Namaste Space Buffalo is Goodnight Games' 7th offering in the mobile arena. In this game, we tried a new work flow to ensure efficient production and keep the quality of our games high.
While working on Namaste Space Buffalo for the past several months, I couldn’t help but notice that the process of making this game was more efficient than other projects I had done for Goodnight Games. Obviously, I thought it would be insightful to see what we did well here, and find out why the project went as smoothly as it did. This postmortem will reflect on how Goodnight Games approached this project, and look at what we did right, and what went wrong.
First point, the core of the game was sought out to be as simple as possible: tap the buffalo to get him moving. Once he moves, you can’t stop him until he hits an obstacle, or gets to the goal, that’s it. Essentially, mastery of the game was a matter of touching the buffalo at the right time; in other words, it’s a timing puzzle. From there, all we had to do was get creative with obstacles, powerups, and other gimmicks to build upon the experience. After the building blocks were made and working properly, we had to place them at unique positions or use certain combinations to create distinct stages for the game. The intended simplicity of the game allowed us to establish a clear and concise outlook of goals early in the project, and ultimately deliver a product on time. We aimed for one hundred levels, and met that expectation for the imminent release.
While crafting these levels, I did so by changing one piece at a time. Once all the assets required for any stage were placed in the level, I continued to the next items on the list, such as hazards and powerups. After each change, I made sure the level could be completed, and tweaked them to ensure that no hidden surprises, not intended did not crop up in the final release. As a part of this process, inclusion of other testers prompted the next phase in our workflow, to ensure the highest quality for this product. We decided to set up each level to be part of a group of five levels that featured a particular theme, obstacle, or powerup. We tested for difficulty both within the groups, and as a whole, to be sure the difficulty curve was appropriate for Namaste Space Buffalo. In essence, each level got harder within the group of five, and each group overall was gradually harder than the last. To do this, we asked each tester to rate each level and group with an overall difficulty rating after play.
There were some decisions that helped to make the process of design and development a much smoother venture. First, the background art was made to be decorative only; it didn’t interact with the gameplay, so the number of art based bugs were very limited. Second, the cut scenes were kept incredibly simple, much like those in Pac Man. This allowed the cut scenes to be added near the end of the project without leading to any delays. Finally, the small tasks, particularly the numerous end of level quotes were contributed by all Goodnight Games employees on their spare time, or whenever an idea popped in their head. These quotes ended up building up throughout the project, and we ended with more than we could add to the game. Most importantly, we used two programmers who worked on the same build and the same computer at the same time. As a result, we got to see what the other was doing, easily communicate what changes were being made, and cover for one another, if one didn't have the appropriate level of knowledge to fully complete the task with confidence. Additionally, we set up much needed breaks to limit possible exhaustion or burnout; this was crucial when certain tasks got repetitive. Some portions required the same or similar bits of code to be repeated for every level to function properly. If neither of us did this, these tasks would have been much harder to bear.
Like any project though, there are still some things that don’t go as smoothly as one would like. Something I’ve learned from other projects working for Goodnight Games, is that art can take longer than expected, especially when the team is fairly new to projects like this. Namaste Space Buffalo was no different, but we were lucky that the levels were completed slightly ahead of schedule, so we had enough wiggle room for implementing the final art. In conclusion, we kept our premise simple, built upon it without changing the core, created and tested the game in portions, and collaborated in a small and easy to communicate environment. All in all, this allowed things to run smoothly, and limit frustration or burnout.
Namaste Space Buffalo releases January 5th, 2016