I was just thinking about these short game contests and wondering if they are a good thing or a bad thing. It's true that a lot of games go unfinished because we don't have a deadline, but is it better to just pump something out or would it be better if these games never saw the light of day? The vast majority are games you won't remember after 15 minutes of play time, and I generally only look at the winners. Some of them might be good ideas if they had spent more time on them. I actually contributed to a contest, but it was more like a month thing, which seems a lot better to me. These short things seem almost more like exercises in uselessness with a name on it.
It depends on how mature your development environment is.
When I worked at Gremlin Graphics I was sat in a meeting and we were discussing new projects. Ian was talking about doing a snooker game and some of the guys thought it would be too difficult to do in 3D (this was in the days of the Atari ST and Commodore Amiga). While in the meeting I coded up a snooker table with all the balls and a little bit of physics.
Okay the balls were really planets from FOFT, and the physics assumed the spheres were actually cubes, but it took me 10 minutes
Sometimes a contest like this can be used as a test bed for ideas. Okay you are not going to be able to write stunning new special effects and commision new music, or get megabytes of new graphics done, but you can test game play.
I think game play is one of the things that we have lost in modern times, the focus has gone into graphic display code and making things look stunning rather than finding new fun things to do.
A short time span game contest SHOULD focus the mind on game play rather than 1024 lights, real time shadowing, megatextures, particle effects, etc. etc. etc.
Note the SHOULD
Personally, I think they do more harm than good. It's too much of a rush and most games look like a rip off because a genuinely new idea takes a lot more time to work out. The only good that comes out of it as far as I'm concerned is people get a better handle on how long something will take to complete and make projects that are actually completable, rather than starting huge projects that get abandoned when they find out how much work they are. I'm sure they are also putting together packages that streamline game making, but that's kind of a double edged sword also, because it's also limiting. I'm not against these contests, just the ones that are one or two days in nature.