think their little game is going to be godawful, finish it and release it anyway.
At my University there is this joke about how everyone is a writer, but hardly anyone has finished writing a book. I imagine the same is true amongst hobbyist game developers. How many game developers have been tinkering around for years but never released anything? Change that. It’s as simple as sitting down for five hours and cranking out a game like Ryan Smith did.
It doesn’t have to be amazing, it doesn’t have to even impress anyone, just finish a game and release it to the world. Then, from that day forward, you can tell people you’re a game developer and mean it.
If you need a bit more structure than a random 5 hours to develop a game within, check out the upcoming Summer Game Jam and the Game Boy Jam. The latter would be a great way to focus on core gameplay and simply finish a game since the restrictions are that it must be a Game Boy-like game that uses only 4 colors.