Delay of Game

Dammit. I can’t write a decent first line here. Maybe I’ll sneak into the post like that. Maybe I can actually write the words this time.
The Thief’s Tale, is not going to make it for IGF this year. There’s a story that goes with that.

So yesterday I called up The Animator to see how things were going. As his blog => would tell you, college for him is a very stressful thing and the work requirements are pretty brutal. I had thought nothing of it, my mistake. Anyway, so I am told that given the priority of schoolwork, there will not be time to get the animations all done. Further, the animator that he had recruited wouldn’t be prolific or skilled enough to do all the animations themselves.
Add to that I have an animator here who seems to have fallen off the world and cannot be relied upon. The short of it is that I have no animators, and no complete animation sets for an animated character driven game.

When I hung up the phone I swore. That’s not quite right. In truth a primal scream of fury was birthed into the world that just happened to sound like “Fuck.” If a butterfly flapping its wings can cause a hurricane, that scream destroyed Galactus. Then I bashed the steering wheel and did some more regular swearing.
Then, with that all out of my system, I called The Ron to let him know that he can slow down if he would like. I’m sure there are some producers that wouldn’t have, that would have been content to work the team like animals for a deadline that he knows they can’t hit. I hope those producers burn in hell.
Then, despondency. But that too quickly passed, leaving a slightly depressed feeling deep in my bowels, yet it was cut with an odd sense of relief. The giant weight pressing down was lifted. With no deadline blazing towards me like a meteor I’m not so stressed, and began to look at the situation from a far more pragmatic point of view. So let’s look at what we learned here:

1) When somebody stresses about stuff, that is a sign to do something about it, right then. If somebody is stressing out to the person in charge of of project, as opposed to anybody else, it means that they are very stressed. Like, if something hurts a person may tell somebody, but if it hurts bad enough they tell their Doctor. It’s like that. When I was told that the work may not be doable in the time frame given a circumstance, I should have started looking for help then and there. I didn’t, and that’s my fault.

2) When building a Team, decide early on what the most important parts of the project are. Then, make sure that there is no single point of failure. Airplanes have co-pilots for a reason. This is especially true if the whole team is volunteers, because regardless of the best intentions other work can, and will, be a priority. I can’t fault anybody for doing just that. Again, a painful producer lesson that I got to learn the hard way.

There was a part of me that wanted to write Noble Failure as the title, but we haven’t failed. We’ve simply missed a contest. I decided that we were no longer shooting for that particular deadline, and oddly, the decision didn’t bring down the sky. The world went on. I went on, and the Team, continues to go on.
So what are we doing then? We’re pushing past, as if the IGF was cancelled. The next thing we are doing is getting the game finished and pushed up into XBLI. I think that we can do that. I think we can have the art finished to a state that we are happy with by the end of December (that not preliminary, but done to the level The Background Artist would like). I think that we can have the rest of the assets done too. I’m shooting for a February release on XBLI and that gives me 9 months to have it and love it before next year’s IGF, which should be the least stressful submissions I’ll ever do.

So, given the extra time, I’m putting it all back. The levels, the musics, the cut pieces and now I have time to do more stuff. The HD conversion is on the table again. Time for R&D means I can try other tricks like transparency and lightmapping. We’re getting this done. We being my Team. That’s not right, my compatriots. The hardest working and most talented people that I’ve ever had the privilege of working with. A few extra months will be the difference between a good game, and a bloody brilliant one.

– A ha! A dashy thingy! Stuff goes after these! Game stuff! Sometimes. Anyhow, I built new art yesterday for the Tutorial levels that I put together. I cribbed the platforming and wall sections from screenshots provided by The Ron and put my photoshop skills to the test.
In my thinking ahead to this blog as I do sometimes, the title as of 2PM was going to be “Demon.” In that, I am not an artist. I can draw well enough to show a real artist what I want and I can photoshop things. I can corrupt them and twist them to suit my purposes. Yet I find no satisfaction from doing so, there is no artist inside of me that see art I’ve done and feels much of anything other than the relief that it’s done.
Well, that’s not altogether true. When I design or program something that I feel is wonderful I do get all smiley, both outside and in.
In my case, I got the pages finished for the Tutorial. Words on the left and the art on the right. I was able to go in and make some clever use of masks to bleed out the lines while preserving the edges. So it looks like the Tutorial stages were drawn a long time ago, and age and water have aged, faded and run the india ink used. I think it looks nice, but more importantly, is plays nice too.
Then I ran into a bug. If I run the game, and select Tutorial, then it works. If, at the end of that, I do the Tutorial again, it drops me off into the void and I die, in the Tutorial. Then it loads me up again and, guess what? Death.
The stupidest thing is that the system seems to be outright ignoring me and my wishes. I explicitly told it to reset the player at a specific place in the line right before I call for the Tutorial and it disregards it. I scripted something that says, “if you’re outside the little box, reset inside the little box,” and then it just leaves me outside and floating, forever.
At least I fixed the other issue, which was incorrect loading. If I selected Chapter Select and backed out, then selected Tutorial, it had been loading the chapter I had looked at previously. That’s better now. At least this a problem I can solve.

…and I’ll be back, when the day is new. And I’ll have more ideas for you…

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