11 Mar

Obsessive Compulsive Development Talk

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Just watched a really good talk from Matt Gilgenbach of 24 Caret games about the struggles and mistakes he made during the development of his game Retro/Grade.  It’s a really emotionally raw and honest talk about a series of bad decisions he and his partner made in terms of investing way too much time in things that didn’t ultimately result in the success of his game.

I think there are some really useful lessons for new developers here even if his is not a new developer story. Here are a few takeaways I got from it:

1) Play Where You Can Win: as a small indie studio trying to compete on things like 3D rendering quality against AAA studios is a losing battle. Choose an art style where you can do something expressive and polished within your resources.

2) Set a Deadline: Gilgenbach describes a circular loop they fell into of being afraid to ship since they’d spent so much time, which caused them to invest more time (and money). Choose a date or other trigger that will force you to call the product good enough, not keep tweaking and adding endlessly.

3) Focus on Saleable Features: This is a bit of a hard one but important I think.  Technical features like frame rate and resolution help sell games but they are secondary. It’s more important to invest energy into features that are easy to communicate to the player like: “You can turn into a badass dragon and fly around burning stuff!” Not: “We created a modular re-usable game engine for all our future games!”

I highly recommend this talk and want to offer my thanks to Matt Gilgenbach for being so open, honest and vulnerable in sharing this valuable information. Talking about painful experiences like this takes courage, especially in such a public platform.

Check out the talk here for free from GDC Vault, and check out Retro/Grade on steam here.

16 Oct

Newbquest Developer Blog 1: Butterfly Intro

I’m back! It’s been a while. I was very busy, but now, here I am.  I’ve decided to experiment with a new format for this blog which will focus on posting short video developer blogs, showing the progress I am making with learning to make games in Unity.  This is a short intro to my current level of progress, as I work further on the project I will provide more detailed explanations of what’s going on and what I’m up to. This first short video is showing what I’ve created so far and explaining a few of the systems involved.

The project I’m currently working on has the working title: Butterfly.  The basic idea is that you fly around in 3d space  as a butterfly and shoot missiles at other butterflies.  Although at the moment it’s quite absurd my goal is to develop it into something more visually beautiful. I’d like it to be a visual audio experience as much as a game and so I’ve got some placeholder audio and visual assets in there to start.  Once I get things going a little less shakily I’ll post some web players so you can try the mechanics yourself.

A few notes about my approach.

My goal in posting these videos and blog posts is to try to meet other people who share my interests, and to hold myself accountable and motivate myself to make progress. I feel like having an audience, even if it’s very small, will help to keep me on track.  I was very inspired by what the people at Overgrowth are doing with their documentation project. I am not as cool as them, nor is my game, but hey.

I am very inspired by the Lean Startup methodology so a big part of the reason I am sharing this in such an early state is to try to get some impressions and feedback from anyone who looks at it.  I welcome all feedback, positive, negative and everything in between.  If you think this is a dumb idea, that’d be great to hear! If you’d like to see it go in another direction, that’d be great too.  My goal is to try to build up this simple prototype and iterate on it until it becomes something cool and fun and to try to do that in a fairly public way through this blog.

I’d love to hear from you! Feel free to leave a comment here or on the YouTube page where the video lives. I promise to reply to everyone.