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Best Garden: A Post-mortem

Best Garden, a short and fast paced gardening prototype made in 8 hours.

The whole idea of the game is to win as many Best Garden Awards as you can where you only have 60 seconds to make each garden. It sounds pretty easy to do, but when you find that your budget doesn't refill and the bar is just set higher and higher, it can get pretty difficult.

This was all formulated from an on the spot jam idea between myself (Twitter/Itch.io Page and Nick Udell (Twitter/Itch.io Page) where we had a day to formulate ideas then had to make that idea within 8 hours, this was spread over two evenings, which as much as it screwed with my sleeping pattern it actually worked really well for pacing myself.

What went right?

A lot of things did if I'm honest, considering this was the first time I'd made such a tightly scoped game in such a short time frame, with feature creep not happening and all.

Designing to a tiny scope:

This is something that I'd had problems with in the past when attempting to design games. My first game Escape From Infinity was a prime example of that, since the project was larger than it seemed at first and I wanted to add all these funcky features.

Best Garden on the other hand focused around the core gameplay element 'You have X amount of time to make the best garden.' so designing it was actually pretty simple since I knew what I wanted and the timeframe I wanted to do it in.

There were times I'd have ideas for features that I would have been nice in the game such as highscores, configurable controls etc. But I knew I didn't have time for them and had to stick to scope I'd set out.

Designing around a core gameplay feature:

This is one of the things that I feel I'm picking up really well, where I'm designing my games around a core feature that I feel makes the game. Both this and A Way Home are designed like it and having that core feature to focus on helped keep to many extras getting into the design.

As I said above Best Garden focused on a singular core gameplay feature which in turn helped better formulate the design of the game. Especially when working out how I wanted the game to play, originally I thought of going with a much slower paced game including the growing of the garden.

But I felt that firstly it would take to long to implement a growing system, secondly it would have been too slow to play and I felt that I wanted a game that you could pick up, play for a short amount of time and then put down.

Splitting the work:

This was more of an unintentional find than anything for me, but due to the fact that the impromptu jam happened late during the week I had to split my work time into two four hour sections which game me a good amount of time to get a the days TODO list done and think over what needed doing.

Sticking to TODO lists:

One of the things I usually find I struggle with is making and sticking to todo lists, mostly find that I just ignore them completely which has caused some projects of mine to be just a massive mess for extra features and missing features.

But I think where I had a solid design on what I wanted the game to do and where I wanted to go, the todo lists just fell into place and actually made sense.

What went wrong?

I was surprised at the fact that for me personally only one thing went wrong and that was the music. It's probably the one area I can't get away with being bad at, artwork etc I can get away with, but not music.

I wasted about 30 mins trying to make at least some semblance of music but decided that it would take to much time to make anything I was happy with, so I went without.

What's came from this?

Well for starters a new game!

There's also the new idea of what I want to do with much smaller scoped games.

Most importantly the knowledge that I can make a game in 8 hours.

If you want to give the game a whirl it's free to download over here on itch.io

Or you can watch the gameplay here: