So, in case you hadn't heard Frozenfire and I released a new game this week. It's called Primary. I thought it would be a nice idea to do a post about the game and the development of the game, kind of a post mortem but not extremely in depth.
I guess I will start at the beginning. I heard about the Power of 3 event a little late... at least it felt that way because all the good programmers were taken. The games had to be centered around the number 3, three of something... I landed on a puzzle game idea where there were platforms in the primary colors and you had to jump from one to another...
The initial idea was very different from the actual game that we created. And mainly that was due to not being able to come up with a great way to graphically represent the abstract concepts that the original idea had. It would have just been to complex for the player.
I was wanting to be the artist for the game and didn't really think of myself as a great programmer by any means. Hell just look at the comments on Primary and you can see that I didn't get everything right.
After not being able to find anyone willing to program the game I shifted gears and became the programmer and started looking for an artist. I asked a few big name people JohnnyUtah said I was the first person to ask him and this was a couple weeks into the event... I had a lot of people jump at the chance to have a programmer but no on really that showed enough promise for me to want to work with them.
Frozenfire saw one of my posts about looking for an animator and he showed quite a bit of raw talent, not the refined talent I was looking for but it was clear that he was more than capable of being a great artist if I was mean to him and made him redo stuff that I didn't think was good enough to be in the game. I have to say that choosing Frozenfire was a good decision because that kid is really a trooper. He stuck it out and cranked on this game for MONTHS.
We hit the ground running on Primary and hit a few snags. One of the first snags was when we had the engine up and running and the game started bugging out really bad for Frozenfire... I couldn't duplicate the issues that he was talking about at all, turns out that I was controling the game with the WASD setup and he was using the arrow keys. I tried the arrow keys and sure enough the game was nearly unplayable.
For any flash developers out there you might find this interesting... other can skip it....
The IF statement I had checking if the WASD keys were down included the arrow key checks. it was if w is pressed OR if UP is pressed both in the same if statement and one worked fine the other was buggy as hell... Exact same code... That was the first time my head exploded, and it wouldn't be the last on this game.
After working on that one issue for over a week and not coming to a good solution I made the call to lose the arrow keys as a control scheme. Apparently this is much to the chagrin of many players but you know what, the game was playable and still fun to me and I don't think it loses anything at all.
I built a level editor next so we could develop the levels for the game as we went along and we divided the levels up so we could both make an even amount. After trying several times to make good levels we both realized that it was really tough to make good levels. Never underestimate the difficulty in something like level design, it is extremely tricky to get right.
We put the level design aside after we hade built some levels to test the engine and put it through it's paces.
We worked really hard and then I got a little burnt out on the game and had to take some time off. At this point Frozenfire started to fear we had given up on the game. I just needed to go through my reset cycle for a few weeks and I came back to the development like a sledgehammer.
In one month I cranked out hundreds of bug fixes, the boss battles, menus, upgrade system, and a few levels that actually made it into the game.
Then... I kinda sorta got laid off from my job, and started freelancing. This kinda rocked my world a little bit and I lost focus again. Once I found it again I once again hammered the game into shape. I kept going this time until the game was as complete as I could make it.
During the development we had been trying to get the music right and there were several setbacks with audio that caused major headaches. Symphony of Sound did a bang up job, I just struggled to convey what I was trying to get across with the feel of the music. After I let go and just let the musicians make the music fit things went much smoother.
Then we waited for the right time to release the game. We were held up on a few minor musical issues for a little while there at the end so the release date kinda wiggled around a little.
We originally had not planned on getting the game sponsored at all. However when I posted the game on FlashGameLicense to try to get some site locked licesnes sold for the launch they pretty much told me to give it a shot and see if you can find a sponsor. I listened and we looked for a sponsor for a couple weeks finally settling on Armor Games.
The newgrounds version of the game does not have any branding in it because it is the Power of 3 version which Armor Games, Frozenfire, and I all thought was important to have because of the origins of the game.
It has been a hell of a ride making the game, and the process was really really really tough. I think it is fair to say that everyone involved with Primary pushed themselves to make the game happen and without everyone coming together with a strong belief in the project it would have never come to pass.
There were hundreds of teams for the Power of 3 event and 5 games have actually been finished so far. We are very proud to have been one of the few games to actually make it to the end of the process, it only took a lot longer than expected.
If I had to say what is the biggest lesson that I have learned from making Primary, I would say... risk management. When making a game of a large scope it is important to scale back the project to a manageable size and scope to where you can create it in a timely manner. No one likes to have an unfinished project, and the larger the project the longer it will stay uncompleted.
I think I will be working on some smaller projects for a few months then take a stab at something larger again, once I forget how much the last month of working on Primary took out of me.
I seriously doubt that anyone will read all of this but I thought I would share my thoughts about the development of our game with whoever is willing to sift through them. Perhaps you might learn something or you have a comment about something that I did that I could have done better...
Please share your thoughts with me here I would love to hear from you.