GCG Feature: 'Student Postmortem: FIEA’s Opera Slinger'

In the latest feature for Gamasutra sister educational site Game Career Guide, Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy's Treblemakers team discuss what went right
In the latest feature for Gamasutra sister educational site Game Career Guide, Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy's Treblemakers team discuss what went right and what went wrong in the development process for their "karaoke platformer" Opera Slinger. In his introduction, team member Matthew Laurence explains the idea behind Opera Slinger and the concept of a "karaoke platformer" as "a cross between Mario 64 and Karaoke Revolution": "It was designed as a third-person action adventure in which attacks and abilities would be activated by the player's voice, rather than a button press. Featuring the trials of Forte, Opera Slinger Extraordinaire, it was intended to be set in worlds inspired by various musical genres (Rock World, Classical World, Country World, etc.), giving it enough scalability to have as many levels as we had time to build. Playful, bombastic, and filled with operatic destruction, it was meant to have a quirky sense of character from the get-go." Though the team soon learned that the scope of the game was far greater than many of the two week prototypes they'd created earlier, and despite the fact that in the end the team did meet all their goals in the final weeks of the semester, once the build was playable, they "found out that playing the game wasn't much fun at all": “Our vertical slice showed us that the pitch-activated attacks were far too transparent (like pushing a button with your voice). It felt like a gimmick and not the cool platforming/singing hybrid we'd all envisioned. At the beginning of our production semester, with just a little over three months of development time left, we realized that our primary game mechanic simply wasn't enjoyable. In response, we spent days in meetings, poring over the game's combat system in an attempt to bring the player's voice further into the spotlight. In the end, that's exactly what we did. Rather than focus on a bland action-adventure hybrid that we couldn't do justice to, we decided to shift to the direct conflict between Forte and his nemesis: Aria, the Opera Queen. The game became a race between our two main characters as each tried to beat the other to the spotlights in Forte's ruined opera hall and then sing to earn fan favor. Once the song was over, the spotlight would move and the player would have to platform over to the new location. While this change in direction would prove to be a wise decision overall, it came very late in the design process. Rather than arriving at this realization during preproduction, when we should have, we were doing it a few weeks into production! This would prove to be just one of many timing problems - problems that began to crop up as we got closer to the end of the development cycle.” You can now read the full Game Career Guide feature with more from the Treblemakers team on the parts of Opera Slinger that went right, leading to its selection as a finalist in this year's IGF Student Showcase (no registration required, please feel free to link to this column from external websites).

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