Game Production Afterthoughts

last scene 2

It’s over. Our ten-week march is over and we have a game. Or, at least, something that constitutes as a game? I am being super harsh here. Do we have a game with a start and an end? Yes. Can you finish the game? You could if you are very good from the start. So, ok, we have a game. Could it have been better? By a lot. Yay! We have a bit undercooked game. Not bad for a bunch of first timers-ish.

For those of you who have no idea about what is going on – this post is an aftermath of a group of first-year students creating a game together for ten weeks. This week we have presented our game to other students and got to see what they have.

So, let’s see what went good and bad in our production process.

The good stuff

The narrative and the establishing of the theme and mood: In my opinion, this was by far our most important effort. The fact that we went out of our way to think about the world in which the game was taking place in details was very important. The concept we received was too alien, too unfamiliar. The time we put in explaining the motivation of the avatar and showing the world she lives in was a solid decision. Have we actually succeeded in that? Who knows… But most of the games I played during our release/playtesting day were lacking in that department. The games were either established in a known world and for that reason skipping the explanation of it. Or they were not explaining their non-mundane setting.

The art: when I mention the art, I don’t mean the individual skill of our artists. It would be unfair to say that the art of an established artist is good while the art of a beginner artist is not that good. This isn’t the point. The point is the ability of our artists to create the ideas we had for the visuals of our game and syncing their styles in a way that made them fit each other. This is what I mean by the art being good – the effort and work the artists put into aspects like cooperation and style synchronisation.

The not-so-good stuff

Agile Scrum: we sucked at it. No delicate way to put this. We were awful at planning properly what and when we should be making. We were awful at keeping track of each other’s work. We were awful at keeping deadlines. I personally feel that this system, in the way were shown and asked to do it through a template, was too unfocused. It was too much of a relic from previous education. Too specific in some unimportant aspects while being completely unhelpful in other important things. If it wasn’t a required element for the course completion, I would have disregarded it completely. The main purpose of it, from what I could gather, was to teach us about time management and to know our own time frames. And there is a grain of sense to that. But predicting time frames never works as you hope it would. So, we attempted to predict something that is famous for being horribly unpredictable.

Playtesting: this one is my personal responsibility and I  must say that I failed it. I could say that there were other factors to this, but my fault is not voicing my concerns early on. This resulted in playtesting reflecting a Waterfall method rather than Agile. Stuff piled up and waited for a fix instead of getting fixed on the go.

Overconfidence: we were too full of ourselves and it exploded into our faces. Never wait until the final days to implement something. Any implementation creates a side product of bugs. Implementation of a bunch of stuff last minute creates a legion of bugs. Those bugs riot and take your programmer as a hostage and demand to cut things for the release. An ugly scenario. I hope I will never have to relive this situation again.

All of this was a valuable experience. The experience of creating and building a game. The experience of the dynamics of a development team. It was both fun and not fun, satisfying and disappointing. And most importantly this was just a school project, no better place and time to fail and learn from our mistakes.

Art by Niki Kubasova.

And here is a doodle of my team Hippocampus. Thanks for the time we spent together and the best of luck to you all! =)

team hippocampus

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