Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Vagante (Large GIF Warning)

It's long overdue, but here's what we've been working on over the past three weeks.

Vagante (working title) is the game I've always wanted to make. It features procedurally generated levels, skill based combat, boss fights, and permanent death. 

Vagante: Early development preview

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The End of 'The Two of Us'

Two weeks ago, after deliberating as a team, we decided to stop working on The Two of Us. We realized that the project we had in mind was too ambitious, and decided to pivot and start a new smaller, more focused project.

Mini Postmortem

Before starting on TTOU, our vision for the game was relatively simple: a remake of one of our game jam projects. However the premise rapidly expanded. This was our first major project, and two of us were going to be working full time on the game. Of course we could add that feature!

We tried to ignore the scope creep in the beginning, but along with the increased scope numerous questions arose that we struggled to answer. How should combat work? Will there be character progression? What's the new story? Will we be able to finish this game?

Instead of having a concrete design for our expanding game, we had a nebulous concept of something grandiose. Keo was pumping out beautiful looking assets, and Kyle and I worked on an increasingly complex level editor/engine. We were all getting a bit lost in our own work. At a certain point, we realized we needed to set a milestone for a playable prototype because we weren't getting anywhere. We set aside a month of time, and started working hard to finish the list of features and assets we needed for the minimal prototype of our game. Halfway through the month, we were no where close to finishing the prototype. At this point, we had a decision to make. We could either keep trucking ahead and finish this game no matter how long it took, or set aside TTOU and start anew on a smaller, better planned game. We pressed the reset button.

What Now?

Using the lessons learned from working on TTOU, we've started on a new project. It's still in early development, but we're very excited about it. More details coming soon, stay tuned!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

On Motivation and Teamwork

I decided to deviate a little bit from a progress update to talk a little bit more generally about life so far as an independent game studio.

Source: http://www.smbc-comics.com/?id=2854

I think the hardest thing about being independent is learning to be your own boss. When you first start off, motivation is high and it's hard not to work on your game. But as time goes on, it gets harder and harder to get as excited about working. You begin to realize that more-so than motivation, you need dedication to keep working.

Having a team or partner makes this a lot easier. Partners keep each other accountable, and it's a lot harder to put off work when you know other people are expecting you to get it done. It's also really motivating when a partner commits significant code or has some new art to show off. I find that a common pattern when I work with someone else on a project is that we cyclically feed off of each other's work.

Sometimes though you just have to sit down by yourself and get work done. I haven't figured out a magic solution yet that'll allow me to work consistently for long hours every day, and I'm not sure if there is one. Caffeine helps. For the most part though, I alternate frequently between working hard to the point of near-burnout and taking time off.


Nuke Nine is only the three of us for now. Despite our small size, it can be hard to make sure we're all on the same page. Part of this could be due to the distributed nature of our work; I've never actually met Keo in person. But I think making sure any team communicates well requires significant effort. We use Google Hangouts to hold meetings and to come to decisions, which works pretty well for us.

I think it's easy to underestimate the value of meetings. A somewhat common sentiment among programmers is that meetings are a waste of time. Why pull someone away from their work, interrupting their flow? I can sympathize, but every meeting starts off with a specific intention or goal. Sometimes the goal is met. Sometimes it's not. Luckily, I think having effective meetings is a collaborative skill that can be developed. It's amazing how incredibly easy it is to talk for an hour, agreeing with each other and ultimately feeling good about the talk, without actually getting anything done. Having hard goals before a meeting can help make sure no one's time is wasted.

As a team, we're still developing this skill; but we're getting there.