Talking in a Brothers In Arms Wii postmortem
published today on Gamasutra, Demiurge Studios has been discussing why being brutal about setting your feature lockdown is vital, no matter how much fun you may be having on your game.
During the course of discussing the ups and downs of bringing the WWII combat franchise -- in this case, a two-disc enhanced compilation of the first two titles in the Gearbox-created franchise -- to Nintendo's console, Demiurge's Kristin Price and Kurt Reiner explained some of the issues they had in their Wii enthusiasm:
"From the first day of the project, we were brimming with ideas on how to use controls, the UI, and all the features that separate Wii from other platforms. In fact, we couldn't turn off the ideas.
We didn't set a feature lockdown date, and as a result we were still tweaking the control scheme long after we should have. This left a lot of pieces feeling chaotic and unfinished right down to the wire.
The user tests ultimately helped us finalize; however, we started them too late in development, so all of the best data was arriving late to the party.
User testing was not planned from the beginning of the project, but rather was a thankful realization that we needed clean, external input in order to settle on a well-informed decision."
So, what's to be done to prevent this? Though it may seem obvious, efficient scheduling of interaction with external user testing earlier in the project just can't be ignored:
"The lesson there was to plan user testing from the start so that there are set periods earlier in the process where the team is prepared to show the game and react to the feedback.
Without setting a firm lockdown date, we allowed the user testing and subsequent tweaks to continue too long.
The realization that a variety of play styles would be better captured for players in two separate control schemes was positive, but it came with a cost. We had to scramble at the end to get UI, balance, and all of the other items that hinge on the controls updated and finished.
Had we properly set a feature lockdown date, we would have been forced to conduct user tests earlier, secure the control scheme earlier, and then take the proper amount of time to get the UI and balancing worked out to each control scheme."
You can now read the full Gamasutra postmortem of Brothers in Arms: Double Time
, including lots more on what went right and wrong during the creation of the first Wii title in the Gearbox-originated franchise.