The Two Week Test

I learned a trick a while ago from an artist friend of mine. It was a principal he called the Two Week Test (or something similar). Since a person is not able to look objectively at their own work when they are doing it, they have no way of knowing if it is really any good. So, the trick is to not look at it for 2 weeks (or more if you can swing it) and then come back and look at it again. I did that yesterday and I discovered some things. First of all, the game stills works and is fun to play. I mean I enjoy it still. The combat is a little confusing, but it’s nothing that can’t be fixed. So that’s good.

Second, the cliffs level is boring. I mean, it is really quite dull. I grossly overestimated the enjoyment of climbing up things. So I’m going to have to rip it apart into little pieces and make some serious modifications to the level as it is. I think it may be salvageable, and I can see what I was going for, but it’s not there yet. There are so few enjoyment nuggets in so much space that I’m just not liking it. Bungie designers follow something called the 30 Second rule or something like that. It says that the whole game should be made up of 30 second pieces of fun. So in a 6 hour game you should have fun 720 times. The cliffs have fun in them, but it’s nowhere near the 30 second mark, maybe once every minute and that’s an Epic Fail in my book. So yeah, a tear down is in my future.

-In programming news, I tore apart my scripting system. How it was set up, all of the scripting was in a single function that I could comment on or off in the code. Not a big deal, but then the doors and switches stopped working when I turned off the scripting for a level. Non-working doors make a level unplayable, and watching my scenes every time I want to check something makes me want to kill. So I went ahead and broke the scripting into pieces. Now the doors, dolls and end of level stuff is all in its own function and the story stuff is too. Now I can toggle 1 or the other as I want. So that’s less then warm legumes.

-I’m also in the process of cleaning up my code base. Like I whined about in a previous post, as the deadline approached i found myself doing a wide variety of things to get the game to work. Nothing fancy and most of it put together awkwardly. An example I’ve got is my enemy loading function. At the time I built huge lists for the enemies and their sprites.
Load Enemy1Standing, Load Enemy1Running and so on.
This made huge and unwieldy lists of crap, but worked at the time. So I changed it to be more flexible so now it loads like:
Load “Enemy”+enemyskill+”Standing, Load “Enemy”+enemyskill+”Running”
So I have 1 list now.
But that’s just an example. Like I said before, I had to cut up the scripting, and that code is a giant cluster-fuck. I’m not even sure why it works. It just does, almost in some violation of logic – the proverbial exception to the rule.
So, yeah, I’m fixing all of that as I go. I can only imagine what the Programmer thought when he saw that. I assume it’s something like, “Ah, I see. This guy clearly codes using his feet.”

-In other news, I got to playing with the XNA Community Games. I’m sure there are some gems in there, but they are surrounded by crap. They make the short bus that is Live Arcade look like honor students. I mean, wow. I even started trolling for “award winners” and was staggered by their lack of creativity / polish / game. These are indie games. They’re supposed to break outside the mold and offer experiences that would not be expected to come out of the publisher business model. Yet at the same time a game is supposed to be fun. Some of the things I played should have been stopped at the prototype level since they were lacking enjoyment.
Of course, I shouldn’t bitch since these people managed to do what I am trying to still do. But it confuses me it does, especially with the democratic way Community Games are passed. Either nobody said, “Hey, you game sucks because…” or somebody said, “Shut up, you guys are assholes. My game is awesome.” Whichever way it was, there was some kind of failure in the system. I hope, hope that they get better soon for everyone’s sake.

-Oh and 1 more thing. I hate timed demos like I hate people that spell “a lot” as “alot.” Give me less content, but let me explore it at my leisure. Don’t give me a crappy 60 seconds to play your damn game after it loads and then try to hit me up for $4. It’s unprofessional and totally F’ing Lame. It’s not that hard to give the first 1-2 levels. If you don’t have 1-2 levels to give away for free, you game is not that bloody good. You want a good model, look at the Demo for Braid or Bioshock. They let me play. A 60 second little tease doesn’t make me want more, it makes me want something else.

Turns out that the time limit is imposed my Microsoft. So that would mean than my game would suffer the same limitation. Although I stand by my comment that, “It’s unprofessional and totally F’ing Lame.” But what would you expect? The Live Arcade Games and the Community Games have different price points and publisher cuts. Like I said, it makes me want something else. Something that I can play for an hour and explore and enjoy. Something on Live Arcade. Something that Microsoft makes a bigger margin on. I get it. But really? To hobble the horse before the race, the horse that is already a long shot, is absurd. Argh. I find I lack the words to express it correctly. Ah, wait, I do have the word. Fuck.

-Wow, totally snarky post today with more swearing than usual. Weird mood I guess.

-“Less than warm legumes” or LTWL is my dumb way to say “Cool Beans.” Yes, it is dumb.

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