The game that never was

Previously unreleased footage from Catapult for Hire. What does it mean? Could it be to stoke interest before an announcement of a new game? Oh the humanity!


Still Alive

What do you do with an incomplete game?

Do you finish it?

I've tried. It’s just too massive in its current state. With this being my freshman attempt in game development I've made many mistakes that now prevent me from finishing it in my free time. Someday I will do a postmortem and I think that could be useful to myself and the community. Suffice to say, mistakes were made. Here is the mile-high view.

Problem #1 - The scope got out of control.
Even though keeping the scope small was my #1 priority, my inexperience prevented me from reining in my ambitions. I ended up getting a publisher for a year and that exacerbated the problem. I’ve completed other large projects in my spare time and so I thought I would be unstoppable being able to dedicate a full 40 hour work week to the game. In the end I took on way more than I should have.

I think this screenshot of the current state of the Catapult for Hire tasks illustrates this pretty well. I just roll my eyes at some of the things that I thought were important at the time!

Problem #2 - Javascript
I chose to use Unityscript (Unity's version of Javascript) which started to buckle under the weight of the size of the game. The project currently stands at over 50,000 lines of code and compile times were getting prohibitive. If you’re going to be creating a large project in Unity I would recommend C#.

Problem #3 - Dependencies
I ended up incorporating a few different libraries in order to help speed up development but did so too early in the process. Maintaining, updating and adapting to their changes along the way may have hindered more than helped the project. If you’re going to incorporate libraries, do so as late as you can in the development cycle unless you have the time to encapsulate them properly.

Problem #4 - Cart before the horse.
This one is a long story but in getting a publisher for the game I think there were some steps that were taken prematurely that added some perhaps unnecessary overhead for the duration of the project.

Problem #5 - Show and tell
Showing the game early in the development inevitably creates mental fatigue. I would hear “Oh, you’re still working on that game?” from both the fan community and fellow game developers. It’s also harder to get media coverage when they show your game early as they are reticent to show it again until it is complete or nearly so.

Problem #6 - Self-Care
In pushing as hard as I did to get the game done I severely neglected myself. I’ve come to learn that eating, exercise and social habits are all extremely important for maintaining an ability to work effectively.

Now what?

I pushed my finances and family relationships to their limit and after the failed Kickstarter I had to stop. I incurred some debt and purchased the rights to the game back from my publisher. In order to avoid complete financial ruin, I had to dig in my heels and stop game development completely for all of 2015.

I have been pondering walking away from Catapult for Hire as well. She has been a tumultuous, life-destroying love. Was it worth maintaining the relationship? Do I take the life lessons I’ve gained and move on? It’s been a hard question for me to answer.

I recently broke out the latest build and I have to admit that still love Catapult for Hire. I long for that world. It’s such a whimsical, wonderful game but, unfortunately, it’s not something that I can attempt to finish at this point.

Since averting financial ruin, I have tried working on several different prototypes in my spare time. I have been working on one of them for the past few months and I’m loving the direction it is going in. Currently, there are two prototypes that are competing for my attention and I’m not sure which one I will finish first.

So, for now, I am going to continue to work on the new game(s) and I will post updates when I have them.


Will work for adventure

The video above is a new format to show some of the new things going on with the game. Of course it’s not a summary of everything I’ve been working on (there need to be SOME secrets!) but I think they will be a good way to show my progress.

My Dad recently asked how I actually make stuff in 3D and so I'm starting to capture my desktop as I work and I added a snippet to the video. It's a bit hard to see exactly what I'm doing but I'll learn to perform better to make it more clear in the future. I realize now that I need to do the broad strokes and worry about clean geometry and small details later.

So, the end of the year is here and 2013 has been a wild ride! The past few months have been especially crazy. Now that the dust has settled I can finally announce that I have been able to buy back the rights to Catapult for Hire from my publisher!

That means a lot of things but most of all it means that I can commit to the highest quality game possible and I will be able to interact with the community in a more direct way. Not much will change as far as my life situation. I will continue working part-time and squeezing in as much time as I can on the game in-between, but I'm finally in a good place and am making real progress.

Recently I added a feature that I'm very excited about. When I started designing the game I tried approaching gameplay through the lens of a completely stationary catapult. Initially it was an attempt at finding creative solutions to a constraint and it would keep environment sizes down but I see now that constraint isn't necessary. Not long ago I splurged and bought Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag in which you occasionally commandeer a pirate ship and I found that firing the cannons was immediately comfortable because it played exactly like Catapult for Hire. The main difference was that I was steering a ship all the while and I realized this needed to be in the game.

There are a couple of vehicle types already in the game but now the player will control their movement using standard WASD controls. In some levels you essentially become a catapult-tank as you move through the environment while other levels have you flying an airship through the skies or sailing a ship to locate the best fishing spots. It's a completely natural addition to the game and just feels right.