Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Mini Post Mortem - A Flipping Good Time

Well well well, it's been awhile since I actually wrote something on this blog. Too long I think. Absolutely great news hit the team over this past month. "A Flipping Good Time" was selected as a PAX 10 winner! The team is very proud of this accomplishment, and our thanks go out to everyone that was involved in making the game what it is today. We have a new website at: , a new trailer, and a new build with new levels. So go check it out. We will be on the show floor during PAX all three days August 26-28, and we hope to see everyone there! Come say hi.

The game itself is close to being wrapped up, as the team needs to shift gears and transition into next year's game project. We actually held a team post mortem meeting on Sunday the 17th. The team will be doing a full write-up of the post mortem at some point in the near future. However, I felt like sharing my collection of post mortem thoughts on my blog for anyone who may be interested. 

1. Getting the Band Together and Starting Early

One of the most beneficial things the team did was kicking things off early. The team began to form last spring toward the end of our freshman year. Ken, Ryan, and Gabe had worked together on their GAM 150 project together, and they were looking to keep things intact heading toward their sophomore game. Ken approached Richard and myself about joining the team as designers. And thus, "Mike's Plumbing and Tile: Media Arts Division" was born.

We used the extra time during the summer to meet regularly and pitch game ideas before ultimately settling on a concept proposed by Richard. The game would be a platformer that manipulated gravity and weight mechanics. We used the rest of the summer to polish this game concept and understand what would be needed tech wise to accomplish this goal.

The team immediately knew that a 4th programmer would be needed. After passing on a few options, the team picked up Mark McKenna. Mark turned out to be an amazing acquisition for the team, handling a lot of the programming heavy lifting during the lifetime of the project.

Over the course of the school year we picked up additional talented help from Tyler Woods and Amalachi Cushman to handle music and art respectively in order to give our game the polish it would need to bring the game to the next level.

The willingness of this team to reach out to other disciplines in the design and art degrees proved to be one of its greatest qualities. The game soon became a project that proved what could be accomplished when programmers, designers, artists, and musicians all work together toward a common goal.

2. Maturity (Old Dudes)

The team did an incredible job of working together over the course of a stressful school year. We were able to iron out all of our disagreements and conflicts ourselves. We certainly had our fair share of passionate debates over everything from game design, to art, to programming. Everyone was able to voice their opinions and receive criticism without ever resorting to personal attacks or taking things too seriously. The team was confident in its own ability to handle internal conflict through team discussions or individual conversations.

The team banded together and worked within itself to solve problems, which can be a tricky thing to accomplish on a student project where there is no traditional hierarchy of control that you would normally see in an actual development studio. This may be because the collective average age of the team is a bit older than the typical sophomore game team, but I'd attribute it to the characters and personalities involved as well.

Additionally, the maturity of the team showed during our presentations, as any individual on the team was confident enough to stand before an audience and deliver a clear and concise commentary about the game in a public setting.

3. Art Pass

At the close of the first semester we knew we had the makings of a great game. However, the game's art was largely untouched and we were still using all the simple pixel art that had been used in the Gamemaker prototype which had been created during the fall semester. We knew that a major art pass and overhaul would be needed to turn people's heads and help highlight the gameplay we were so proud of. We set out in search of an artist that was passionate enough and dedicated enough to help us out. As I stated before we were lucky enough to find Amalachi to help us in this endeavor. We also knew that one overworked freshman would not be able to handle the entire task by herself, and so the team made a crucial decision to transfer Ryan Davison from programming tasks over to art as well. We were lucky enough to have Ryan, a talented tattoo artist, multitask in both the programming and art teams during the second semester, allowing the team to visually transform the game before our beta presentation. At the beta presentation, students and instructors could hardly recognize the game, and many suddenly began to take notice of our project.

4. Playtesting Sessions (donut sessions)

As soon as the project was to the point of being playable we immediately began formal weekly playtest sessions. Digipen usually designated Wednesday afternoon as a massive playtesting event where all game teams were welcome. The team recognized that these Wednesday afternoon events hosted by the playtesting club were simply too crowded for our specific needs. Teams were often competing for testers and computer space. We decided to hold our formal playtest sessions on a different day to avoid these issues, ensuring that we could attract testers and gather more thorough and thoughtful feedback. Through playtesting each week we were able to recognize areas in our levels that were too difficult for the average player, what areas the testers enjoyed, which puzzles were too difficult or too easy, etc. The team recognized the need for even more outside feedback, often asking instructors, friends outside of school, and family to have a go at the game so that we could have a wide range of players, all with different skill levels, run though our game and give us feedback. This allowed us Richard and I to focus in on how and when to introduce new mechanics, when to ramp up difficulty, and when to allow players access to more difficult locked content.

5. Helping Each Other Outside Game Class

As a student team, everyone was burdened by the workload from our other courses. Everyone on the team was constantly juggling projects and homework from our programming, math, physics, art, and design courses. We made a conscious effort to help one another understand and work through the issues and roadblocks we had outside of the game project. The help would often cut in half the amount of time an individual would spend struggling on a difficult task or concept. We made ourselves available to each other for study, homework, and coding sessions regularly. Ultimately, the assistance we showed one another allowed the team to devote more time than normally would have been possible toward "A Flipping Good Time". More time spent on the game allowed us to fashion it into something we could be proud of, something we were proud to present to the school at the end of the year.

Coming soon... the 5 things I felt we could have done better.

No comments:

Post a Comment