Cute animals. Cats. Laughs. Petting. Colorful. Pet Pat.
Somehow, someway from a combination of those words, we devised the, mobile game “Pet Pat, the first mobile petting simulator,” and pushed it to the masses out in the world.
How we managed to do that, is still a question I ask myself considering the changes that Goodnight Games was going through at the time. For as good as the game is, it had its shortcomings and is pretty fair of a representation of the changes that were taking place both in the game and behind the scenes.
What Did Work
Disbarring a “rough start,” one thing that was important was locking down the main features of what we wanted to be in the game and a general idea of how they worked, This helped us to have a general course of what needed to be down and set up some sort of priority listing so the game could actually work.
A Prototype That Was Fun Without Art
Spending too many months on a prototype is not what many would consider time well spent, but on the flip side it did prove to locking down the general playability and mechanics of the game. When we first started going through playtesting and showcasing it to people to work out the difficulty, many people got over the initial skepticism of a “block and tiles game.” Instead the simple mechanics of tapping, swiping, and holding, were enough to hold their general interest for a decent play time of about 15 minutes, before having to put it down. This was closing in on a personal success for us, because if people could enjoy the prototype with its bare to bare to bare minimum graphics, then we were getting somewhere.
The art style was a bit of a tough choice for us, considering the motif of our games usually hold these dark connotations peppered with rather bright colors. Almost juxtaposed, in a way. In the end, what went for was to go with that cutesy, bright colored, candy and sprinkles, and fun flair, and many people received it well. Admittedly, some felt there was an uncanny, nerve to the adorable creature where they didn't know where to go aww or break down in gut wrenching laughter. Regardless, they wanted to see more, and we gave them such.
Exposure to the Public
“Pet Pat” is considered to be our first major push of a release. Getting out in the field, showcasing it, pushing it hard, developing a fan base, etc all came from the work and sweat we put into developing the game. This would continue onward with our next games, but PP, really did see to the foundation and basis for the Goodnight Games bran floating out there amongst the indie game development today. Whether good or bad, the time we spent getting exposure for PP, really helped later on in the future.
What Didn’t Work
Lack of Planning
A lot of the game’s problems that we encountered, stemmed from one major issue: lack of planning. Pet Pat, sort of came as a random idea, as we all sat around watching cute animal videos during break. Not one’s to let an idea go to waste, it was seized on, and then quickly put into production for playing.
This is not necessarily a negative way in which to work, it could be in effect be called the “rapid prototyping phase.” However, with the lack of planning tasks that should have taken a few days, or weeks, ballooned exponentially; no time scale for what needs to be done; miscommunication (will address that later); no clear consensus on the what the end goal of the game would be. There were a few other aspects that were hugely influenced by the this issue, and it definitely came to bit us in the ass, more than several times.
Miscommunication and Isolation
Miscommunication was another issue we encountered during Pet Pat’s development and though one could argue that it was mostly a byproduct of lack of planning, it does warrant a notation of its own. At this time, Goodnight Games was also going through a period of expansion, from the small handful of a dev team, to nearly double the size, This lead to new positions being filled, some shuffling around, etc. It also meant that the level of communication that was established, had to be reworked to integrate the newcomers and that wa one of a few slight problems.
With everyone having their own “picture” of what the game would be, work started on art and programming without a clear discourse,to the team but, to a few. This had the unfortunate side effect of people being constantly shifted one what they are or aren’t doing or things being scrapped or suddenly put in place. With the sudden departure of the the company’s former producer, communication took another turn and dive, but of course development went onward.
Artists > Programmers/Coders
Seeing as the expansion of the team was an inevitable prospect, it was determined to be a good point in the company’s growth and development cycle to do so. With “Pet Pat” becoming one of our many complex games, we were developing, more hands was a welcomed addition.
However, a problem arise with the new additions, and that was the ratio of artists to programmers had dramatically shifted. Due to the shift, we now had a system that was even slower and bogged down by the need to have programmers switch from their tasks to sort out the integration of the art and ensure that it worked out. Having Programmers that could do art (or vice-versa) helped to slightly mitigate the problem, but it still remained persistant all throughout the project’s development cycle.
Oblvious to Software Limitations
Goodnight Games’ goal was to always create the most entertaining and “most bang for your buck,” mobile game. Yet, there comes a time, when there’s a realization, that the tools selected may just not be cut out to help achieve the large scale dream one is trying to achieve.
This is one of those cases, where hindsight is 20/20, but we had to work with what we have and allowed the fastest turnout times on the development cycle. The 2d engine we used, had its pros, such as being easy to use, lightweight, and catered to mobile games. That didn’t stop us from cursing and screaming in frustration whenever we hit an engine roadblock, or encountered a crash, that set us back too much for comfort. As we continue further along into the development cycle, it became abundantly clear that the engine we were using, simply couldn’t do certain things that we wanted to achieve, nor modify it to allow such. This continues to be a problem, we deal with today.
Pet Pat” was truly Goodnight Games in game form; an experiment of paradigms (both old and new) as it makes his way, to be amongst the big leagues, to be a fun enjoyable game, but ultimately just a hair short for the newly minted company.
But hell, can’t say it wasn’t a lesson learned. Good or bad, however anyone takes this, it was experience earned, to be used later.