Thursday, January 01, 2009
Happy new year, Bob
A few months back, a guy named Robert Pelloni (a.k.a. Bob) announced a little piece of Nintendo DS software known only as bob’s game. Little was known about the game, except that it was a 2D top-down adventure game, and that Bob had apparently worked on it for 5 years and 15,000 hours. If you do the math, that’s about half of his waking hours. Bob sold the game on the fact that this was, according to him, the largest game ever constructed by a single person. Bob’s ultimate goal is to get the game released on the DS, either in a box or as a downloadable title.
Now, I’m no stranger to long-term one-man-army development. My game Between Heaven and Hell took two and a half years to complete, and AfterShocked! took about three and a half. Naturally, I took a special interest in this project. 15,000 hours is a lot of time, certainly a hell of a lot more than I spent on any of my games. That’s some serious dedication right there.
So, at this point, as you’d expect, Bob rolled out some videos to drum up publisher and game community interest. The first released video showcased some very basic highlights, including scene transitions and adjustable walking movement speeds. Exciting stuff this was not, but it did give an impression of the large scope of the game’s modern-day suburban world. It also included numerous jokes about the character’s name, “Yuu”. I found this amusing, though that’s probably because I’m an abnormally huge fan of the “Who’s On First” routine. The second video showed a fetch quest that takes place at the beginning of the game, in which Yuu goes on a hunt for some batteries. Okay, fair enough, though I’m not sure why Bob chose to showcase this of all things, given the assumedly enormous amount of content in the game. These two videos left a lot of unanswered questions. What’s the ‘hook’ of the game? What makes this unique and different compared to the hundreds of RPG Maker games out there? Does the game just involve walking around and talking to people, or is there more to the gameplay? Is it meant to be portable gaming’s answer to Shenmue, a storyline-driven life sim? That actually seems like a good hook if you ask me, and given what I’ve seen, it may be a pretty accurate description of the game.
But Bob, even while posting on various message boards, offered very little in the way of new information, and has continued to sell the game on the whole “Largest Game Ever By One Person” point. This is around the time I started to get a little concerned. Bob stated that no one had played through the game in its entirety, or even knew the storyline of the game. His excuse for this:
“I want it to be a surprise for everyone, I worked really hard on it and I know it's well made.”
Bob. You need at least a couple of testers. My games would have been complete messes if it weren’t for people telling me exactly what sucked about them. You want to release a game at retail that’s had scant little outside feedback? Really?
More cause for concern came when the third video was released. This video contains a timelapse shot of Bob working for 30 days on the game, often shirtless, as proof of his hard work. Unfortunately, the video lacks any decent amount of new info regarding the gameplay or storyline… until the end of the video. Guess who’s the end boss of the game? Bob. Yes, the game climaxes at the bob’s game Championship, in which I assume you play against Bob at bob's game.. while playing bob's game.
Bob put in a request to Nintendo some months ago to purchase the software necessary to complete his game. They haven’t gotten back to him. Until they do, or until 100 days has passed, Bob has locked and barricaded himself in his office without TV or internet beyond access to his website and e-mail account. Stop by and check it out, he’s set up a webcam to prove it.
Sadly, I think the major factor keeping bob's game out of consumers’ hands is Bob himself. He’s clearly a bright guy, but in my completely non-professional opinion, I think he has some real psychological issues. I don’t think locking himself in a room for 100 days is going to be effective, since A. it’s unprofessional and Nintendo most likely prefers to not deal with nutjobs, and B. from the sounds of his website, this isn’t much different from his normal life. If Nintendo does give him the tools he needs, he’ll still have to get a publisher. There have been much weirder DS games released and I think Bob’s got a shot, if not with one of the major players. But please Bob, do not try to sell this to publishers the way you’ve been selling it to the public. Frankly, few consumers will give a shit that this was created by one guy over a 5 year period, that’s not a big selling point. This shouldn’t even be called bob's game, that title alone will turn off a ton of people.
Personally, I’d really like to play bob's game—not just out of curiosity to see what a fellow one-man-army developer could come up with in 15,000 hours, but because I think it could actually be a fun and interesting game. Emphasis on “could”, however, because I still don’t have much concrete information about it. But before that can happen, I think Bob needs to get his ego in check, stop making a spectacle of himself, and show people an actual game they can root for. Because right now, I’m mostly just rooting for Bob.