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I have 'scope phobia' after more than a year of developing.

Discussion in 'Game Design' started by astracat111, Feb 21, 2018.

  1. astracat111

    astracat111

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    So I've been designing and programming off and on for a couple decades, and I've recently kind of hit a case of 'scope phobia'. What I mean by this, is that I've tried my best to study over the years including the years before even starting this project what might constitute someone to fail in one of two ways, which is either taking far too long in development or stopping development.

    I do not want to self-promote but I will explain what I am trying to create, why I am trying to do something like this, and what I have complete. I do have a field system playtest for anyone that would like to try it, you can message me if you're interested.

    Anyway, you will probably laugh and say I'm crazy, but I'm in a practical way trying to create a (very small) turn based rpg in the styles of Grandia 1 or Xenogears. I KNOW that these games were created with teams of people with hundreds of thousands of man hours, but please hear me out.

    Last year when I started posting on these forums I had made a thread in where I said that I would re-create RPG Maker in Unity. With an RPG Maker, it's definitely possible to achieve what I'd like to in a swift manner.

    So, I basically got to work on an eventing system for Unity. The eventing system now has in an aaalmost complete form (needs tweaking and some debugging here and there of course) fade in, out, a text box engine, movement control of actors and cameras, switches, debugged nice scene transitions with loading screen, debugged and working data save and load, generally like an rpg field system, all with a custom scripting language.

    I'm using RPG Makers trigger based systems with interpreters that read from lists attached to objects, the lists among other scene data being stored in a main game xml database. The lists contain a custom scripting language. This scripting language has a lot of commands that can control aspects dynamically in game on the fly. Interpreters are activated automatically or through being triggered by button press events, or can even be triggered by two objects colliding with one another or the player, and you can put custom field bools in there and switch them around.

    I've also finished scene transitions, a solid debugged loading screen, bgm and ambsfx looping without having to manually cut up audio files including fading in and out, and I have finished every actor graphic including all of their battle sets (they are pixel-art characters) and every scene in the game (there are 30 or so of them) including all field and all battle scenes.

    In generaly I'm trying to say that I have a focus FIRST on data management, data save/load, an event manager and debugging for long hours to ensure stability.

    Now, I'm left only with a couple more general steps to the project... That is:

    1. Playtest more and debug fully the field system
    2. Create menu system with rpg stats in my xml database
    3. Create battle system
    4. Script cutscenes

    These are all of the steps that are left, virtually, and I...at least THINK I'm confident on my own in the whole ordeal. I can work full time hours because I work at a part-time job school busing that makes enough money to do so...which is the toughest part I guess because I'm working 70 hours a week and have no friends right now (no joke, I'm a total loser, I'm probably gonna lose my mind stuck here alone on this laptop).

    Well, all of the characters graphics with animations are complete. All of the scenes are complete. All 3D graphics are complete. The field system is being playtested and I would give it a week and I think I'll have a solid beta version of it, this is after developing it since October of 2016. The music is also complete, the sfx library I have set up as over 10 years I've accumulated a well organized collection.

    Here I am, with all of this stuff ready, and the last of the work is strictly mechanical, no design, and I have experience now with C#, and I have decades of programming experience, and yet you know I am very terrified at this moment, because I keep reading online and seeing in advice videos "you shouldn't work on your dream, you need to learn to scope".

    I BELIEVE I could finish this game by July. The game is only going to be 2 hours in length, I'm trying to go by the Telltale model of episodes; it only has about 15 battles that you fight. There's only one thing that I imagine could kill the project, and that is the battle system.

    I'm sorry for being so self-centered in this post, but this is a real fear of mine...I see it all the time, games that have some successful kickstarter or get funded or whatever but the creators overscope and waste a good 3+ years of their youth away. I should know, I've already wasted more than 10 of mine on previous projects, but a year and a half later and thanks to Unity I've got this whole setup, it's pretty neat.

    The only plan I have to combat the fear, because i hate putting all of my eggs in one basket in my life, is to bring other programmers in on the project and release the toolset as like a 2.5D rpg maker for Unity. I can't afford to hire virtually anyone else, so I wouldn't know what else to do at this point...

    If there are any experienced programmers that have tried to create turn-based rpg engines, maybe you could help me out with some advice on it, I don't know...Just posting some doubts and trying to get what people think about the whole ordeal.
     
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2018
  2. theANMATOR2b

    theANMATOR2b

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    I have nothing to add because as an animator I barely understand half of your post. But I do have one thing - spring is right around the corner - get out and enjoy the outside at least 1 hour per day - probably more for better mindfulness and invigoration to proceed with a project that sounds interesting - if a little confusing to a visual minded person. ;)
     
  3. hippocoder

    hippocoder

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    Nah just rot in the dark like all good indies. You'll have great skin when you're older. Maybe.
     
  4. EternalAmbiguity

    EternalAmbiguity

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    They do say don't do your dream project, but that's typically because people typically approach their dream project without the necessary knowledge to do it, and thus bounce off of it, taking longer to make progress than they would by working on other things first and building their skillset.

    It sounds like your skillset is already there. In such a case, I don't see why it would be a problem to work on this.
     
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  5. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    In my case, doubt creeps up when I've had my head in the game for too long.
     
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  6. DominoM

    DominoM

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    Do you want to be an "RPG Maker Developer" or an "RPG Game Developer"? Answer that and you'll know whether to plan on releasing your toolkit or to keep it as part of your secret sauce.

    It sounds to me like your scope was well defined (an RPG Maker clone), if a little ambitious for a first project. From what you've described of the completed systems, it doesn't sound like you over reached or are taking too long. So unless you are about to give up, you might as well stop worrying and get back to work ;)

    Having said that, where does exercise fit in your schedule? With a driving job and coding keeping you sat for 70 hours a week you need to make sure to take care of your lower back.
     
  7. astracat111

    astracat111

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    This is exactly my thinking. I don't want to develop and rpg maker. The idea was to create a toolkit that I can then use to make many games in the future and improve it as I go. I want to be an rpg game developer for sure, but I could maybe bring someone in on the project that could take over the rpg maker part while I go on to use it as a developer. Just a thought...Not sure how well it would turn out though.

    This is exactly my thinking as well. I'd imagine that those people that spend so much time programming have to pay attention to diet as best they can and exercise. I try to do light exercise and stretching every 45 minutes to an hour but you could imagine like most any programmer I end up getting absorbed and then 4 hours goes by in about 10 minutes. I think the general worry I have for my life is that the project ends up taking a year or two more and the isolation takes a number on my brain, not only the exercise and diet. Somebody has to release a book like 'the programmers diet' or something to help people with this kind of thing. There is a local game group meetup that I did go to at one point, but it's a 45 minute drive...this is in NY in the US by the way. I think people use game dev group meetups to not go insane.

    @EternalAmbiguity The finish line seems to be there, but I've seen so many people over so many years say that and then either never release anything or get to 99% complete forever, whether they have the skillset or not. I'm insanely determined to finish this like "No matter what I'm gonna get this done no matter what the physical or mental consequences are" and I think that that kind of thinking can also be extremely unhealthy, and it's hurt me in the past.
     
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  8. Martin_H

    Martin_H

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    Not worth it imho.
     
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  9. DominoM

    DominoM

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    Is your long term goal to be a one man studio or to grow into a bigger independent? If anyone could buy your codebase, would you still be able to compete with them in the games market?
     
  10. DominoM

    DominoM

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    Though most introverts do tend to be overly critical of themselves by using an extroverts definition of loser..

    <--- says the man hiding behind a logo :)
     
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  11. EternalAmbiguity

    EternalAmbiguity

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    True enough. I think in this case you might do a couple things like defining and writing down a timeline for when you expect to finish various things, based on how much time you can devote to development. It sounds like you're experienced enough to do that without overestimating your abilities. Then compare your progress to that.

    You're definitely right that that kind of thinking can be unhealthy. I'd advise as the others have, to step back just a teensy bit and give yourself a little bit of time every day or every week to do something else entirely. This can really only help your dev work: by spending time away from it you limit the chance of burning out, and if you find yourself thinking about it while you're doing something else you'll go back to it with a renewed energy.

    And post about it on here. We've got the Work-In-Progress board, though sadly that's filled with so many asset adverts that it's easy for some of us to ignore (though throw a link in this thread and you'll get some of us following it). You also have Feedback Friday here in Game Design. That might be best for very early prototype (to get feedback on the direction of the project) or very late work, but it's another avenue where you can get other eyes on your work so it's not just you. It's only the internet, but it's better than no one seeing your work.
     
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  12. Joe-Censored

    Joe-Censored

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    The advice to avoid your dream project is because a dream project is usually of much larger scope than the new indie game dev understands. They don't know enough about the details of how to implement their vision to understand how much work they are taking on. A common issue is including networked multiplayer in a project, and not realizing that will at least double the amount of work instead of being a relatively small addition. (I went into business with a friend who was business experienced but not game dev experienced, and shortly before release of my first game he made that very suggestion "Why don't you add multiplayer?"..... Ummmm no, you obviously don't understand what that involves)

    This advice is to avoid spending years on a project that ultimately is uncompleted, or doesn't live up to the original vision for the project. Additionally, indie developers often ignore the marketing end of it, thinking they can just develop a game and it will somehow sell itself, so for that reason alone it is better to step through developing a simple game and going through a release to experience the pitfalls of a release on a project with a much smaller personal investment.

    So your biggest risks now don't appear to have to do with the quality of the game, as you seem happy with your progress. Your biggest risks are failing to complete the project, and failing to market the project properly to avoid a launch failure since you only get really 1 shot at releasing the game.

    My recommendation would be to continue working on the project until it is fully playable (lack of the battle system seems like a major missing feature right now that will need to be iterated on). Get a feature complete build ready and get a lot of play testers on it. While you are getting their feedback, start a new very small project, something that can be completed in a small number of months. Get that small project completed, and then go through a marketing release cycle for it and actually release the game. That way you are learning how to release a game on something you don't care about much. After you go through that release, return to your dream project, make any changes you need based on feedback, and then start working on its release using the lessons you just learned.
     
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  13. Billy4184

    Billy4184

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    Hope I'm not too blunt but:

    1. Fix your personal situation, go to the gym, whatever you need to do to feel good about yourself;

    2. Fix up your CV and or whatever it is that you need to do to prepare for this thing not working out;

    3. Start marketing the game and getting feedback;

    4. Finish the damn game ASAP!
     
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  14. DerrickMoore

    DerrickMoore

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    ok.. the reason why they say "don't make your dream project" is so...

    they USED to say, if you make a game (that's geared) towards yourself, that the game wouldn't sell... that you could not make a game for yourself that other people would enjoy..

    they said that mostly, because back in the long long ago, a developer would get half a million bucks to make a game, and would be expected to pay that back in royalties.. if the game didnt' make its cost back, it was considered a flop... and the publishers took a HUGE ammont of cash from the game after getting the development money back.. so basically to make a successful and profitable game (in the 90s.... the Xbox changed everything, imo) you had to sell 100,000 copies or more...

    So, back in the day, you kinda made a game for a certain kinda player (your "target audience"), one who would spend 50 bucks on your game and wouldn't return it to the shop in 3-5 days (returns could kill a game in the first few weeks)

    but the game industry is not like that anymore... with Steam wanting only 5% off the top of each sale... I mean, that's a VERY good deal

    I'm working on a game concept, and I'm designing it with the idea that I have a "target audience" of about 30,000 (so, a very "select" target audiance) people (on Steam).... die hard Elon Musk loving NASA wannabee space-nerd who are into exo-planets and Star Trek..
     
  15. EternalAmbiguity

    EternalAmbiguity

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    I apologize, this isn't really that related, but it's 30% for Steam. Still cheaper than physical, but not 5%.
     
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  16. DerrickMoore

    DerrickMoore

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    DOH.. I guess the guy who told me that was confused about stuff. darn
     
  17. Joe-Censored

    Joe-Censored

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    I was going to say, Steam owes me a bit of money then. Been getting ripped off! :p
     
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  18. XCPU

    XCPU

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    Sounds like a fear of releasing a product and starting a (small) business and responsibility for it.
     
  19. aer0ace

    aer0ace

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  20. astracat111

    astracat111

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    Well I'm on the menus. I had to design like an rpg database editor module. I expect to be done with menus by this month and then it's on to the battle system. I will bet you anything that I've underestimated the time it will take for the battle system by quite a lot. I FEEL like I could finish this by September, but it's probably going to really take until next year. I do think I can finish menus by July, and that will leave just the battle system to go and then I've got a fully fledged rpg maker.

    RPG Database Editor Module, which is completed. Just using some characters from an anime I've been watching recently...


    Menu Module, in production:


    The xml database editor took a lot longer than I thought, a month and a half of full time work and 4000 lines of code... and of course like is typical with this kind of thing like anyone else I'm having trouble finding the hours to do it as real life problems are pretty numerous.

    What I've learned though is how complex an RPG actually is, and why you don't see RPGs just flying off the production shelves so to speak. It's like 3 games in one, an adventure game, almost like one of those sports mogul games, and a battle system all in one. I feel like if I can just get the data done, and get this menu module completed, then all I'll have left is the battle system which will just be an extension of all of the data and graphics that are already there. I think that'll be like the final battle, so to speak.
     
    Last edited: May 27, 2018
  21. Gigiwoo

    Gigiwoo

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    Ready for a choose-your own adventure reply? Here's your options:

    1) I want validation:

    Kudos! You've build a bunch of systems. Sounds great. You're own your way. The game won't take long once you have all these underlying systems. Keep it up and surely all will be well. Go ahead and skip to 'End of Thread'. Or...

    2) I want honest feedback:

    You've taken the left-most path. You've listened to the siren-calls of ideation, chased the golden glitter of non-agile development, and listened for the sound of trumpets. Now you're lost - with no idea how to get back on the path. Everything in your message is already screaming that all you've got are systems - you don't have a game at all! The good news is that it's never too late to stop the madness. It's never too late to listen to the voices in your head that are screaming to let you know that you're lost. That you need to cut 90%, then 50%, then another 50%. You need to stop building systems and start building games. Small games.

    In all of history, there has never been an instance where a master started out with his magnum-opus. Never. And yet, here you are, attempting just that. Now continue on to 'End of Thread'

    -----

    End of Thread

    Try; Refine; Repeat.

    Gigi.
     
  22. astracat111

    astracat111

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    @Gigiwoo

    I get that quite a lot, but at this point I'm not going to stop. I understand full well what it will take to bring this into a practical form and that is what I'm pursuing.

    I would be interested, though, in seeing what aspect you believe is too high in scope...Since I wrote this I'm much farther along and making good strides.

    At the same time, I do have some backup plans up my sleeve, so yeah I'd be interested in listening to what wouldn't make it practical.
     
  23. hippocoder

    hippocoder

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    I hope you have trello, that can be used in so many ways and most large and small companies will have a trello or two. It's a wonderfully versatile organisation tool for development that's as simple or complex as you like it to be. You can pair it with slack and they understand one another for a virtual office of sorts. You can have a channel for worklogs at the end of the week, a channel for data and if anyone works with you, a channel for discussions.

    I find that pulling the organisation away from the local hard drive is a stable and (optionally) collaborative improvement to productivity.
     
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  24. Gigiwoo

    Gigiwoo

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    Ready for feedback? With just one month till July, your product should be damned close - aka it's ready for feedback. So add it to the Feedback Friday thread. You'll get lots of great suggestions about scope. If you're not ready for feedback by now, then you may yet have a long way to go.

    Look forward to trying it.
    Gigi
     
  25. astracat111

    astracat111

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    Will do, I think that's a good idea I'll go over there. I don't want to self promote in this thread, everyone's posted some really good advice, so thank you. :D
     
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  26. aer0ace

    aer0ace

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    @astracat111 How's it going? It's been almost a year since you started this thread.
     
  27. astracat111

    astracat111

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    @aer0ace

    Honestly I can't believe it has. I've gotten way farther but I ended up getting caught up in controller support and optimization issues, so I ended up having to rebuild the scenes to be optimized which is what I've been finishing up now.

    As for the speed of everything, god I'd be done right now if I didn't have to also work a job at the same time as doing this. The frustration is the unhealthiness of moonlighting, and the work itself of level editing isn't the most glamorous thing in the world.

    Looking back at this thread I had posted this:

    1. Playtest more and debug fully the field system
    2. Create menu system with rpg stats in my xml database
    3. Create battle system
    4. Script cutscenes

    Each one of these is now for the most part finished in like a version 1.0 state I'd say. I look back and can't believe I didn't have a battle system at that time, it took me about 3 weeks to get the basic thing down, about 1 week of debugging, about 1-2 more weeks of implementing basic new features like different types of battles, spread bar battles and time based battles HOWEVER it took me probably 2-3 more weeks of grinding at bugs (and of course there are still going to be smaller bugs in there). This is the unexpected 'tax time' that you hear about, if you think it's gonna take 4 weeks, double or even triple that. This is all working 30 hours a week on average by the way...Here's a neat little gif of what it turned out like:

    https://media.indiedb.com/images/presskit/1/1/776/general/14_LeafProjAttack.gif
    https://media.indiedb.com/images/presskit/1/1/776/general/19_TakuBlockFireKick.gif

    The game is looking to have a release date of summer, because even though I'll be about done with it this month in it's first form, I haven't even touched promotion, and I'd expect that to take at least 6 months as I don't want to release a game with a low amount of interest no matter what.

    All in all, the thing that's finally coming together is the process of getting a repetitive process of creating levels and cutscenes down. It's insane how much time that actually takes from day one, as I'm headed to 2 1/2 years of development now (started October 2016 developing this rpg sdk for Unity from scratch). With a repetitive level editing process being refined, that means bringing other people in on the process to collaborate, and that means getting faster and faster at cranking out content.

    What I've learned over these years, the tips I would give people making a game in Unity are this:

    1) Learn optimization first, so that when you design you don't have to go back and redesign
    2) Keep things as simple as possible and know exactly what you want to do. For me the only reason I'm so close now is that I create a turn-based rpg sdk, but I kept it down to just abilities with no items whatsoever. The whole point is that I want to tell games with heavy story like my favorite game Final Fantasy 7. I don't need all the extra crap that was in FF7 though.
    3) Make your game short, episodic in nature if it's a story.
    4) Don't work alone. Pick either graphics or programming and find another guy or gal to do the other half then just share everything 50/50 is your best bet. Then you can get there in 1-2 years instead of 3-4.

    Just keep it simple and pure I guess, of course that tip has been given like a billion times but you learn it the hard way cranking through all this. Also, I was just beginning C# 2 1/2 years ago when I started, so that's neat.
     
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2019
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  28. McDev02

    McDev02

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    Just some oppinions of mine.

    Don't rush it.
    What I learned at my dayjob which basically is rushing apps within a few days and weeks is to implement things with care. Make features complete right away, don't let the habbit of "I am going to complete this or add that at the end" come up too often.
    So meanwhile my perspective is it is better to get one feature well done instead of three incomplete or unpolished features.
    Only when we talk about prototyping then the opposite can be beneficial.

    Stay reasonable, prepare for failure
    Don't be stupid and invest all your money in your game. Keep at least a part time job, as you do and do not spend all your money on content or freelancers unless most of the work is done and you know it will benefit the game.
    Start thinking bigger once you are successful which is to make a living of your games plus having a budget for your next game plus having savings for retirement.

    Be the mastermind (unless you hire people anyway which can be replaced)
    You need to be able to finish your game on your on. Even if it won't look or sound that good but as a fallback option you should prepare for being alone.
    What I mean is even if you partner up or pay freelancers these collaborations can stop over night and you are lost if you can't animate or don't understand their code.

    I kinda disagree with your point 4. Partnerships are great but can be tricky for many reasons, I would either pay people or make real collaborations in the form of a legal cooporation, everything else is a 1 out of 1000 chance to work out, just from my experience, at least regarding to random people on the web which you don't know personally. So the conclusion is to choose a game which you can do on your own.

    The next game will be easier
    Say you spend a year or so on basic systems like what your Tile/RPG System might be. Then you sell your game after another year of work. It might be limited and a lot of the things you planned for it couldn't be implemented. But say it provides enough sales, maybe even just user feedback as revenue to keep you going on.
    For your next game, even if you start to make something different you made yourself a set of tools (besides the experience!) that you can build up on.
    For me this is a system for savegames, localization, audio management, UI animations/elements, game options etc. Most of that you can skip for your next game and spent that extra time on content and polishing.

    You will fail - Accept failure
    Mainly this is about experience, when you start to become an indie when you already got 10 years of game development experience then you are mostly over this already. But when you start from scratch there are things you have to learn and unfortunately you usually learn from failure. At the end of your project you will see code that you can't believe you wrote it that way back then.
    So whether you think that you are awesome or not, you will be more awesome 5 years from now so ask your self if you want to make your dream project now or rather in 5 years.

    Maybe these two talks are inspiring for you:
    How to Survive in Gamedev for Eleven Years Without a Hit
    Failing to Fail: The Spiderweb Software Way
     
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2019
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  29. Antypodish

    Antypodish

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    To be honest, I would be surprised, if you manage to finish by next month. Or even coming June. I mean in some playable reasonable state, other than just for release sake.

    Unless I missed post explanation, OP seams spent so much time on SDK, ignoring actually about game itself. Even if meant to be only 2hrs long. Meaning, need not only story and all interactions, but actual gameplay. Ensuring game is playable at all.

    Also, since game is 2hr long and release platform goal is Steam, beware of return policy.

    The only way so far to see pay off in current SDK effort, is to make multiple games, utilising it.
     
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  30. Gor-Sky

    Gor-Sky

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    @astracat111
    I like the Gifs of your battle system. It looks really good! I know the way is hard and sometimes frustrating but i hope it motivates you a bit to hear that it turned out (in my opinion) super nice:)
     
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  31. astracat111

    astracat111

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    @McDev02

    Everything you've said I've learned to agree with from the experience of trying to create this game.

    To stay reasonable I think is extremely important. What you said about being a mastermind is very true, with your first game unfortunately I've learnt that if you have a vision no one will care or listen, and I don't mean to be entirely pessimistic about that...I just think that if you really have a vision it's about scaling it and bringing it into a practical form. Open-world which I've stayed die hard away from doesn't agree with a story based game in the indie world I think.

    At this point as far as any partnerships are concerned, you're exactly right I believe, at least in my case what I'm just trying to do at this point is fully release something that's complete before turning to collaboration of any kind, so that the key vision stays intact, but mostly actually so that one can prove oneself and have something tangible to show in the real cold world of business.

    For the next game to be easier part, agreed again. The thing you learn or at least I did when creating a game is that you end up needing to program managers. That is: a scene manager, an audio manager, an event manager etc etc... that are all part of some main hierarchy with like a master manager class that you can turn to to do pretty much anything you would need to do. As you've said, I look back at starting now over 2 years ago and god was I terrible at coding in C#, it's like I had no understanding of classes at all, and my naming conventions were ridiculous. I would put underscores under things that should have had periods after them like MG_Audio instead of MG.Audio. I didn't understand the concept of nesting, but somehow I got the job done...although that led to me having to re-write/re-organize those parts of the code.

    @Antypodish

    Believe it or not the game was 'finished' in December, but then I got hit with this insane realization that I need to kind of inform as many developers as I can about...and that is optimization.

    Basically the assets, the way the scenes were built was unoptimized. I would have unique materials for game objects, I was combining objects but that wasn't lowering the draw calls as each game object would have like 3 or 4 unique materials at a time.

    Even batched the scene would have like up to 800 draw calls at a given time with sometimes up to like 2000+ batched draw calls.

    With the help of a lot of the folks over at the Oculus Go discord (Joe Strout I believe, Halfspacer and CaptainScience among others) I got my draw calls down to 100 on average and I'm still working on further optimizations. I had to make sure that my package of 3d prefabs was using a limited number of materials, which did work for the low poly art style I have. I learned a simple philosophy, that basically the more a cpu and/or gpu has to draw per frame, the slower the game will be, and that didn't mean more game objects on screen or polys (as it's all low poly), but more unique materials created more batches. As a final measure to ensure steady framerates on mobile devices I've been looking at XFrame from the Asset Store.

    The levels are built and everything is ready to go, and I have an entire week off starting next week so I'm gonna be grinding away and see if I can get it all put together.

    I suppose that'd be a good lesson for anyone pursuing game design, optimization is insanely insanely important, and you need to think about it as early on in development as possible, at least that's what I would do at this point, at least on mobile devices.

    @Gor-Sky Thanks !
     
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2019