Been nearly two months since the release of After Years in Dark Tunnels and I’m way overdue on this report. I’m not very experienced at these, so it’s ended up shorter than I feel it needs to be. A developers log (non-public) may be necessary in the future.
After Years has received over 45,000 views since it’s release, and the comments seem to be split down the middle between people who loved it and felt a strong emotional impact, and those who seem to not have given it much of a chance or quit very early on.
To me, this says that the game’s core concept was very solid, but that the game was hard to approach. Being that one of the major goals of the design was to make players discover how things worked (prayer, especially) this isn’t hard to imagine. Even more so with the way games are hand-feeding players these days :P
Of course, that’s not all that the unsavory reaction can be chalked up to. Weak instructions make a fun experience, but more could have been done to at least smooth out some confusion. Explaining the double jump would’ve been good. I think that’s the biggest one.
The game took a total of 8 months to complete after the design was ready, and while both of us were in school.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Vision was well maintained! Throughout the whole process every overarching metaphor and placement detail was passed through the test of “Does this promote the idea this design was made to promote?” We almost made some major cuts, but I feel that the vast majority of what’s in the game is succinct.
Small Team! One designer/Artist and one programmer made for quick return on changes and easy flow of ideas. Being that we weren’t strapped for time or under someone’s management, we were able to mull everything around until it was great (or until we got tired of it and shipped.)
WHAT WENT WRONG
Communication-wise, we were alright. There were however some major miss-communications about when things would be done. A lot of this can be counted towards not having a whole lot of experience doing this process (from both a communication perspective as well as technical skills applied.) I think the biggest lesson that can be pulled from it is that without a producer to always have the producer filter of “If you tell me something, it should be the worst-case scenario first,” a group must communicate intention with information to a degree. The responsibility is on everyone to make sure we don’t go telling someone outside a completion date that isn’t realistic because the parameters for “completion” weren’t thoroughly explained.
Tools were also a problem. A good 3 months were spent on a tool (tile editor) that was eventually made obsolete by a design change. It was completed anyway because the design change was late in it’s development, but it was made useless by compatibility issues. I’m thinking designs may need to be a little more concrete by month 4 of a project than they were in our case.
Release itch. By the end, we’d hyped up it’s release quite a bit amongst ourselves and friends and as the game reached a shippable state, we rushed it out the door when better placement and opportunities. While most of this just would mean more money, which I don’t care much for, I still see the need to eject to be counter-productive.
As a first project, it kicked ass. As an art piece, it kicked ass. Themetically it’s not exactly my thing, but I enjoyed it very much, regardless, and had a lot of fun making it.