The second half of this year has been good for us progress wise, despite our decrease in blog posts. I feel like I can finally see us completing this game! More recently we have been gearing up to start producing the final art for the game, while we do have some design work left we feel sure enough about the overall structure to begin that process in tandem. It will likely be an iterative process just like our level design but we have some fairly clear ideas of what we want to do.
I haven’t really written anything since I decided to take a break a year ago (big thanks to Anders for keeping on going), but I have been back on the project since about summer. In 2017 I will also start working half-time at my day job and dedicate the rest to Backworlds. Hopefully this will mean good things for our progress!
We wish you a good rest of the year and an even better 2017!
Happy Halloween! In the spirit of the season, I will take this opportunity to talk about the dead. Or, to be less melodramatic (and less seasonally relevant), another one of the world designs we decided to abandon along the way. Continue reading
The last couple of months have been pretty productive – I have worked on bringing the narrative concepts and art styles of different worlds and backworlds to a good place, in part so we could see what worked and did not but also because it helped us determine the amount of work needed to make a full art pass on the entire game. This meant both the time needed to create the art and figuring out the technology we needed to develop to make it look pretty and be quick to work with.
I had planned to build some new effects technology for this and discuss it today, but in the end I decided against it for a couple of reasons. First, while new and isolated tech is fun and frequently useful, without seeing heavy use out of it we can’t really say for sure how well it works and if it’ll even end up in the game – I’ve been a bit dishonest promoting prototypes in the past and I’d like to be better than that. Second and maybe more importantly, there are less interesting tasks that are going to improve workflows and save us time. The more time the sooner we add them, in fact. I am making an attempt to be smart about development so we don’t add time to a development cycle that’s already too long, and this was inspired by Tom Francis’ GDC talk Efficiency for Game Designers – we have recommended some free GDC talks in the past, but today I thought I’d pick out some of my favorites over the years.
TL/DR – the news I have to share this month is that Juha has decided to take a less active part in development for a while. I will let him elaborate on that on his own, but development on Backworlds continues and he will remain involved in all non-trivial decisions regarding the game.
To elaborate on the state of things on my end, I’m going to go into some history after the break…
The Backworlds editor is, as we’ve previously mentioned, a set of menus in the game itself allowing us to make changes to the levels as they are being played – rather than being built from the ground up as a level building instrument it has been patched together over time as tool for manipulating game data within the context of the game. While this has the advantage of really short iteration times, it has the disadvantage of being slightly inconsistent and with a quirkier workflow than an actual level editor. I am no expert in either usability or data mangling, but for a small project such as ours I have noted a few small changes that had a big effect on workflow.
I want to write about my own fluctuating motivation for Backworlds this month, this will be mostly personal so I won’t go into Anders feelings on the same subjects.
Our progress has been slow the last half year, with some stints of hard work with building level progression, adding some new mechanics and preparing gameplay tests. Just like Anders I have a full-time job within computer software and I find it exhausting to sit at the computer 8 hours a day and then go home and work for several hours more on our game. Which I have done in certain periods, but I personally can not keep it up for too long. Besides the mental drain it is plain bad physically to be static that much of the day and it is not very social so it takes a toll in several ways.
I do constantly think about the game however as me and Anders discuss it every week. At the moment we are talking a lot about how to present the story and we are experimenting with different implementations. It certainly helps to have another person to keep you on your toes and not procrastinate too much. The fact that we have people that have contributed money to our development and that there are people who seem to like the game is also very important and helps me keep coming back to it.
Perhaps it sounds like I have to force myself to work on it, but I really do love it. It gives me artistic satisfaction in a way nothing has done before. I’m proud of what we are making together and I want to make clear I’m not looking for sympathy about my “exhaustion” mentioned above. I only want to explain and perhaps you can relate to this if you are within software/game development yourself as many of us tend to have hobby projects.
A few months ago Juha talked about our “no paint” levels and why we decided most of them had to be scrapped – today I will briefly go over some of the ideas we toyed around with in the original “Backworld” prototype and why they had to go.
The game was made in a very limited time – we were not really sure what kind of game we wanted to make and we opted to make many levels rather than a small amount of polished ones, so cutting these ideas were not as tough of a decision. Nonetheless, it explains some things about the nature of the game as it is now.
Something that I’ve always agreed with is the sentiment that if you try to please everybody, you end up pleasing nobody. Perhaps this applies to many things but specifically within games it something I often hear and read, mostly voiced by developers and enthusiasts.
Those are mostly opinions but I would like to share how I came to find it applies to Backworlds.
William Crawford |
Rasmus Nordling |
Jari Kangas |
Frances McGregor |
Joel de Vahl
Izaak Middlebrook |
André Mossinato |
David Mann |
Fully Woolly Herdy |
Collette and Lua |
Martin Annander |
Carl-Henrik Åkesson |