Document Everything and Be Willing to Change

With the arrival of October we are officially less than 1 month away from the deadline for us to submit our game to the IGF student competition.  And there is still so much to do!  I guess this will always be true- even with the best planning we can do, there will always be things we could do to improve the game.  This is one of the reasons it’s so valuable to set deadlines like this, it gives us something to shoot for and judge our progress against.

Speaking of deadlines- we’ve been working really hard this week to get a deployable build ready for a playtest party that Tina organized.  And we got there!  We have a deployable build that is super buggy, but it’s playable and gets the idea of the game across.  We’ve added a way for the player to die, a dust effect, TONS of sounds, all sorts of things.

Screenshot with dust

So let me put this call out to all readers in the Salt Lake area- come to EAE North tomorrow at 5PM and come play All is Dust and all the other great thesis games we’ve been working on!

Progress on All is Dust has been coming along at a reasonable pace, but I think we’re all feeling we’d like to be a bit farther along than we are.  I see two reasons for this- technical issues and communication issues.

Some of the tech issues are just due to the fact that we’re a team of 16 trying to play nicely with the version control in Unity, which anyone will tell you is TRICKY!  I’m always amazed at the capabilities of the engine, but this is one of the things that continues to pop up and give us mild headaches from time to time.  Maybe it’s our inexperience in setting it up appropriately?  Maybe it’s limitations of the engine?  Whatever the case, it’s a real issue and it’s slowed us down some, but it’s also something we’re adapting to and learning a lot from.

The larger issue is the one of communication.  We all share some responsibility for this, but I think that as a producer- even more specifically as the lead producer- this falls largely on my shoulders.  This is the largest team I’ve worked on and it’s difficult to keep the one-on-one sort of communication with every individual team member that I feel very effective at.  This means that to effectively communicate ideas and vision, it’s so important for me and the other team leads to DOCUMENT EVERYTHING.

I bring this up because there has been some uncertainty with team members on different aspects of the game- like why we’re trying a certain thing, if it’s “indie” enough for IGF, etc.  It’s not that there isn’t a vision for all these things, it’s just that myself and others heavily involved in the design haven’t been great at disseminating that information to all team members.  Which is a big no-no.  As leads we have spent a lot of time this past week trying to evaluate our process and course correct.  We do believe All is Dust has the potential to be great and it’s our desire that the team regains that confidence in it as well.

I guess this kind of turned into my own sort of “thinking out loud” about things I need to do better with.  I know I’m in school and I’m supposed to make mistakes, but it’s still no fun!  We’ve got a plan in place to make the necessary changes to get the team back to the excitement levels that everyone had when we set out on this.

I think the future of All is Dust is bright, especially if we’re humble and willing to make the necessary changes in our process.

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