Monday, September 17, 2012

The Thick & Thin of Our Conspiracy

     To be honest, I had hoped to have our first title ready to distribute to the masses, or at least the 3 or 4 people kind enough to drive up my page view numbers (thanks Mom, just kidding, I don't think my mom even knows I have a website and blog...). But truth of the matter is that we aren't ready for it to be turned out to the public yet.

     It may be close to a early demo version, but there is still a lot of missing story elements, incomplete art assets and a couple audio clips that I'd like to add before we let real people dig into the meat and potatoes of it. Sorry, we want to show everyone, we're just a bit self-conscious.

     In the meantime, let me tell you a bit about the process and journey this whole hobby project took.

     It started in December of 2011. Having graduated from DeVry University the year before and having toyed with about four to six other game plans between that time and last December, I was chatting with a good friend and expressing some of the frustrations that the day to day job held. It started like a joke, the idea of escaping the current jobs. (Granted that is not to say that I'm/we're ungrateful to have the day jobs that we have, but as with any job, the frustrating days can lead to dreams of finding better employment.)

     So from the kernel of escape we built the premise of this first in what developed into an older idea of a comic book series I had worked on many years ago. The story began with a very basic structure as the game idea began to form. Over the months it has been modified and stretched to answer questions that were present, and to give a bit more depth to the story than a simple escape the building game.

     From there concept art was developed, and as is stated on our website, we all have day jobs or activities that demand our attention. Therefore the concept art was slow in being developed. Initial concepts planned for us to use fully 3D rendered characters, rigged, animated and to create our game as close to a Triple A title as we could. And I fully believe we could have done that...but we didn't. We wanted to be able to have this game distributed by the end of 2012, and knowing that our first character wasn't even fully sculpted and we were a couple weeks into it, helped us see that as a side job with limited amount of time we could not expect miracles when we were first attempting to break into a market like this. 

     The story was good, the concept art and storyboards were adequate, but the mode that we were wanting to take was needing adjusted. So we considered our options. We had wanted to use Unity3D, they have a great engine that has solid documentation and tutorials to help any indie get up to speed. But knowing that asset creation was a task that we didn't have the luxury of putting the amount of time into it that we really wanted we looked at other engines that we could customize enough and get custom assets through a community forum for little to nothing. 

     That's when we came across Enterbrain's RPG Maker series. They have a strong active forum community that has been extremely helpful in providing assets in art as well as music and mapping tiles. Scripts are available as well to help customize the look and functions of a game. It is also a great engine for the hobby game builder on a budget. While many of those talented individuals asked only for credit to be given as payment for the use of their work, we hope to make a little something through this project that we can donate back to help keep them producing the amazing products and resources for future game makers. 

     We recognize the sacrifice and efforts of everyone in the game development industry. And while it is a great career to get into it really can eat up time, especially if it's not your day job. The time (late nights and evenings) that I alone have spent on this project from December 2011 to now is close to 800 hours. If parents think that playing video games wastes a persons time... yikes! 

     Seriously though it has been a good experience, I've enjoyed struggling and working long distance with some great people and look forward to one day being able to to this as a full time gig. In most post development documents they record what was done good, what was done bad, and how to improve both. 

     While we're not done yet, I would say the good has been the way we've stuck to it even when life has thrown multiple challenges at us individually and as a team. It isn't easy working at a distance, let alone working out a project in our 'spare' time and having a TON of personal stuff take precedence over our intentions on this project.

     The bad has been the documentation. While I may have 3 spiral notebooks full of doodles, notes, concept ideas and documentation, I would say that as a team we failed to accurately and efficiently document our path so that we could have a benchmark for future games.

     The improvement I believe will come as we better establish roles within our team, make documentation a prime part of the process and continue to move forward one project at a time. Focusing and making success a deliberate result of concerted effort is much less risky than relying on dedication and luck alone.

     So to you the gamer, we're not going anywhere. We'll continue working to make games that we hope you will enjoy. And we are listening. Go to our website, at the bottom of the home page, take the opportunity to tell us what kind of games you like. Or if you have a great game idea and feel like sharing, tell us. We're not a big game making machine, we want what you want, awesome games that are fun to play.

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