Level 4: Ship it!
My regular readers may have noticed may have noticed a complete lack of posting last week. At this juncture, the blog may be moving to a bi weekly release since my work load is beginning to catch up with me. However, it seems the fruits of my labor or not without benefit. This past week we managed to salvage what we thought was going to be a disaster and ship our first game.
To fully understand how we got here, I suggest revisiting my post Hurricane Irma article. Back? Fantastic! Following Irma, our team was a disorganized mess. Half of the group thought we were working on the 3D game, the other thought it was going to be in 2D and we somehow ended up with unpolished but functional versions of both just in time for our interim presentations. These basically serve as a progress review where the professor tells you that you’re on track or that you’re crashing and burning. Our game was riddled with bugs, unpolished, and packed with two different perspectives because why not ship what we had? Turns out that if you present two unfinished ideas that first question you’ll get asked is why didn’t you spend the time just polishing one of them, which is fair.
Somewhere in this mix, I was also tasked with creating my first ever Game Design Document, a high level view of a game idea that other people can rally behind. Apparently I’m leagues behind half the other producers who created one of these as part of their admission package. Luckily I was able to leverage their skills, and sacrifice my sleeping schedule, to finish this assignment on time and clean up what I could before our interim. I’m very proud of what I was able to pull off and may make a page to host these documents. Following our interim we actually managed to get our entire team of five in a room for more than fifteen minutes (bless). Turns out when you have a nice long two-hour idea session you can get a lot more done than having five people work in silos. We decided on a 3d direction, a reduced number of power ups, and some fun ways to ease in the player. The take away, meetings are not a waste if you’ve got the right people in them.
Having finally decided on what we were doing, the rest of the process was just doing it, which is harder than it sounds when morale is down and everyone is anxious, to say nothing of the plague that seemed to infect everyone in the school. When seventy people share the same space for hours on end these things are bound to happen. Our artist almost skipped the final presentation due to illness but pulled through anyway. Speaking of final presentations, the difference in review with almost dichotic. Whereas our interim could have best been summed up by the questions: what the fuck are you guys doing, our final review was met with praise from a professor impressed that we managed to tackle random level generation in only a week and still build a game that felt cohesive.
Following the final presentation comes a rather interesting period called post mortem. These are pow wows where the team gets together and discusses what they did right, what they did wrong, and what they can improve. Surprisingly then, these discussions are quite civil. Our team basically talked about our communication and pipeline problems but everyone walked away feeling proud that we somehow managed to pull it off despite these issues. Go us! Also somewhere in there, because days are starting to blur, I was put on a team of ten to create a story based on the hero’s journey that has to be inspired by Mayan culture. More as this story develops. Until then, go download our game!