After all these weeks of stress and hard work, the project has finally come to an end. In my final blog post I will cover what both the team and me individually have learned throughout the development process of Into the fog.
Where to begin? At the beginning! Very early into the project during a design meeting the group had a discussion about scoping. We have chosen a concept document of Umibozu, as we believed it was designed with small teams like ourselves in mind. We desperately needed something that could be coded by a sole programmer, as we didn’t want to put too much pressure on him. It later turned out to be a good choice, as with some changes to the original concept we were able to scope the game perfectly to our respective skill sets. I can gladly say that we were able to implement all the features that we have originally planned without cutting any content at all. What we have learned from this is that it’s important to be aware of our own limitations and be realistic when planning the project. It’s most likely better to use extra time to add extra features or polish existing ones rather then deliver an unfinished product.
Another thing we have learned is the importance of learning at least the basics of more then one fields, especially when working in smaller teams. One of our group members has completely disregarded the project and refused to work throughout most of it’s duration, and the rest of us was forced to finish this members sprints for him. This resulted in many after hours spent doing things outside our respective minors, and thought us the value of becoming cross-functional individuals.
Additionally, I myself have learned the importance of hard work, and it’s superiority to talent. Our programmer (for clarification, I am not by any means saying that he is not talented!) was the only person in our group with any knowledge about coding, thus he was left alone with a huge amount of work which none of the group members were able to help him with. As a result, he was spending many additional hours after our group meetings to work on the game. Before the Alpha presentation, I have learned that he has spent the entire night working on the game so that we would be able to present all the required features and avoid being terminated as a group. Even though because of this I have gained a lot of respect and appreciation for him, I also grew very concerned for his well being. Later that day we had a conversation regarding it and from that moment I would routinely check up on him to make sure that he wasn’t working too much. Over the course of the past few months, I have seen him grow from a beginner to a seasoned programmer, which he has earned with hard work and dedication, and thus I learned that as a manager I will rather surround myself with individuals with ambitions and determination to reach their goals rather then people who rely on their natural talents.
Apart from more personal experiences and lessons, I have very mixed feelings about the end result of this project. On one hand, we managed to implement every feature we have planned for in the beginning, without having to scrap any ideas. On the other hand, the game ended up feeling more like a visual novel with gameplay on top of it rather than a traditional shoot-em up. It still had all the elements of the genre, however due to lack of experience among the team members everything was always finalized last-minute, thus we didn’t have enough time to properly test the game. In the end, it turned out visually pleasing and atmospheric, but it didn’t give players the experience we originally aimed for. We ended up creating a shoot-em up game that felt differently then it’s equivalents, giving it a unique touch. Nonetheless, I am personally happy with the final result knowing the game was finished in such a short period of time with a team of merely 3 people.
To conclude, throughout the development process of Into the fog I have learned a lot about group dynamics, importance of planning and scoping, value of individuals and hard work, how crucial it is to know ourselves and our own limitations and finally what it truly means to become a team and care for one another’s well being. However, the most important lesson I have learned related to game design is that sometimes it’s better to scrap an idea or a feature to be able to iterate and test the remaining content and polish it properly before deployment.