Sponsored By

The Premature Birth of our Game. What we learned.

An article regarding our first game. What we learnt, tip's and ideas when Crunching & Time Extensions during Game Dev.

Nick Stavrou, Blogger

February 2, 2015

9 Min Read

The premature birth of our game and why we aren't done with it.

Gargula Bloodrush was our first game we developed as a new team and business which is Paranormal Games. It has just gone onto a year now that the game has been out.

So why are we going back to it and doing a major revamp update? Because we made a huge mistake...

The initial idea was a quick one week game which would be a cool monster slash infinite runner. Simple right? Well it was until Steve and I fell head over heels for the IP (Intellectual Property). Development had already started and ideas began to flow through. Our Gargoyle game was beginning to take on a life of it's own and there was nothing wrong with that. It was looking good and playing well, for what we had put into it. We took it to a convention and showed it off. People liked it! It had the basic mechanics in it so the idea could be felt and seen. We took down notes and advice, everything was going well.

Now we had ideas and changes in mind so it was back to the drawing board. We came up with a deeper game now and began implementing these add ins. This is where we made one of our mistakes. We really wanted to make an adventure game the more we developed the casual version but thats a whole other can of worms.

The other mistake I want to focus on was the first time we discussed and agreed on a "realistic" DEADLINE OF COMPLETION!

This turned out to be a huge problem for the project. We rushed our game to make the self imposed deadline which we had already pushed back twice before placing more pressure on ourselves each time. It turned a game we were on track to becoming happy with into a rushed out game we weren't happy with. Yes we were still proud of it but the game as it is haunts us everyday. There's a little Gargoyle sitting in our studio, ever present looking down with pure odium, whispering "What could have been....."

We owe it to ourselves and Gargula to bring him what he deserves as a first game for him and us. We have another full game in store for him but that is for the future. So for now we have decided to drop everything and rid ourselves of this guilt.

So now you know whats in the soup. I'll explain what we've learnt and hopefully you working on your game won't fall into the same potential disaster zone when crunching for a deadline or looking at extending the projects time. By preparing before hand and also dealing with this pressure and not letting a premature birth of your game come into fruition.

First off and most importantly. Don't let a good game be destroyed by making good time.

So you are running face first into a completion deadline. It may be for various reasons working with a publisher or contract, vital team members can only work for a limited time, you released news or a demo stating the games release date or various other reasons. But you haven't planned previously for any disasters like this. You can't possibly make the deadline and now the pressure is on. So what should you do? I'll give you a few ideas and these ideas work both during a deadline crunch or dealing with a time extension.

Burn your studio down, claim the insurance and tell everyone you lost it all in the fire. Done.

I joke, I joke, first of all keep calm and call a meeting with all vested parties in the project. Including any sort of close supporters that you have in your life that have helped support you during this project. Obviously business meetings cannot have them present so speak with them first before the formal meetings begin. Be honest and explain the situation. You'll be amazed what other ideas can pop up when people who care for you and believe in your work are there to help.
It will also pull everyone together including you! It'll help squash any fears and panic. Panic at this point of time will destroy everything.

Also holding a meeting with business partners will show that you are calm and can handle the task ahead. This will often be enough for them to see why the delay is and why it needs more time. Try promising open intermediate updates to interested parties over the time extension it is a great way to get them to agree.

Next is avoid longer hours than usual or full time weekend work. This will drain the heck out of your team and all you will get is a bunch of short cuts and slapped together parts plus uninterested team members. This will hurt you and the game big time in the long run.

Form a strike plan!
You should have identified the problems before you went into any meetings or else you wouldn't be looking for a time extension or crunching. Those problems are the strike plan targets. Nothing else should be being worked on except for them.
Within the strike plan include anything else that needs to be attained to get the targets completed. For example do you need a certain tool that'll speed things up or to hire an extra programmer to proof or bug fix certain code or even another artist to assist the lead artist so he can finish what he needs. (Which by the way should be avoided. Throwing more people at a project is like monkeys throwing handfuls of crap it's all good at first but then someones gotta clean it all up. In other words it has a whole bunch time consuming problems that come with it!).

You will find out what you need to get the job done by your team members in the meeting. So make sure you listen and evaluate the possibility of providing them with what they need.

Are you the project manager? Or is there someone better suited at this point of time? Remember nothing matters except for the project right now. So leave egos at the door.
If there is someone stronger and better suited for a role let them do it provided they aren't already overly busy.
Draw up a detailed project plan. Within this, time schedule EVERYTHING that needs to get done.

Don't treat them mean but keep them keen,
try your hardest to keep everyone positive. Don't let morale drop away because the train of love will slow to a grinding halt and people will start to walk.

Time is everything at this point, so don't waste it. Yes if a break is needed for the team take it. That isn't wasting time just manage it.

Don't go all dictator,
As long as tasks are getting done don't go all cray cray on the strike plan. It doesn't matter what order things are getting done. As long as they are getting done. Unless something needs to be done in order to do something else off of that. These should be priority tasks.

Another big one is know when the hell to leave a polish behind. Polishing something does not mean completing something. It means it is done to the standard everyone is happy with, you are then polishing that standard to make it better. Move on if its completed everyones happy already, so polish later if you have the time.

Break down big tasks into smaller tasks if possible! This is a great tip for any point of time in any development project but this can keep people focused and grinding through work. Instead of looking at the whole Mountain, break it into sections to climb towards before you know it you'll be stabbing a big ass
Flag at the top of it and eating a baguette.

Finally look at things rationally and realistically. Don't be afraid to throw in the towel. If the extension wont help then unfortunately you should sink project and salvage what you can. Rather than waste a whole bunch of peoples time and effort. Because if you do that it will leave a scar on you. Or similarly if the game isn't ready for the deadline look at the possibility of a time extension.

The Deadline push and time extension should always be avoided if possible. I really wish we threw up the middle finger at ourselves and said fuck it. We are going to keep going until we are happy. The funny thing is we had the freedom to do that. But alas we were young and foolish. Now we are going back and making up for that. This is our choice as a company.

These tips I mentioned are for the ones who find themselves in either situation and I'm sure there are a whole bunch of other ideas and tips that can help. Just try to plan beforehand so this kind of thing can be totally avoided. A deadline crunch at the end of a project is normal but should only be minor touch ups. This article is focused on major problems.

Well I hope this helps, Paranormal out....

Nick Stavrou
Paranormal Games





Read more about:


About the Author(s)

Daily news, dev blogs, and stories from Game Developer straight to your inbox

You May Also Like