Independent Study Update #4
I hit a snag during this week. I hoped to interview a local producer, but due to a lack of a response about availability, this interview has been postponed. As a backup plan, I have gone ahead and looked two other game postmortems about Okamiden and TRON 2.0. I compared what went right and what went wrong in all three games in order to better understand what to avoid and what to embracing during the development process.
What Went Right
With Okamiden and TRON 2.0, they both had existing franchises to get an audience to play. Both properties have a cult following which allows them a little leeway in marketing and other attempts to attract players
Okamiden and TRON 2.0 had their existing franchises to help with the art direction, but Guacamelee had an exceptional art department that rapidly prototyped several versions of the art style. After starting with a rounded and smooth look to the characters, they eventually settled on a more angular design to give them more personality and edge.
3rd Party Assistance
Each project had help from an outside source. For TRON 2.0, they worked closely with Buena Vista Games (BVG), the owners of the interactive rights to the TRON franchise. Not only did BVG offer the team a lot of latitude in the design of the game, but they also had a great deal of international resources, which came in handy when they tried to market the game internationally. Okamiden used Facebook as a marketing tool since they had a small budget. This allowed them to expose the project to one of, if not the largest groups of people on the planet. Guacamelee had Sony's Pub Fund to not only boost their exposure to the market, but they allow received a bonus at the end of the project that roughly equaled the enitre budget of the game.
What Went Wrong
The Okamiden team had to learn how to program for the Nintendo DS, which a system that is totally different from the Playstation 2, the platform that the original Okami played on. They investigated the system over and over again in order to better understand it, but in doing so, they had to push back the development schedule. TRON 2.0 did not schedule well, so they had unplayable levels well into the later stages of development. This reduced the amount of time for them to do QA and tweak the game where it needed touch-ups. Guacamelee also had bad system of QA in place, with only having two people in the department. This was done because it worked on the last project they had, but it did not take into consideration that this project had a grander scope and that only having two people do this job would have poor lines of communication from them to the production team.
The department heads of the Okamiden team wanted to make sure that their teams were putting out the best product from their ends, but in doing so, it practically halted communication between them, which resulted in a delayed production schedule. Guacamelee had a team filled with brilliant indie developer, but that indie spirit enkindled a lack of compromise, which in the end cost two workers their jobs and slowed production.
TRON 2.0 and Guacamelee both suffered from being short on personnel at the beginning of production. Both teams were finishing up games that were started before their games were in pre-production, so it left their project in a state of limbo for a time. Once everyone was off of the older project, they got started on developing thier games, but only after wasting a sizable portion of their development schedule on waiting for people.
Plan for unexpected delays so that there is a buffer when they eventually do happen.
Have a clear vision for the project at the outset so that people can get started developing immediately.
Constantly playtest to ensure the product is bug free, and schedule playtests as often as possible.
I will try to land more interviews with producers in the area. I will cast a wider net and also ask my friends in the industry to ask producers they know to interview with me. Hopefully it will go better next week than it did this week.