It’s the eve of Day 3, and I’m a little nervous.
I’ve got a plan, you see, and it kinda requires a lot of things to happen in the next two days. Things that are certainly possible in the time available, but which will require a lot of focus from both myself and the SeeThrough team. And of all of us, I’m worried that I’m the weak link.
Before I go into why that is, I’ll start with the plan for the back end of week 1:
- Adam and Thomas (our programmers) each take one of AI and gameplay coding. Each has something to show for it by the end of the day.
- In the morning, I quickly brief Jordan (audio) in the first hour and he then comes up with some awesome sound effects to be integrated on Sunday.
- I get the rest of our playtesting harness working, so that I can work with Arnab (stats/psych), who’s coming in at 3:30pm to work on analysis of game data.
- Saul (marketing/processes) does his own thing. He has his own plan – that suits me fine.
- Anurag (design/writing) gets five levels done.
- I get the playtesting harness working in a web environment (security sandboxes – ouch!).
- Adam and Thomas continue to make cool shit; one of them creates a system for putting sounds in the game, and then works with Jordan to get his funky noises in and working well.
- Saul does more of his planned stuff. [I’d better make a plan, then, huh? – Ed]
- By the end of Week 1, we have a finished and released prototype with five levels, which can use to begin to gather useful playtesting data.
- I act a little sad about the fact that we haven’t looked at monetisation yet (it was initially my Saturday plan), and I make a new plan to tackle that on Monday. [I’ll see if I can start on this on Sunday – Ed]
It all seems fine and dandy, right? Everyone has a job, and while time will be tight, everything there seems doable in the time given.
Except for my part. Because life as a creative director isn’t so simple. You need to juggle doing your own work with constantly reviewing other people’s work – answering their questions about how the game should look, feel and sound – as well as directing workflow. Being there to troubleshoot and direct needs to be your primary focus (as every time you fail to do this can waste hours of your other developers’ time), but it can make sitting down to get into a coding flow very hard.
And because I’m doing server stuff, it’s all using technologies that the rest of the team is unfamiliar with. Also, to be honest, we really need them working on the game.
So yeah, I’m a little nervous about tomorrow. I think I may have bitten off a bit more than I can chew. But we’ll find out.
Before I continue, I should answer the question I’m sure a few of you are asking: why the hell are you rolling your own playtesting? Playtomic exists. It works in Unity. It works pretty well.
My response to this is simply that Playtomic doesn’t give you access to the raw data in the detail that I’d like. I want to do more detailed statistical analysis on my game than their tools allow. Is this a bad call? Maybe. But at some point or another we were going to have to make our own system, and I’m into the idea of evolving our tools with our games, rather than getting used to a tool that we don’t really want to use and then having to do a bunch of work to switch later on.
But enough about my nerves, there’s a few observations I’ve made in the previous two days of work that I’d really like to share.
1. Flatland is awesome
I love the world of Flatland: it’s rich, dynamic and interesting, and gives a huge amount of scope for our creativity. What’s been great about using this world is seeing our team, one by one, realise how much they love it too. Never have I found the words ‘that’s a great idea, we’ll put it in the sequel’ so easy to mutter: while no-one’s saying it, there’s an implicit understanding that we all want to come back to this world in later games [I believe the words Flatland RPG fell from my lips the other day! – Ed]. This makes it incredibly easy for us to really strip our current game down to a scope we can actually achieve in the ninety-six hours.
2. Telling people not to work on something is hard
So we’ve got this ninety-six hour time limit, right? And that time limit is a little useless if we all go home and work on the game in our off hours. But it’s awesome to see how much our devs are wanting to go home and work on things anyway, and how much I’m having to tell them not to. I finally caved on Thursday and allowed blog posts to be made out of hours. I also allowed Louise (our artist) to do a half-day at home, partly coz we’ll have 4 people for half a day tomorrow, partly because she didn’t have much to do for half of Thursday because of a lack of equipment (we somewhat forgot to mention that she’d need her coloured pencils, and she hadn’t needed them at any of the Particulars meetings we’d had previously).
3. Having off time is amazing
An amazing thing happened on Thursday morning. We all came in, and within two hours we’d worked out a plot that works with our gameplay, has an incredibly intense mood that we love and an arc that ticks all of our boxes.
This would never happen at hour eight of a Game Jam.
And it happened because we’d all had time to go home and let our brains process what we were doing. When we came in on Thursday, we all had a fairly good idea of what we wanted from the game, and it was just a matter of putting it all together and mapping it out.
I feel we should have a new rule for blog posts: “If it needs an epilogue, it’s probably too long”.