Saturday
Nov192016

Still Alive

First off, I'm sorry for my failure at communicating though I’ve not been in a place to know exactly what the fate of this game was. It’s hard to talk about and not because of any emotional baggage, though there are mountains of it, but what do you do with an incomplete game comprised of something nearing ten thousand hours of work?

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 made many mistakes that now prevent me from finishing it with the time I have outside of my regular work and family responsibilities. 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 in case you were wondering.

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

I think this screenshot of the current state of the Catapult for Hire tasks I have in Pivotal Tracker illustrates this pretty well.

Not to mention that game development is a wholly different monster than most media production. It’s not just writing, animation, programming, sound, cinema or interaction design. It’s all of the above and each of them need to work seamlessly together in order to create an outstanding product.

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. I walked away from game development 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 escape and I think it still has a unique joy it can offer to the world.

Unfortunately, It’s not something that I can attempt to finish at this point.

Since averting financial ruin, I have tried working on five 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. I do need to decide but I’m not sure which one it will be yet.

I have recently moved to Florida and that has been a game changer for my personal creativity and motivation. I knew that my old office had a sort of stigma about it from the pressure and disappointment that came from Catapult for Hire, but I didn’t know how much it weighed on me. I now feel like I’m 18 again and am ready to take on the world once more.

So, for now, I am going to continue to work on the new game(s) and I will post updates when I have them.
https://twitter.com/tyronehenrie
https://www.facebook.com/pixelmegagames/

Friday
Oct312014

Gaining Steam

It's been a long time coming but Catapult for Hire has finally been greenlit! Over the course of making this game I've had so many twists and turns that I don't quite know what to think of it anymore. I literally started working on my next game the day before Catapult for Hire was greenlit.

This definitely changes things and now I'm going to be finishing the game. However, it will probably be changing in a few major ways. The game is now going to be procedurally generated so it will be different every time you play through it. This is to make it more friendly to crowd-discovery through early demos and “Let’s Play” style videos. There will be less dialogue and perhaps the removal of cut scenes completely. The story will now be more implicit than explicit.

All of this is to overcome a few of the major obstacles that stand in the way of the game’s current development trajectory. Think of this as Catapult for Hire 2.0.

Also, the catapults will be changing to allow customization. Perhaps the biggest change is that the catapults will now be mobile rather than stationary. This changes the entire paradigm of the game and I think it will be for the best in the end.

I’m excited about the possibilities and look forward to getting the new vision of the game together to show you soon!

 

Thursday
Oct162014

On the Nature of Catapults (De Natura Catapultae)

It's high time I post an update wouldn't you agree? First off, I apologize profusely for not having posted earlier. I’m super thankful for all of you that have stopped by and showed your support in one way or another and you deserve better.

So, here’s the scoop. I still love this game and I still believe in it but it’s been harder and harder to work on it for many reasons.

Firstly, I need to refactor the game to use C#. Compile times using Unity’s javascript have gotten out of control. I didn’t realize that was going to be an issue when I made the choice to use Javascript. Let this be an admonition to any new would-be game developers, if you’re making a large game in Unity, go with C#. I have started the conversion process but there is still a long way to go.

Secondly, since the Kickstarter I have been in a sort of tailspin. I thought I would be able to produce the game whether the Kickstarter was successful or not but its failure was a harder hit than I expected.

Thirdly, my second daughter was born back in April and it has been extremely hard to balance the whole life / work situation to be able to work on anything outside of the standard 8-5 workday. She is the cutest little thing you’ve ever seen but it’s been a lot of work. Now that baby girl is 6 months old it’s getting a little easier.

Fourthly, the game itself is in a state of limbo on Steam Greenlight. It hovers in the top 20-80 range but still has yet to be greenlit. Greenlight itself may be going away and so I really have no idea about how I will actually sell the game. I’m all for making games just for the fun of them, but I need to get myself in a situation that I can make games full-time and let’s face it, Steam is your best shot at selling your game.

Stepping away from the game has been vital for my own sanity, for my social life and for getting myself back into some semblance of balance. It has been helpful and healing for me but also hard because I’ve not been creating. I live to create. Now, after all this time I’m finally ready to get back into it.

So, what do I do now? Do I continue to squeeze in time on this game even though it’s far from finished? Do I work on something new and smaller to get my name out there? Do I work on a new game that is suited for Steam Early Access? I have a document with hundreds of game ideas, so which one would I even start with?

Don’t get me wrong, even if I work on something else I don’t think I could ever just give up on Catapult for Hire. It’s a story I’m dying to tell and I want to make it happen.

After all of the time I’ve spent debating and deliberating, what it comes down to for me is enjoying what I’m working on.

I will be back with something great to show you all. I think I know what that is but only time will tell.

Until then...