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Feature: Magicka Almost A Victim Of Poor Planning

In Gamasutra's latest feature, a postmortem of Arrowhead Game's PC hit Magicka, director Johan Pilestedt admits an "unforgiving feeling that we would never finish the game" during development.
In Gamasutra's latest feature, a postmortem of Arrowhead Game's PC hit Magicka, director Johan Pilestedt admits an "unforgiving feeling that we would never finish the game" during development. The team had a clear vision for the game, writes Pilestedt, but "Unfortunately, we didn't have a plan." "All that existed was a timeline on the whiteboard with numbered weeks associated with levels and features. If a level slipped past the week to which it was assigned, we would just consider it 'good enough' -- even though it was missing crucial gameplay features," he confesses. This had a terrible effect on both the game and the team's morale. "All this uncertainty combined with doubt and created several moments of despair, along with an unforgiving feeling that we would never finish the game and go into bankruptcy. In some cases, this fact was so obvious that we could do nothing but to laugh," he writes. "We could only guess that there was no way we'd be finished by the established milestones," he writes, "and we were far too proud and afraid to bring this issue forward; We instead solved it as we did with all problems: crunch." There was an even bigger problem. In the midst of development, writes Pilestedt, the team "realized the game was nowhere as fun as it had been in the prototype stages, and not even close to what we aimed for." After adopting Scrum methodology late into development, the team got back on track with content production. As for the "not fun" problem, he writes, "we investigated what made the prototype so much fun. What we found out was, we happened to accidentally kill each other more often and everything was more 'haphazard' -- something we managed to get just right by increasing the power of the spells and toughness of the enemies." In the end, the game launched successfully -- selling 30,000 copies on its launch day, breaking 200,000 in two weeks, and going on to move almost 800,000 copies to date. The full feature, an in-depth postmortem which includes five observations on what went right on the project and five on what went wrong, is live now on Gamasutra.

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