Well, it’s been a long road. But here we are, the end of the line. My first game project with a group has now wrapped up as we had our final playtest yesterday. It’s been a crazy ride, but we made it (I had my doubts at certain points :P). I think it’s always a good idea to take some time to reflect when one has completed a big project like this one. So that is what this post is all about.
Some of you might know which game it is I’m talking about, but some might not. If you belong to the latter group I’d recommend you go read the first part of one of my earliest posts on this site. It can be found here and gives a quick rundown of the game.
I’m honestly not too sure where to start with this post. So I’m just gonna start typing in the hopes that I stumble into something :P
I guess a good place to start is with the actual end product that we produced. Our game.
Hmm, that actually feels quite nice to say. Our game. And that must be because it actually is that, a game. I’m pretty sure it could have ended up being so much less than that. It is by no means perfect, but it is a game. Some parts of it are even pretty neat. I’m proud of my team and what we accomplished together. From the quite excellent level that our level designer put together to the kissing noises that our sound designer accidentally left in at the start of our level soundtrack there are many parts of this game that I enjoy. But as this isn’t a post about self praise, let’s look as some of the things that didn’t go as well. That way we can learn from our mistakes.
As noted in my previous post, one of the problems we had was with the difficulty level of our game. Even though we adjusted it a bit more before this, the last playtesting session, I feel it still didn’t end up where we wanted. I think if we would have managed to utilize the other playtesting sessions more efficiently, or even had taken the time to set up more of them, we would have been able to nail this problem.
One interesting thing that happened during the final playtest was the fact that my brother, who is visiting me, joined the playtest. He exposed a flaw with all our previous playtests. You see, while he does play a few games now and then he tends to prefer board games and the like. Because of this he doesn’t have the same level of gaming literacy as my fellow students. Having only had other game design students test our game before this point we hadn’t taking into account that some of the things that we thought to be obvious perhaps weren’t as straight forward.
I’m not saying that he did bad by any stretch of the imagination, he eventually managed to do a run that was quite high above average for our game. But watching him trying to get to grips with everything in the game was intriguing to me. And yeah, one could say “He’s not part of the target audience, it’s fine if he struggles slightly”. However, my take away from all of this is that I, for my future projects, definitely will try to get more playtesters that aren’t part of the target audience. The more people that can enjoy games the better, right?
If one would compare the end product of our game with the concept document that it was based off of one would notice they aren’t exactly the same. We did end up making some changes. Most notably is probably the fact that we removed the boss at the end. The player was supposed to face off with the priest before being able to escape the church. We removed the boss as we felt it didn’t fit with our aesthetic. The game is all about running from the bride, so we wanted that to be our big bad. Also, the boss didn’t make sense from a narrative standpoint. If the bride is always trying to catch the player, then why would she stop just so the player could fight the priest?
To weigh up for this we added a hidden rubber band mechanic to the bride. She is slightly slower than the player to start, but becomes faster as the game progresses. However, if the player runs too fast and she falls behind she will increase her speed a bunch while not being visible on the screen. While this did have the desired effect of always keeping the player on the edge of their seat it’s also one of main factors why our game still is so difficult. I believe that if we would have managed our time a bit better then we would have been able to adjust her system to a more enjoyable level.
This course has taught me a ton about game design. But, surprisingly, what I’ve found most fascinating are all the “soft skills”, for lack of a better term, that I’ve picked up.
So I’ve worked in groups before, but as far as I can remember this is the longest I’ve worked together with the same group. At least on such a creative endeavor. I don’t want to go into specifics too much, but I will say that it hasn’t all been smooth sailing. However, looking at the end product, I can’t say that this has anything to do with a lack of ambition or effort from any of the team members. Rather, I think the problem lies with two key factors. Bad communication and over scoping.
The over scoping I believe stemmed from not being able to estimate our time accurately. This I’d say is just something that will solve itself over time. Once we gather more experience with doing certain tasks, we should be able to make better estimations.
Communication I’d say is where we really fell short. We did have a kick-off meeting, but if memory serves me right we mostly used it as a design/logistics meeting. What we failed to discuss properly was how people envisioned the project and the assignment in general. Later we found out that the team pretty much had been working under two different assumptions of what needed to be done. Obviously this makes it kind of hard to work efficiently together.
Another thing that would have been nice to discuss at the start would have been the personalities of everyone in the group. For instance, I tend to be quite forward with my opinions and I can often get passionate about a discussion. I worked under the assumption that people would air their opinions if they had any. And while some did, others didn’t for different reasons. Once they got a bit more comfortable in the group however, they started to open up more. Still, I think if I would have paced myself a bit and not taken up as much of the discussion space, they might have brought up a bunch of great ideas earlier on. This is something I’ll be trying my best to do going forward.
Alright, I think that’s enough incoherent ramblings for one post :P I hope this will at least bring someone a bit of insight. I know it’s brought me a bunch, and I’m super excited to apply it to my next project.
Oh, btw. I’m gonna be hosting a copy of our final game in over in the “Projects” section. Feel free to test it out.
EDIT(2018-03-22): We’ve run into some issues with displaying parts of the game in the Unity web player. So for now it’ll have to wait. I might just add a download link at some point if we can’t get it to work.