A week ago, SeeThrough Studios began their game-making challenge: one indie team making one game in 96-hours with the hope to earn one dollar. They are now six-days into their project and things have already started to go wrong.
It’s the evening before Day 6 of the project, and I’m tired.
I haven’t slept much this week. Thoughts and plans rush through my head as I lie in bed, and I’ve been unable to get past a light doze most nights.
This is the second time I’ve written this article, and the second time I’ve written it late at night, desperate to get some of my thoughts out of my head and onto a page.
It’s been an amazing week and a half.
Here’s the plan
If I were to use a cliché to describe what happened on our last weekend run, I’d say “No plan survives contact with the enemy”. In this case, the closest thing we have to an enemy is the clock, and the plan was to have an early version of the game ready for play-testing by the end of the Sunday.
As you may have guessed, things did not go according to plan. I’d be lying if I said I kept my cool. It’s been a long time since I’ve sworn that many times in a single half-hour period.
To sum up what went wrong: software didn’t do what we thought it would. Saturday and (more so) Sunday turned into a long slog to simply keep things together, and by the end there were drawn faces all around the table.
In retrospect, there had been some red flags. For the first two days of the project we had simply raced towards two goals: basic gameplay and an understanding of our goals. A low-planning approach was good for this phase, and I thought we could just ride that wave until our first release.
I was wrong, but I don’t think our predicament really hit me until Sunday afternoon.
The tech problems and the confused non-coders
Then RageSpline stopped saving our settings. Absolutely nothing we built was sticking! And if that wasn’t enough, the version control software that we use to integrate the work of the various team-members stopped functioning properly.
This was the start of the hour of pain. The non-programmers in the room looked on in a combination of worry and bewilderment as we gnashed at keyboards and swore at computers. Valuable time was wasted before Thomas (who had the afternoon off) came to our rescue. He sent us a line of code via Twitter that fixed about half of our problems. We ended up rebuilding our entire project structure before we could fix the rest.
We’re down, but not out!
That’s a bigger deal than it sounds. It means we’re going to take a couple of hours in the morning to completely scope the rest of the project, build some milestones and figure out exactly what is necessary for us to finish the three weeks with something special.
I mentioned above that this is the second time I’ve written this article: the first time, I wrote more about my journey to the start of this project, like Saul did in the last instalment. But that makes little sense as a Week 1 update. I talked about the revelation I’d had that the team we’ve assembled has the capacity to make the kind of games I’ve always dreamed of making, but always imagined I’d have to shelve. I talked about the advantages of a strict, reasonable work day and how having days off to let ideas evolve had been a great boon to the project (both of which are still true).
None of those issues have gone away, but in some weird and twisted way I’m far less worried about them now. Things went wrong on the weekend, but we survived. We fixed them. And we now know what to do next time. Whatever happens with this game, every other project down the line will benefit from that experience.
And so I sit here, exhausted yet exhilarated, with about nine hours before the countdown timer starts ticking again. Just nine hours before I get to rejoin the world of Flatland and work with five other amazing people on bringing that world to life.
No wonder I can’t sleep.
You can follow the development blog here. SeeThrough Studios are making a game called Flatland, based on the novel by Edwin Abbott Abbott. You can read their first Kotaku diary here. Tune in next week for part three of SeeThrough’s diary.
Photo credit: David Molloy