Perhaps you've seen my articles about emergent narrative, but chances are you don't know me at all. I'm a 23-year-old who has been making games for about two years. I make a lot of game jams and small projects, but one day I decided I was ready to start something a bit bigger, something that would be later known as "Missing Translation".
Hope you learn from this post-mortem, or at least find it entertaining.
It has been a pretty intensive development, lots of things have happened, mistakes were made, lessons were learnt and pixels were drawn.
So let me tell you...
...About the people behind the game
It was around February(2014), I took a bunch of ideas and started prototyping, I chose the one which looked cooler and went over tigsource to look for someone to help me with the game. I haven't been able to find my original post, but it was something simple and short where I stated that I would be the designer, producer and coder. I was looking for an artist and I was committed to finishing the game. I think I wrote something like "...it might end up being a shitty game, but it won't be one of those random games which die during production.".
A couple of artists replied(looks like the world is full of crazy people :P), but when I saw Gustavo's portfolio I knew I wanted him to be on the team. I told him what I had in mind for the game and he sent me the first pieces of concept art right away.
We started working on this weird black and white game(which was going to feature some color later on, but that's another story) and as we published new entries on the devlog more people got interested. Albert and Tice reached out and asked if we were looking for a composer and a sound designer, they joined the team pretty early in development.
Gustavo lives in a different country, Tice in a different continent and Albert wasn't available for events, which means that I had to go on my own to most festivals, which can be a bit hard but I was totally ok with it.
...About the game itself
"Missing Translation" is a game where the player won't find any kind of help, hint, tutorial or even text. It's not supposed to be a hardcore game, but it's up to the player to figure out how everything works and where to go instead of having a big red arrow pointing out the way to go.
The protagonist appears in a strange town in the desert, not sure how he got there, and surrounded by strange creatures who speak a language he doesn't understand. There are several puzzles to be solved, but the player is free to wander around the village and choose which ones he wants to overcome.
For the advanced players there's the additional challenge of learning and speaking the drawn-language the villagers use. "Missing Translation" is a minimalist puzzle/adventure game about being lost and finding your way, self-learning and exploration of the unknown. You can grab the game for free here or pay for the Android version here. The iOS and Steam versions will be available soon.
The game won the following awards: Best original idea(hoPLAY 2014), 3rd Prize (The big indie pitch) and Best game of the show(JP Madrid).
And got nominated for: Best sound(hoPLAY2014), best artistic design(hoPLAY 2014), Best Game(Three Headed Monkey Awards), Best Game of the year(Gamelab 2015), Best game of pc(Gamelab 2015), Best design(Gamelab 2015).
...About the events
So far we've been to 6 events to showcase "Missing Translation", all of them in Spain but taking place in different cities. All I have to say about events is... ... ... try to be in as many of them as you can! They're awesome for four reasons:
1) Dozens of people will play your game in 2-3 days, random playtesters coming at you non-stop, that's great!
2) Test not only your game but also your pitch. Everytime a person asks you about your game you can try out a different pitch, and you can also try to read them to choose a pitch that suits them.
3) Get press to play your game! You're not an e-mail anymore, use your social skills and try to get journalists to play your game.
4) Meet more devs! Making games is hard, we all know that, and from our personal experience, spending some time with cool devs and letting them tell you about their awesome games is a huge morale boost.
...About some of the lessons we learnt
1) There are some very talented people over the internet, and you can team up with them with a simple e-mail... ... but working online is painful most of the time. Not saying you shouldn't have an online team, just know where you're getting into. The producer of the team will end up spending many hours to make sure everybody is going on the same direction.
2) PR is key, start a devlog of your game as soon as they're barely playable.
3) You might think that your game isn't good enough for some players/events/festivals. That doesn't matter at all, just get there and let them decide if it's good enough.
4) A good publisher will make your life way easier. Reach out for them.
5) If you work really hard on a game from home(or in my case, from your student room) you might have problems in the future when it comes to separating work and rest. It may be really hard to find a place where you can do all the gamedev, but try to work in a different place and set up schedules.
6) Support from people will save your day many times.
7) The longer the project takes, the more your team will burn out
...About some of the mistakes we made
1) Setting a release date when you're not ready just because everybody keeps asking.
2) Not allowing ourselves to rest at certain moments.
3) Not considering the impact of certain small decisions in the long term.
4) Not having all the important information completelly clear and gathered in an only place(for press and players)
5) Not being as communicative as we should all the time (as a team)
6) Remade some parts of the game too many times.
7) Not taking the time to think or prepare some important stuff(rushing).
...About the struggle and the stolen APK
If you make games you already know how this goes. Getting a team is hard, committing to a project and working on your free time is hard, managing a team is hard, getting noticed is hard, legal stuff is hard, etc. I won't lie, I considered dropping the project a few times, specially when I was having a hard time because of something not-related to the game and I couldn't get to work. I'm sure the rest of the team felt the same along the way, it's something we never talk about, and perhaps we should. I'm glad we continued.
Well, we also got our apk file stolen/hacked from Google Play and uploaded to several online markets. Some guy even uploaded it to the Amazon Appstore and tried to charge people for it.
Let's just say that seeing somebody else take your work, take credit for it and charge others is heartbreaking.
Some fellow devs asked us to give some tips about this issue, I'm afraid we're no experts. We were just one of the victims of these assholes. Our publisher took care of the chinese stores and got amazon to delete the ilegal apk from their servers. We just tried to spread the word, which I believe is the best thing you could do in a similar situation.
We're still working on it, but everything seems to be kind of under control for now.
...About the reception
Devs need to earn money to keep making games, but we do this so people can enjoy our creations. There's nothing like watching as someone enjoys your game. Everytime a player spends over an hour playing "Missing Translation" in an event ... ... ... wow, that's touching, REALLY touching ;)
So far the online reception hasn't been that great, some people say that it'll improve once it's on Steam, but we'll have to wait to check if that's true. We do get more "ok" or "bad" feedback than the kind we see when we showcase the game. We know people are out there, enjoying the game and having fun, they're just not posting about it. We do get lot of comments from trolls, but every dev knows what that's like; not much to say about that :/
You keep repeating "they're out they're, enjoying the game, these comments don't represent all the players" but you still wish people would tell you if they like the game.
...About our personal experience
some quotes from the team ;)
When I decided to collaborate with Ludipe on his game “Missing Translation” I couldn’t ever imagine the awesome ride it turned out to be!
Back then I was still learning how to do pixelart and how to animate it and Ludipe gave me enough artistic freedom for me to experiment with whatever I wanted. I grew fond of “Missing Translation” very quickly, time flew by while I created it’s world square by square only with a few notes and a lot of improvisation.
Now that it’s finally out, I keep having this smile stuck in my face each time I remember all the places it was showcased, all the press written about it and all the support and positive feedback we got. It sure isn’t perfect but I’m very proud of what it achieved and all the important lessons it taught us. With Missing Translation out there, what remains is to bring the same authentic, creative energy to all the other projects to come.- Gustavo (art)
Hi, I'm Albert.
I have made the music for Missing Translation.
I'm 18 years old, and when I made the OST I was 17, so this project has helped me to gain
experience and to show what I can do, I have to thank Luis for this :)
The first mails of my task in making the OST where some music of other games, but I don't really
followed that examples, I think that the images and story of the actual game would guide me better.
It was difficult at first, because the design in this game is quite unique, so the music had to fit that.
Maybe the presentation has been short, but I think that the music speaks for me :)
...About the future
We're still working on the iOS and Steam versions of "Missing Translation"(and preparing the collector's edition), personally(I can't speak for the rest of the team on this) I'm not starting new projects for now(even when I'm a jam-addict). I'm gonna take about 45 days of not developing new games and I'll be back for the next Ludum Dare. Sure, I'll probably play around with some new engines and travel to more events to promote "Missing Translation", but no new games 'til Ludum Dare. Kind of forcing my mind to take a break, it won't do any bad.
And I'll be starting a new project on September, working in a place that it is not my room, I'm quite excited about starting that new chapter. We might work togehter again on a future project, kind of hard to know, too many changes taking place too fast O_o
But working on this game has been a great pleasure...
...for an extended post-mortem find the closest "Missing Translation" dev and buy him a few beers!
The game is free on PC, but if you want to support us consider getting it on Android (coming to iOS soon)
Follow us on twitter to know more about our projects! :D