So, an update. And not, surprisingly, a post apologising for our lack of updates and explaining why. Why? Because I think I’ve done that post before, and I think you (the reader) will get much more out of an actual update (the psychology of why we stopped updating is mildly interesting, and pretty much comes down to the word ‘burnout’. I’ll leave the rest to your collective imaginations, and invite you to write any wild speculation in the comments). Suffice to say, we’ll be making a concerted effort to come out of the Update cave more often from now on.
I’m going to split this update into three sections: ‘Development’, ‘Business’, and ‘Other stuff’. By the comparative sizes of these sections our current (and quite incorrect) priorities should be pretty clear.
But enough of this chit-chat – to the Update-mobile!
Ok, so… we’re over time. After extensions. And haven’t released a thing. Whoops.
All in all, I think it’s going quite well.
I’m mostly going to talk about the Team A (and thus my) game, Unstoppabot (“Meet the bot, that can’t be stopped” – it’s been pointed out that this tag is technically innacurate for our game, but I’m still gunning for it), which some of you will know better as ‘Rolland’. That is, of course, if you’ve happened upon one of our very few screen caps on Facebook (have you liked our facebook page btw? You should – we’re totally going to start posting there).
A quick rundown of what ‘Unstoppabot’ is for those who haven’t been in the same room as us while describing it to your face: ‘Unstoppabot’ is an infinite puzzler for iOS, which is a bit like an infinite runner without all those jumping, ducking and moving controls and with pieces to place in the world that move the titular character around obstacles.
Rather than try and go through every little detail of what’s happened over the last eight or so weeks (which would take more words than I have time for), I’m going to describe the current state of the game and the major issues we’ve faced. I’d encourage you to ask questions about the hundreds of things I haven’t discussed in the comments (“Why only iOS? Is it coming to Android?”, “Why is the sky red?”, are some examples to get you started).
The current state of ‘Unstoppabot’ is that it’s almost – but therefore quite definitely not – done. The gameplay itself is done bar bug fixing and tweaks, many (though not all) of the art assets are done, and audio is… well audio is lagging a bit, but I’ll get to that in a little while. The menus are currently a shambles (I’m not prepared to show a screenshot of its current state), we’ve got no art for things like icons and advertising materials, the writing is still first draft-y, there are no loading screens at all, the instruction pages the game desperately needs are a twinkle in our mind’s eye, and we’ve got no achievements system. Oh, and its broken on the iPhone 5 resolution (which isn’t a hard fix, but is one I haven’t done yet).
On the plus side, people like the game! Hooray!
The major problems that we’ve faced (from my, programmer-y perspective):
- Being the only programmer on a project is hard, and not just for the programmer. Being the only programmer makes you the blocker for pretty much everything in the project. We got off to a fairly rocky start, where we had quite a few people on the team literally not knowing what to do that would move it forward. And as much as you build tools to try and make yourself as redundant as possible, being the only programmer means that most changes still need to go through you, as other people in the team aren’t even able to make small changes, which then increases your iteration time.
- Inexperience. This is a bit of a blanket statement, but it covers 90% of the problems we’ve faced incredibly well. I, as programmer, was doing sprite sheet animations in Unity, while optimising for iOS and using a fairly strict MVC framework, none of which I’d done before (in case you’re wondering, yes, the code is now quite messy, and many things have drifted towards being public and/or static over time). Saul, who is directing the art effort, hasn’t had to direct an art effort before. Neither he, Kristy or Louise have done sprite sheet animation before, or had to make art for 3 distinct resolutions. Nick, our designer, has never made a game before. And while we’d kind of done audio and gotten the timeline right for Fallen Angle, it turned out (to our surprise), that we didn’t really understand how we’d actually done that, or how to replicate that timeline. The result has been delays, cut-backs on features and weird dead-spots for most of the team at one stage or another. The good news is that this particular problem, by its very definition, fixes itself.
- Project buy-in. Most, if not all, of us on this project have had at least one week where we’ve just kind of vanished, either physically or mentally. We’ve still all been a little out of it mentally from all of the Flatland drama (or lack thereof), and gimmicks of cake, however fun, were not quite enough to get us out of that funk (by the way, the cake is still happening, and we’re totally not baking it. Hear that Team 1? The gauntlet has been thrown!). For me, in particular, it was a bit hard for me to deal with the fact that I had specifically placed the design of the game into another person’s hands (this was partly done because I wanted to make sure I could do that). It took me a while to actually feel connection with the game I was building. When it did happen, it was through my connection with the code – the thing that I had made. Once this started happening, I was more engaged and simply a better developer. It was a really good lesson for future project management, as it solidified the idea that people need to truly own a piece of a project if they’re to emotionally invest in it.
A few words about Team 1’s game (which we’ll be sure to expand on in another post): it’s a 3D rogue-like(-like(-like?)?) on your mobile, complete with gesture controls and homicidal bunny rabbits (the staple of all mobile rogue-likes from now on). They’re a little further behind on their gameplay, but actually have a splash screen and menu that doesn’t make you want to stab your eyes out (or, more rationally, close the game).
We’ve ignored it. Really, we have.
The one bit of news is that we released ‘Shapes on a Plane‘, a shape-creation tool onto the unity asset store, and it’s had a grand total of 13 purchases! If you have a plane that’s in need of some shapes, you should totally buy it – you could be our lucky 14th! We’ve somewhat deliberately left this one without too much advertising. We’re proud of what we’ve made, but have plans for some features (2d lighting, anyone?) that would make the package truly unique, at which point we’ll have something more saleable.
You’ve probably noticed that our mailing list sign-up has disappeared. Yes, that’s right – that thing that’s really important for long-term growth of our business went away, because I forgot about it during the latest site redesign. Whoops.
It’ll be back next week. I think.
As we’ve mildly bragged about, we won an award! Yes, we are now The Award-Winning SeeThrough Studios. Look for our award-name-dropping in advertising materials to come!
Onwards and Upwards
We’re now a bit sick of aimlessness and a lack of planning, and have got a lot of that out of our system. Its time to get to business. Time for some hardcore business planning and development. This will likely delay the Iron Dev games further, as we get them release ready while fixing the rest of our operation. Either way, we’ll be sure to keep you updated.