This past weekend, I was holed up in the Viget Labs offices with three super talented developers - Chris Jones, David Eisinger and Ben Scofield - competing in the Node.js Knockout. Similar to other programming contests like the Rails Rumble, the Knockout takes place over a single weekend. 48 hours, to be exact. The goal is to use Node.js in a project, and get that project completed (or at least functional) before time runs out. You're not allowed to touch any digital files before or after the 48-hour window. The submissions are judged by peers and industry leaders, and some pretty cool prizes are up for grabs.
In the weeks leading up to the knockout, we sketched out a basic - but very ambitious - plan. We wanted to make a RPG game. We wanted it to do about thirty awesome things. We wanted multi-player, onlookers, bosses and mini-bosses, leveling up, Tweeting results and taunts... In short, we wanted to create a feature-rich game in less time than we usually spend brainstorming. But as the weekend grew closer, reality set in and things started falling off the list. Priorities emerged.
This being my first weekend contest, I was nervous. The planner in me ached to start something, anything... even a simple template or color palette. Holding off on preparation is against my nature! But when Friday 8pm rolled around and we jumped in, I was glad I hadn't wasted time in prep. With the pace we were working at, things changed constantly. Trying to plan details would have been a waste. It also would have taken some of the fun out of watching the team build something out of nothing in two days flat.
What we ended up with is a pretty cool little Zelda-esque game called Tweetquest. It loads in your Twitter avatar and turns the people you follow into viscious rat enemies. You fight your way through boards and are given three different weapons - a sword, a bow, and fireballs. The weekend wasn't as intense as I feared it would be. I had a blast with the Viget devs, and only wish I would have spent a few more hours on the UX and design details. Having to look at a "finished product" that was cranked out in one weekend can be a little depressing for a designer who is used to perfecting every detail.
Was it worth a little lost sleep and burnout? Techcrunch seems to think so.
Edited: The site (and all other non-winning entries) were taken down by Joyent, who were hosting us for free during the event. No more TweetQuest. ;(