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The trials and tribulations of a one-man development team.

A Revelation to a junior programmer/ Game designer as to why Game development is usually at the minimum a two-man job.

Jonathan Jennings, Blogger

September 3, 2010

7 Min Read


Really, This wasn't obvious to you in he first place ? :

Personally, I feel like there are certain lessons that no one can truly “teach” you, that you must experience firsthand to truly appreciate. So  2 years ago when I began my very first game design course and the very first assignment called for us to organize into groups maybe I should have caught a hint. Maybe during m first programming courses where we were asked to work  on the programs together I should have got the hint. Maybe in the class  I just left where we used the unreal development kit to create map animations and build an actual game-play environment and were asked to work in groups, I should have caught the hint. Heck maybe even while looking through the “ job seeker” section of gamasutra where I have seen requests for specified skills ranging from lighting programmers to  just general – all purpose development skills I should have  got the message.

 If you build a man on fire , you warm him for a day . If you set him on fire, he'll be warm for the rest of his life :

But no, no what truly made this message hit home for me Is my latest and first actual Gaming project, a project I have  done all the work on myself. What was originally the results of months of pondering different game designs and finally coming to the conclusion that I didn’t want my senior project to be my first game design project , became my attempt to make a game to enhance my portfolio.  After a month of procrastination I finally Gained the energy necessary for the project and sprung to life developing  art assets,  planning out the logic behind the boss battles,  trying to figure out how to apply gravity  to my character and a host of art/design/ programming related events and issues. It has only just now become apparent to me however just how much work goes into implementing all of these features and how this projects success or failure falls on my head and my head alone. At no point can I lean over and ask for someone else’s input, or while creating another sprite for  the jump animation can I also have someone else check the collisions with the main character. When I was coming up with the initial Idea my brain ran wild with all sorts of cool Ideas to implement into my junior masterpiece, but at some point I had to think realistically and scale down my plans . As much as I would love to have an end-sequence where I make the player the unstoppable, destruction –wreaking boss I don’t have the time  or artistic ability to create the sprites necessary and I would have to do some major programming research in order to implement something like that .

Along with my understanding for why game-development is a team-process , my respect for the game-artists has increased ten fold.  Thankfully I am producing a game that requires very little artistic talent, because CLEARLY programming is my stronger skill , especially when it comes to pixel-art.  It just amazes me to see just how detailed sprites are in capable hands, and how much time goes into even the ismplest of sprites. I imagine to those with experience the creation of something simple like that is simple as making a " hello world" program is to me now but even so my respect for the artistic process and it's use in games where 100's of sprites are used is amazing.

So you are going to ask for assistance in the future right ? : Sure, on my next project.  Yes whilst I sit here   and contemplate  the many benefits and reasons that “ two heads are better than one”  I still won’t be asking for help from anyone I know ( not that I know any sprite artists).  While I highlighted the many times I needed a partner or partners for my course work and classes , I didn’t highlight how many times I was placed into a  position where I  was needed and   willing to work with a group only to  have my group-mates flake on me at the last second. For one course I was told to create a powerpoint presentation detailing the     games , philosophy, and financial  outlook  of a developer or publisher (  I chose Namce-bandai). I was assigned a partner, we talked about the published and developer, I asked for his input and put together the majority of the presentation. Then the next week when we were told to present our information to the class….I did it alone. My partner hadn’t showed up. This situation would repeat itself numerous times with small  variances. In one case my group was pretty balanced. I had a responsible art designer and an irresponsible audio/ game designer….While I was once again toiling away with the programming aspects and finally had a fully programmed game ready to show the class on the due date, apparently the audio technician brought his audio files at the last second. I grinned throughout that whole presentation but I was so upset at how the game I had put together for this class and formerly ran buttery smooth all of a sudden was prone to tremendous slowdown.

 The number of terrible partners and groups I have had is only a small portion of the issue though, I really want this game to be a good example piece of MY WORK. I want to carry this game from the wee Idea it was originally in my head to the point where I make the final executable and wrap up all the  final comments wiithin the code. though it's been difficult , I hae made major progress, and though I have spent 20 collective hours just on the first level which will easily be beatable within 3 minutes or so It is just a sacrifice I feel is necessary to relly have a game ot call my own...a stupid as that may sound.

hmm if everyone of your partners has been  "bad" ...maybe YOU are doing something wrong ,eh?

Believe me this isn’t an ego piece, though I  admit  it is in many ways a way for me to vent about the majority of unreliable partners I have met in classes and how In many ways they have kind of left a bad taste in my mouth for group-development methods.  I will even admit a few times I have even been the weaker portion of a group ( I STILL CONTRIBUTED THOUGH)  in some cases. 

 so.....lesson learned ?

Ultimately   this project has finally  made me see why game development is  an environment in which multiple skilled individuals must come together and apply all of their  abilities to create something fun,  attractive to the eye, and  technically smooth.   You gain a sense of purpose and can really focus on your area of expertise when placed in a group of capable individuals willing to really  produce  something great.   Not to mention by working in a group you create an environment that cultivates new and exciting Ideas and the progression of the game  continues even when one person is stuck in a rut . Much like a movie set, Gaming requires as many hands as possible to produce something fantastic.  


Wow, this was a great mental exercise for me.  once again thanks to anyone who read even a portion of this blog, as I grow and mature  into a eventual developer( crossing my fingers)  Hopefully I will be able to produce write-ups for more mental and skill-based milestones.  

 feel free to leave a comment if you are going  or have gone through a simlar process  of realizing " you can't do it all" , an example of an amazing team or terrible team you worked with...or feel free to berate me for youthful ignorance.


Thank you for your time and God bless.

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