Good morrow, y’all! Last night I attended a wonderful Babycastles talk by Andy Hull. Andy worked on the XBLA version of Spelunky and also helped to take the game to the next level design-wise. I’m a big fan of Spelunky and was really excited to gain knowledge from a person who worked on such a great game. Andy was very down-to-earth and had a lot of great advice to share for programmers. Here are some of the knowledge bombs he dropped on us in no particular order.

Life Advice

  • If you’re a creative programmer, you probably won’t be happy with a job that isn’t creative.

  • Long-term connections are so crucial to finding new opportunities.

  • Finishing what you’ve started is more than half the battle. Don’t worry about people criticizing you, just get it done and relish in the fact that you finished something!

  • Stop criticizing others. Go make lasting experiences that will move people.

User Experience & Game Design

  • Look at current trends and predict the next ones based on research. Be ahead of the curve.

  • If you don’t use a tutorial or make your game super-easy, try to be transparent about what things do at the beginning of your game.

  • If a feature is difficult to implement and doesn’t provide enough value to the game, cut it out.

  • Secret achievements + word of mouth = an awesome, engaging, community-driven experience.

  • Entice people to come back to your product by constantly creating new content. The content can even be automated.

Game Development

  • Only build what’s needed. Game development can be agile and collaborative.

  • Focus on the game design more than the code. Don’t make a fancy tech demo, make a damn game.

  • Don’t reinvent the wheel. It’s totally fine to use game engines, frameworks, and plugins that others have created.

  • Use what you need to finish the game. Hacks are used way more than they’re looked down upon.

  • Once you know how to do something, you can reproduce the results easily. If you have no idea what you did, step back from the mess you just made and think about what you’re doing.