Devtober - Post Mortem - Oirbo Devlog #42
(Posted originally on our blog)
Throughout the whole month, we've been actively participating in a gamedev jam called devtober. The final requirement was to make a post-mortem for the whole month, similar to how we do in our monthly goals posts, but we will go more in-depth on what happened this month.
Oirbo current State
Oirbo’s content development paused this month after we finished up the Nature area we decided to finish the rest of the game systems before adding any more content. We have two solid areas in the game, with collectibles, hidden sections, bosses, unique enemies, and unique mechanics, with shortcuts (speedrunners will have a blast) and a lot of content to check. Our second area, the Nature area, is about double the size of the first and we plan to keep increasing the sizes as we resume content development.
The decision to not go directly to implement the third area (the Medical area) was due to our new found comfort with adding mechanics and content to the game. The gameplay systems that we have in place seem to support any wacky idea that we have and we feel like although content-wise we are making progress, the game lacks the rest of the stuff that makes it a game, like visual effects, working UI, and the rest of the systems that really help the player feel they’re part of a world.
After finishing up designing and decorating the Nature area we stopped with the content and started working on our UI and all its ramifications. We have now a working map viewer, where you can pan and zoom, the map UI elements are also in their final destination and the prototype of the character inventory system is complete.
The death mechanic was also completed and its’ UI is being developed right now, with it we had to implement an analytics system, we call the SLAM (Statistics Logging Achievements and Missions). This system makes achievements and stats possible.
This shift to the UI made a lot of other subsystems to rise from the bottom of the priority queue, mainly the SLAM system that is something that we usually do near the end of the development; the visual language interface system that we will develop next; the section and area memory and loading management; and so on.
What Went Wrong
The UI focus changed a lot of our perception of the game itself, we knew that we had a lot of work to do but we never imagined that it would be so much, basically, due the lack of investment in supporting systems for the metagame we pretty much have to start from scratch (we did import a lot of generic systems from Stellar Interface and Sudoku Zenkai though), which turned a 1 month task into at least 2 months.
We were also caught blindsided by the motivation drop that occurred when we jumped over to the UI since this isn't our first game nor experience doing something from scratch we weren't expecting such a drop on overall motivation. It's easy to explain though since everything that we've done so far is basically gameplay and "visible" it helps keep the motivation high because we can SEE the progress, now that we are working on the back end, it's much harder to see any real progress even if it is obviously there.
To make matters worse, the team had a bad month health-wise, every team member caught some kind of cold so we have been working on and off in the game due to that, and of course our real jobs xDDD.
What Went Right
Fortunately a lot of stuff!
First of all, the rediscovery of the lower subsystems allowed us to envision even more gameplay scenarios, a good example is the death mechanic, which was only finalized concept-wise when we decided to implement the individual section loading.
Secondly, Oirbo was selected to be a finalist on the Portuguese Playstation Awards, that alone meant a lot for us, even though our game is still in an alpha state, it was recognized by people in the industry simply with our design document and trailer (to be announced xDD). Since it's the first time one of our games was acknowledged in such a way it marks a big milestone for us.
Finally, once again we praise the game dev god for creating the GDD (You can see Oirbos here), it's a cliche thing to say, but the number of hours we've put into writing and updating it really is worth it. Oirbo GDD is getting a little out of the GDD concept since we just throw everything related to the game in there, but it's a constant tab on our browsers and super helpful on passing information between the team members as well as being a reference of every idea we had and how to implement it. All our team meetings always produce a few pages of new content and decisions for it, so we slowly built up a document that pretty much sums up Oirbo ideas, concepts, implementations, and focus.
Futurewise, we plan for a Q1 2020 release, so we need to finish up both the UI and VFX initial effects in November so that we can tackle the medical area in December. We will continue focusing on the UI until we have a full game loop ready, by game loop we mean a playable game from start to finish, so the main menu, loading screens, in-game hud and menus, pause menu, save/load system, etc. Basically, by the end of this development cycle we will have a running beta with a lot of placeholders but working UI components.
This was the first pseudo jam that ImaginationOverflow ever took part in (shame on us!) and it was a blast! We saw and learned a bunch of stuff this month simply by following a hashtag!
I hope that this post mortem also helps any future and current game devs, or at least show them a little how we do stuff over at ImaginationOverflow, to put it simply, use and abuse the GDD, document every decision, idea, concept, caveat, issue, etc; develop as you need, this one is mainly a motto because we have such a small team (3 people) but it also helps get results faster, and finally, gameplay first, it doesn't need much explanation, but always implement and design what the player will do first, the more time you have to work, tweak and polish it the better, so start with it!
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