Updated: Nov 15, 2019
Prototyping is a brilliant double-edged sword. Ideas are cheap, coming up with an idea that is feasible given a hard deadline is an expensive process. The line between under and over-scoping a project is a fine one. It’s one all developers have to walk and past mistakes unfortunately shape how you move forward. On a previous project, my team and I overscoped, badly and had to make dramatic cuts when we realised that our initial end product wasn’t going to happen. So we were cautious to not make the same mistake. In an attempt to avoid this, we set about creating three prototypes. A hack ‘n’ slash, an asymmetrical mech game and a stealth game based around having an animal companion. We’d given ourselves a two week window to prototype, this should allow enough time to have everyone work on all three prototypes. This would allow for everyone to come to an informed decision on which to carry forward.
As a writer, I looked at the three ideas (An asymettrical co-op, a hack ‘n’ slash and an AI companion adventure game) as three micro-jams. I knew I didn’t have the time to develop them all much as I wanted, I’d have to dedicate time to my production work (I’ll dig into this later) as well. To try and best get around this I created a few small templates to work from. The idea was that the team could pick the completed templates up and easily develop a picture of the protagonist, world and narrative arc without needing me to explain too much. This worked well, I’d recommend standardising workflow for prototyping. It may sound obvious but advice I was often given fell into the ‘each project is different and there is no right way to do anything, which doesn’t help at all. While it’s not entirely wrong, when trying to work to a tight deadline having a standardised workflow helped me tremendously.
My work as a producer was entirely new to me. I took on the role as a way to maximise my time as I knew that my larger team wouldn’t want to create a narrative heavy game and I didn’t want to waste my final year at university. I set about trying to organise my team, coming up with the rotating development plan I mentioned previously. When prototyping I was positive that having an informed opinion on what we would be working on was the best way to go. I set up a basic AGILE plan for the next two weeks and we began to work. While not the most groundbreaking work, I found the role suited my aims for the year.
When we finally got around to deciding on what to work on, I was split. The co-op game made more sense to my production sensibilities, while the companion game filled my writing goals. It was down to a vote, one I struggled to make. We ended up working on the asymmetrical co-op, a game inspired by the chaos of Overcooked and the world of the 1970s.
As we progress, I will keep this blog updated. I hope to show the key development points and discuss any weird events that occur.