After a journey of almost 16 months of game crafting, Small Chronicles Chapter 1 is ready to launch into the world (well iOS for now)! However, things were not as smooth as they always were. So here are the really important lessons that I have learnt from the entire journey.
Learning how to set up Automation for the long term
While crafting games generally involves creative work, sometimes things can get really repetitive. For example, when you have stages with monsters at predetermined starting positions, you may have to key in the starting positions (x and y values) for all the stages!
In another example, when you have to support multiple device models, you'll have to have similar images with different resolutions. Just imagine the amount of repetition you'll have to do just exporting the images or renaming them (e.g [email protected] for retina and [email protected]~ipad.png for ipad retina) !
And that's where automation comes in. With automation, you will be able to rename 50 files from [email protected] to [email protected]~ipad.png with just a click of your mouse! Yes you do have to spend a little initial time to set/write up the script or record the actions (depending on the automation method).
Sometimes I use automator to do so (as shown below).
However, if manually changing each file's name takes you around 6 seconds, automating that with 50 files will save you 5 minutes! Now imagine how much time you could potentially save with a huge game of at least 1000 files!
Design for the highest resolution ever possible
When I first started crafting the game, the images that I exported weren't of the highest resolution. In the case of Small Chronicles, this would mean images prepared for the iPad Retina's resolution. As a result, scaling them up causes some pixelation to occur when the game was running.
On top of that, it isn't always possible to work using vector-based graphics. As a result, I had to spend some extra time to recreate the graphics from a higher resolution.
As such, now I always create graphics with twice the resolution of that of the iPad Retina. Why? Well if an ultra-retina device appears in the future, I won't have to spend time remaking them.
Have a to-do list
While this may sound like a really common one, I cannot stress enough how important it is. When I first started crafting Small Chronicles, it was all in my head. I knew what had to be done everyday. However, I just didn't think that it was necessary to write it down or type it out for that matter.
I was wrong. While there were some progress with Small Chronicles' crafting, it wasn't what I would call smooth. Sometimes I would spend a whole day just fixing a bug and getting nowhere. Other days I would be googling and reading up on how to add a feature but not getting to it.
That was when I knew things had to change. Ironically, it was Things that helped me. If you don't know about it, it's just a very simple to-do app on Mac OSX that helps you with organizing your to-do items and lists.
When you have something that you wish to accomplish, getting up everyday in the morning with those goals in mind will really push you forward. It doesn't have to be a long-term goal or complicated task. Even writing down a simple task such as "Set up 1st screen in game" is a big step forward.
Get the word out, right from the start
I know quite a number of indie game developers who are guilty of this. I myself am guilty of it too. In the early stages of crafting Small Chronicles, I didn't really spend much time telling people about the game that I was making.
In fact, it was only later that I became more active in various forums, on social channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+. It was then that I realized that I have missed out on a lot of opportunity time to get the word out about Small Chronicles.
You might have heard about this before but unless your game gets really popular, most likely no one will bother copying it. That was when I really understood that sentence. Ironically, once I did so, I actually wanted people to clone my games. Because that meant that they were that fun and popular for them to do so.
There are many ways to go about doing this. As mentioned above, being active on forums and on your social channels is a must. Blogging also helps to gather your inner thoughts and with gaining a loyal following.
But as game developers/designers, we all want to do what we love best - making the game! While that is indeed true, sometimes we just have to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. If a person doesn't know about your game, how can he or she play it?
As with getting the word out, having people giving you feedback is also key to improving your craft. I learnt it the hard way (for my previous game) that feedback is the window through which you can see from other people's perspective.
It is also a great way to gain a loyal following made up of people who will follow your updates closely. These are the people that I have learnt to come to really appreciate. They are the brave souls who help test alpha and beta versions of the game(s) that you have made.
Notice the "Enemy Turn" on the lower right corner above? Well before the game received any feedback, it was a single black sprite right smacked in the center of the screen (and you had to wait a few seconds for it to disappear). Anyone would just be fed up at having to wait for that transition.
Plan ahead, really ahead
Murphy's law states that whatever will go wrong, will go wrong. So it's really not a bad idea to always have contingency plans for everything you do.
With Small Chronicles, I initially planned the release to be on April 29th. However, I didn't plan for the possibility that it would get rejected by Apple on the very first upload. It just wasn't going to make it for the release date of April 29th.
As a result, I had to push the release back by another 2 weeks to May 13th. While it was a really hard lesson for me, it taught me that I should always be prepared for anything that might or might not happen. In fact, I'm thinking of having a risk list like I do with my to-do list.
Always be positive
And that brings me to the last and most important point - always be thinking on the bright side! Like I have mentioned above, Small Chronicles was rejected from the Apple App Store on its first upload. Well in fact it was rejected for a total of 3 times (for various bugs and crashes that I have missed)!
This was certainly something that might bring me down emotionally and mentally in the past. However, I have since learnt to look at things from the positive side and try to turn it around. And so I appealed for the first time since become a game developer.
And that was the fastest time in which I have seen the game's status go from "Rejected" to "Waiting For Review", to "In Review" and lastly to "Processing for App Store". Turns out that the 3rd upload was indeed working as expected (and as tested). Thank you app review board!
If I was still sulking and not thinking straight, I might still be combing the game for the reason why the upload was rejected. If there's anything that I have learnt from this experience, that is to always think positive and remain calm no matter what happens!
I hope that my experience and the lessons that I have learnt have at least helped you in some way or another. Do feel free to ask me anything below or on Twitter (@WhiteSponge) and I will respond as soon as possible. Cheers!