Post Mortem - 9/24/18

Well.  I only have a few minutes to type this, but there's really quite a bit to post mortem on this project, so please forgive that this may be a bit of a stream of consciousness piece.

This game was a very different project to me from the last three.  Salamander was entirely learning, Aging was a game jam, and Pi was, in my mind, an expansion of the things I learned from Salamander.  Well, I guess that's really how it goes.   Lucius -- whose title I came up with in the last few minutes of development -- was a pretty tough project.  A few challenges faced:

  • Difficulty nailing the concept from the top.
    • For a while I had thought, well, I could do a sci fi game.  But then where's the tileset.  What if I encounter this problem or that problem?  I really want to play with this new tileset and character sprites.  What about a witch/mage concept?  Should I use weakness mechanics.
    • Eventually I settled on building around two things primarily:
      • Weakness concepts, similar to FFX.  You'll find, if you haven't played already, that Deneb has win conditions associated with element and setting everything on fire, while Bart has win conditions associated with protection and quick attack.  It's a bit sloppy in my opinion, but they're there.  
      • Party switching.  What kind of narrative and what kind of party switching mechanic is possible.  If the player is switching back and forth between two characters what's happening?  Are they friends?  Alter egos?  Imaginary selves?  In posting this, I realize just how difficult and lengthy the process of figuring out how to figure this out was
  • Personal life changes
    • So  not only did I have trouble finding the inspiration for this game and nailing the designed mechanics, I was personally going through a change with moving into a new apartment.
    • The last few games have been built in about a week's time.  This game was intentionally scoped for three weeks.  I built two dungeons and wanted to learn a few new things, mainly tileset and new sprite implementation.  Over those final two weeks, I was moving, packing, getting ready to move, figuring out the moving process.  It was a lot of learning and adjusting and adapting.  My internet was out for a few days, I added a commute, I changed gyms.  All things that really affect a person emotionally when you remove them from their routine.  The positive is that lately I've begun working on games in the morning now before work, which in some ways is now a better fit than working at night.  I can get strapped for time more at night because I have to wake up for the commute and also, my focus tends to wane since I've shifted to focused work, rather than "creative" work.  A lot of the time, I know what needs to get done, it's just difficult to focus long enough to do it.

Things I Learned Specific to Game Production/Design

  • Producer Notes

I cover this idea a lot better in my "pre post mortem".  I wrote a note towards the end of the project on some things I had learned that I didn't want to forget.  Mostly that I need to learn how to budget time/production.  My hypothesis is that most indie/hobbyists are used to creating without limits on their time/money.  That can lead you to become very "precious" with the work and not see it through to completion.  There were many things that did not get accomplished in this project namely:  Polish, Character Animations, Custom Music, Custom Status Windows, proper Parallax Imaging -- just to name a few things.  When you put yourself on a budget, even if it's say for an alpha -- you really start to hone in on what the game really is.  I started prioritizing certain narrative bits and combat mechanics, or even world building, in lieu of technology additions, etc.

  • Learning new things takes more time than you think DURING a project.  

One thing especially is that when working on a project, overestimate the time it takes to learn a new thing.  So in my case, towards the end I budgeted two hours towards parallax image learning.  That two hours FLEW.  You have to find the youtube videos, you have to watch the youtube videos, you have to scan forums, you WILL inevitably have something go just a little differently.  And if not, great you're ahead of schedule.  In my case, who knew that the parallax image would be weird and multiply and have to be adjusted to a larger canvas.  It looks so easy on the youtube video.  Which also means...

  • Set aside things to specifically experiment with and learn in between projects.

Right now, I'm trying to take a week off between projects.  I need some downtime to catch up, refuel.  I'm planning on playing some games this week and just get re-inspired and really REST.  I also want to experiment with things though -- if not this week, then next.  The time to learn is in between if possible.  Learning during a project takes a lot of extra time on the part of the budget.  

  • Decide faster.

So many decisions were made far too slowly.  From the name of the project to the names of characters to the way that mechanics work to the overall scope or idea behind the design!  It was pretty ridiculous this go.  Indecision is costly and I need to learn how to make a decision and stick with it sooner.  It's costly to go back and try to change names and design elements.   Which also leads to my final conclusion for now.

(Aside:  It may actually be of value to produce an alpha to my alphas.  All of these games I'm producing now are meant to be largely trials and experiments in order to become faster and to become prolific.  It may be wise at this point to begin testing elements such as combat design, and send to folks to try just a battle etc to get faster feedback before building the game around that mechanic.  That may help in decision making as well as with the next point)

  • Clean as you go.  

As fun as it is to name something "MONKEY PUNCHFACE" because I can't think of what to name it or to have 5 test maps or to have a bunch of sprites that don't have real names -- this is waste.  Eventually I'll export and out of fear, I won't touch those things because something might very well break.  Cleaning as I go may be optimal because at least I won't run into the problem of either breaking things later or poor naming conventions.

Something highly worth repeating

Focus Timers. This was one of the best things I learned from this project.  Focus timers are where I set 5 - 10 minute timers that require I only focus on the task at hand.  Not only does this help me get started, it also helps me keep going when things get difficult.

Areas Where This Project Succeeded (May add more later, lacking in time but this one was important)

Narrative.  Although this doesn't have the vast world that Pi creates and some narrative feels a bit lacking, I like that there is actually a "story" and a "point" to this game.  I actually feel like some very real pieces of me are in here, and that makes me feel really good to know that I'm saying something.  


Overall, this was a tough project to get through.  I learned a TON through it though and I'm glad I saw it through to completion.  I have a lot of unfinished business in the form of things I wanted to learn this project that I didn't have the opportunity to do given time restraints.  I did not want to complete this project and frequently, halfway through thought, "this is gonna be a pretty bad, ugly project."  But really, now that it's complete, I'm very pleased with it and think it has qualities that exceed the previous games.  

Files 388 MB
Sep 24, 2018

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