Monday, March 19, 2012

Demo finally submitted to Intel Level Up contest!

3 months in crunch mode, 2 sleep-less weeks and a fully playable demo has been developed. Evertyhing has been made under a very tight scheduled and I'm glad I was able to meet it.
It requires a lot of sacrifice and self-discipline. Indie game development is not for everyone and there are a few articles already about it.
Everything's now up to the Level Up 2011 judges. All I hope is that they have a lot of fun when playing the game.

What to include in the demo?

Initially I wanted to get ready an introduction scene and a boss battle. Shortly after I realized the timeframe wouldn't allow me to do both. I had to choose. So which one would more badass and entertain more? I went for the boss. And I'm glad I did.
In the next weeks I'll be writing about how this boss was made some other time.

The importance of contests

The contest's prizes sure are juicy. They're quite motivational. But it's not just that what makes a contest so important. They impose you a deadline. You're against the clock and you know that by certain date, you need to have a fully playable demo. And better have it polished.
“But it's a tech/prototype demo, right? Judges will take into account”. Yes, they probably will, may be they won't. But I believe a more polished, professional-looking game will be at an advantage over those that don't. This doesn't mean that an unconventional prototype-state competitor appears to be too fun has less chance to win. Additionally, here was my logic:
Among all the contest prizes, whether it was the first or the last prize, one of them is that the demo will be featured in the Steam's 'Demos' page. May be they'll ask the winners to polish a bit more before publishing the demo (i.e. create an installer); or maybe they won't. After all, the demos don't require to meet the quality standards that full-featured games have (Steam integration, leaderboards, achievements, etc)
If they won't... I asked myself, “Do I really want my game to look unprofessional when it goes to the demos page? Judges may be forgiving on prototypes, but gamers/consumers aren't”

And there it goes. A driving force as how polished a game should be. I had already noticed this advantage from entering a contest when I was doing Derby Attack.


 Last 2 weeks... /CRUNCH MODE: MAX

Just like in traditional game programming, when you're approaching deadline, development(*) consumes your whole life.
That may sound awful, but very good things came out of it:
  1. The GUI was developed in those 2 weeks. I finally have GUI. Wheeee!! Now I can change game settings on the fly without having to edit a Lua file. I can also make interfaces for controlling live values in real time.
  2. Levels can be restarted over & over again. At first frequent crashes appeared, and some engine weakpoints were revealed. But almost everything is well now; and I can change a Lua file using hotspot and reload the level without having to reload all resources again.
  3. It looks professional the whole time. Now everytime I'll need to demo the game (i.e. to potential investors) I can ship it as is, with latest modifications & enhancements.
  4. Fixed small bugs & details that where being delayed. Those are flagged for “fix later”. Two or three bugs have been there since... a year ago!
These are the sort of details that one doesn't push unless there's goal to achieve, as when it happens when there's a contest deadline.

(*) Note that I prefer saying “develop” rather than “programming”, as I've been doing all kinds of non-programming tasks that take me an equal amount of time: 2D & 3D modeling, game design, sound fx recording & layering, testing.

That's all for now.
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/crunch mode: off

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