It all started at uni, towards the end of my master’s. Me and a coursemate from another group decided to make our own super cool 3D first-person puzzle game. Why did we decide to make a game? Well, I had some experience of drawing, specialised in art at school, and my teammate had experience of 3D modelling. And after all, we’re both programmers, and we’ve made games before whilst working in companies. Why a puzzle game? Because we like puzzles.
We divided all the various tasks roughly 50-50 between the two of us, or each one of us basically took on the tasks we could do. On the one hand, having two people on your team means each person gets half the workload! Quite nice really :) And overseeing your teammates’ work doesn’t take up as much time than if there were, say, 30 other people.
So, basically, everything fell into place: I was to be responsible for all the code and the graphics (shaders, lighting, post processing effects), and my teammate for the levels, and legal issues. At the start his modelling was better than mine, but after a while I realised that constantly asking him to re-do some model or other was just hassling him and taking his focus away from the key tasks. Also, the requirements for a given model could change quite frequently and I didn’t want to drive him mad by making him do 1000 corrections each day. So, I took on responsibility for modelling too.
At the very start we decided on an idea for the game, its laws and mechanics, tested everything out in our heads, on paper and on Unity, and planned out a networking mode.
You won’t believe it, but I’ve now got two folders worth of sketches for the project, and sometimes I still have to sketch out pictures, go through different ideas and compare different objects. Here are some examples from the sketches I’ve done:
As it stands we’ve already published most of our sketches on Twitter and Instagram...
We also tried to get some of our acquaintances involved in the project. At one point we had two girls (designers/artists), a game designer and another programmer on the team as well as us. After 2-3 weeks the programmer went to work in a big company, after attempting to create a structure for the project and build one game object - some random object with an “eye” which follows the player. Then the designers abandoned us. The game designer turned out to be made of stronger stuff though. He stayed with us till the last, although he didn’t actually produce any concrete results :)
Btw, at that time the game looked like this:
The models shown on the pictures are some of the first versions we did. I’ve not posted these pictures to show the graphics or mechanics, but in order to show how everything looked at the stage when we were working on the mechanics and testing everything out.
And a few more sketches:
A little about a lot: Networking
Initially we wanted to build in a multiplayer mode, but as it turned out, it really wasn’t worth it. I tried my best to make it work and clung onto it like a cat with a fish. We had built rooms, levels, and networking functions on the main objects. But all this was moving along so slowly, and our time was basically disappearing into a black hole with all the testing and debugging. Here’s how our interface looked:
We did a lot of work on the networking mode, even installed a web chat (the envelope icon) and a voice chat system (the microphone icon).
Later on I realised one important thing: the multiplayer function was cool, but if you’ve got two people on your team and neither have any experience with it (not counting the networking labs we did in uni), it’s better to put the networking to one side and focus on the main aspects of the game:
A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush
Attempting to expand our team
At some point I started trying to attract high-level artists to work on our project with us - but that didn’t go anywhere. The reasons for that turned out to be quite obvious:
- Professional artists want cash, and we can only offer enthusiasm
- For the most part, non-professional artists (in my experience) like to just get creative and instead of doing everything according to our plan, they get carried away and start taking on the role of main game designer and then don’t want to do anything else...
- Motivating a team takes up a lot of time in itself!
I also realised that we can’t afford to be spending our time giving tasks to people who are working for us purely out of enthusiasm, because at the end of the day it’s very likely they will leave us anyway. So, we decided to just do everything ourselves and stop looking for other additions to the team.
We’re still working as hard as ever on our project. We’ve already done a huge portion of the main work, and now we’re focussing on optimisation, polishing up the graphics, the animations, and the story.
One translator also joined us not long ago, and has started working on the scenario :) She’s been working with us for a year now (out of enthusiasm, like us).