Always 1 month away from completion

Discussion in 'Indie Related Chat' started by bantamcitygames, Jul 29, 2004.

  1. Jason Colman

    Indie Author

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    That's crazy talk! Improving the game play must surely be the best thing you can do! I say burn that design doc! :)
     
  2. svero

    Moderator Original Member Indie Author

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    All my games are shipped and done with a huge todo list still on the table. I try very hard to limit additional features to the very best ideas. My goal generally is to get the basic game done. Have a clear clear idea of how that looks and what it is and then put any addtions off to the side until I'm done the minimal ship-able game. Then time permitting I add new features.

    - S
     
  3. Linusson

    Indie Author

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    We have done pretty much the same with our games.
     
  4. Coyote

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    Heh - that's my problem with comprehensive design documents - they tend to be inflexible, and you just can't design fun on paper.

    My problem is as much related to starting a new business as anything else - I'm finding I'm spending a lot of time dealing with all kinds of additional issues like working on the website, promoting the upcoming game, researching means of distribution and e-commerce, and managing the other folks contributing to the project. Hopefully this will speed up for future projects, but right now it's definitely impacting the game's schedule.

    The other things you need to watch out for:

    The 80/20 Rule
    This was mentioned earlier... "80% of the job takes 20% of the time... the remaining 20% of the job takes 80% of the time." This screws people up all the time, because the 'fast' 80% is mostly found in the early stages of the project. So you think it's half done, but you are really only about 12% of the way there. Being able to gauge exactly how far you have left to go and what's left to be done takes a lot of experience and practice.

    Fighting feature creep
    I've probably failed in this one on Void War, but I'm not considering it a bad thing (yet). What you need to do is figure the cost of developing a feature. Not just the cost of your donated, free time... but the opportunity cost of not having it out the door and selling it early, the cost of having a new potential source of bugs, and the opportunity cost of not being able to work on your NEXT best-selling title (or the sequel) because you are busy with these new features. Consider the cost of your team, if you have one, losing morale because the game is still not done.

    Now consider - will the features you are considering adding worth the cost? Will they sell THAT many more copies to justify the additional expense? Breaking everything down to an estimated dollars-and-cents value makes it a fairly straightforward business decision. If you assume adding 10 more levels will add $1000 (in donated time, lost revenues, etc) to the cost of the game, will it sell $1000 worth of more product? If so, you've got enough bang-for-the-buck to justify it. If not, bag it.

    Usually the biggest values you can add to the game is POLISH and CHROME, not actual content. Sad but true, but people are attracted to pretty and shiny. However, being an indie, you do have some luxury of doing some things "just because it's right." That would be me doing both multiplayer and single-player for Void War. Stupid business decision, but it's what I wanted to do, dang it... and who knows? Maybe it will help put Void War on the map.

    Just remember... you can always do an expansion / sequel / update, and add those features that didn't make it last time. In that way, every game is still a work in progress.
     
  5. Bluecat

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    The other thing to remember is that it is allright to scrap something that isn't working.

    A lot of developers get all worked up and passionate about their great game feature and become blinded to the fact that it doesn't add to the quality of the game. In some cases, the feature actually doesn't work and reduces the enjoyment of the game. In these cases it would be better just to remove the feature entirely. Just look at Blizzard. They canned an entire game (Warcraft Adventures (?)) because it wasn't living up to their standard of fun. I consider (the old) Blizzard to have made some of the most fun games I have played and replayed. As far as I know they were ruthless when it came to chopping out features that didn't make the grade. I'm of the opinion that this was one of their keys to success.
     
  6. Chris Evans

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    I hear this mentioned a lot around here and I agree with it to an extent.

    However, there's some things you can only take advantage of with your initial release. Game reviews are one of them. The majority of sites and just about all magazines will only review your game once. Further updates to your game will only get a small news blurb if you're lucky.

    So I think it's important to have the key features of your game in place when you send out your game to reviewers since in many cases they're a one shot deal. A positive review even on a medium sized site or magazine can give your sales a big boost. It can also increase awareness and word of mouth. It's the best form of free advertising.

    With download sites not being what they used to be, I think game reviews have a higher importance these days.
     
  7. GBGames

    Indie Author

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    That's a good point. I remember when I ran my own game review site (it was geared towards QBasic games), there was one guy who kept resubmitting his game after I reviewed it. So I would oblige and update the review. Then he would resubmit again. After the third time, I basically let him know that I had other games to review so I couldn't keep doing this.

    Perhaps if you can even plan any updates, you could let the reviewers know about it. They may mention potential multiplayer or other options in the review. Of course, this behooves you to actually DO the updates rather than consider them optional.
     
  8. Coyote

    Indie Author

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    I didn't mean to imply that you can release a piece of crap and try to improve on it later, of course. You DO need a solid game out of the starting gate.

    But do you really need 50 levels on your initial release? Or can you do 30 for the initial release, and then do 20 more after your game has proven itself and your players are hungry for more? Maybe those are the levels where you can use this keen new gameplay element that was too expensive to bother with prior to release? Do you really think that a 'timed triple-death domination' gameplay mode on top of your three existing gameplay modes will really make a difference on release, or is this something that might be better in a (free or premium) expansion?

    You definitely don't want to hold anything back that would really impact the sales of the game. But you don't want to spend an extra month working in a new feature that's only going to have marginal impact on your customer's initial reaction to the game, either.
     
  9. Sparky

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    We're not behind because we've added any features (added very little that wasn't in the original design), but that we totally underestimated how much time it would take to do what we planned. Especially developing and learning how to use our tools. $#@!&*! tools!
     
  10. bantamcitygames

    Administrator Original Member Indie Author Greenlit

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    (formerly BrewknowC on Dexterity Forums)

    Ok, after reading everyone's posts I just decided I'm going to set a strict deadline for sept 30th, 2004 for release of my current game. Any features or extra graphics that will stand in the way of that deadline will be cut. And further more, since I just announced it to everyone here, I expect you all to hold me to it ;)

    Thanks Everyone.
     
  11. Coyote

    Indie Author

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    You'll probably want to set some internal milestones between then and now - you've probably already done that, but hey - it doesn't hurt to be reminded, I guess. Being able to measure your progress to your goal is pretty important.
     
  12. ^cyer

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    Hi to all the people here,

    I think it is NOT good to not make your deadline to long if it is possible.

    For example you set your date to the September 30, but ask yourself if it can be done a little earlier. For example September 5. This will "force" you to push harder and eventually you will shorten development cycle. Sometimes the hard way is better and shorter.

    cyer
     
  13. Linusson

    Indie Author

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    Congratulations you're no longer 1 month from completion, it's almost 2 now. :D
     
  14. Chris Evans

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    Setting a firm release date definitely helps you to focus.

    With my game, "Pow Pow's Great Adventure", not only is the release date listed on our website, but several gaming sites that ran news articles on our game also mentioned our release date of September. Not to mention, a couple of newspaper and magazine editors are expecting to receive review copies around that time.

    Having such a visible release date helps me focus on the necessary features to meet that goal and I'm less tempted to add or waste time on unnecessary fluff.
     
  15. Sillysoft

    Indie Author

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    Sounds like a good deadline. I also find it helpful to create internal mini-deadlines on a week by week basis. Things like 'finish this feature by friday'. They can then act as signposts along the way to completion. If you start missing them consistently then you know something is going wrong.

    Anyways, keep us updated on your progress.
     
  16. ^cyer

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    As i said short time deadlines are cool, hehe for those who post their release dates to various www sites and public - good idea, but then better deliver the game or the waiting masses of people will hate you :)
     
  17. Mark Fassett

    Moderator Indie Author

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    I've avoided posting dates as much as possible precisely because I seem to miss any date I set for myself. Something always gets in the way - and it doesn't have to be related to the game. It doesn't mean I don't have dates. I just think posting them is not always the best practice if you're not a full time developer, or if significant portions of your time are spent on things other than development. It's also difficult to complete things on time when people you are working with don't deliver what they promise by the date they promise it. No. No public dates for me until I'm finished with the full version and working on the demo.
     
  18. Chris Evans

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    Well I am working full-time on the game, but yes posting a release date is a double edged sword.

    It motivates you to hit the date, but if you still end up missing the date substantially then your reputation may suffer.

    However, delays are extremely common in the software business, so it's not the end of the world if your game slips by a few weeks. Though if a few weeks turn into months, then you may have a problem on your hand. Still, if your product ends up being worth the wait, people tend to forget about the delays or at least forgive them.
     
  19. Tom Cain

    Indie Author

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    You might consider making a prioritized features list to go along with your deadline. It helps to be able to tell how things are progressing as you approach the deadline, checking items off as you go. If "Game Done" is the only goal on your list, I can tell you from experience that it is much harder to make sure you meet the deadline.

    Also, if you are prone to feature creep like I am, a prioritized feature list helps when you need to stop adding things and release the software. You don't have to think a lot about the decision because the important things have already been checked off your list.
     
  20. BongPig

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    Lets not forget that its not all about game features.
    Features are easy enough to list and tick off, but gameplay/feel is a bit more difficult.

    We had both our games feature complete way before we released the game. It was our bloody playtester who stopped us!

    Other features can be calculated. I know how long it takes me to make something. Same with my coder. We may get it slightly wrong, but were always close enough.

    But how can we say : "get gameplay and feel of game perfect by October 12th"

    Its impossible to know how long it takes to tune. Impossible, and completely different for every game. No amount of experience will give me that knowledge.

    Generally, I dont feel many games ( indie and retail ) tune properly by a long way. Just because the game character now moves when you press the cursor keys, thats not the end of it. You cant tick off the 'chracter now moves' feature in the list before he/she/it moves perfectly. Speed, weight, inertia & dynamics need to be spot on.

    Can I ask, how many of you use gametesters who have nothing to do with the actual development?
     

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