InTWON: Post-mortem Nano 2019
Hi! Neru here: 1/2 of the ponprod team. March went by so fast, and yet, I feel as though it also took longer than I had expected. We're a little into a week from the start of April, and things are somewhat slowing down at a reasonable pace now.
I figured it's important to release a post-mortem. Being able to think about the entire development process for this game jam entry will help put things into perspective (probably not just for myself, but also for other game devs out there who are just starting out). Prior to writing this, I made sure to read how other people write post-mortems for their own games (just so that I'd know the format and what I should specifically talk about—I tend to ramble sometimes).
It's somewhat a strange thought to want to write a post-mortem for a game that isn't complete yet. The demo isn't even that long and probably just takes 15-30 minutes tops, and as I've mentioned before, it really is a rough demo. Assets aren't extremely polished and the writing (imo) could use more work. Despite how discouraging that sounds, being able to organize my thoughts on the recent events that helped culminate this project is a good thing. I'll probably never have another opportunity to write something like this if I let too much time pass before starting to write.
WHAT WENT RIGHT:
- Having a good start for the jam. It was around the last week of February when I decided I'd want to join the jam. I've had plenty of ideas for VNs before: I just never had the guts to make them. Well, there were previous attempts to do so, but due to a lot of factors that affect the outcome of such attempts, I guess it's safe to say that they weren't successful plans. When I finally reached a point where I could say "Hell yeah, let's make a VN!" confidently, that's when I knew I had the drive and passion to pursue this project. It isn't a big realization, I'll tell you that, but the motivation that came with it and the prospect of finally getting something done made me feel as though I really should push through with this. I held a mini-party to celebrate my participation. I hyped myself up. I made sure I started March on a positive note!
- Finding an artist I could communicate with. I originally wanted to do everything on my own: art, writing, programming, even music! But realistically speaking, that isn't feasible (for me, at least! other people might find that easier), especially for a first project for a 30-day jam. Thankfully, it's easy talking to aehtrv, especially about how I want the art for the game to look like because they just get it (plus, their style is super cute, so they get majority of the creative freedom). I really find that communication is super important in a team effort to get something done, so I'm really happy this is one of the things I got right.
- Actually having a plan. I write as a hobby (though I'm pretty sure I have plenty to improve on). Every year, I participate in Nanowrimo (the craziness that is writing 50k words in a month), but in all honesty, I'm more of a pantser than a planner. Making an outline for the VN's story helped a lot when it came to writing as it helped in eliminating the infamous writer's block (in retrospect , I wish I planned more often during my Nanowrimo stunts). Making a list of all the assets we'd need also made sure that I stayed on track and not go too off-tangent. A time-table/personal work calendar with pre-made deadlines kept me from forgetting what I needed to work on (except that this timetable part is also involved with What Went Wrong—more on that later).
- Finding useful CC assets. With a 30-day time constraint, there are plenty of limitations in the creation of original assets. Finding a treasure trove of CC SFX and music really helped reduce hours of extra work. People who make CC assets are amazing people.
- Maintaining a certain level of dedication and motivation to finish the project, no matter the circumstances. Yes, in the face of What Went Wrong, there's a strong desire to just give up and and say that "this is not my year", "maybe next time...", and "I'm not cut out for this". This time, I made sure I wouldn't let all the negative thoughts get to me (somehow, it did, but I resisted better this time around). It's more than just saying "I want to be able to make a game". I think, for me, it's also about fulfilling my own personal promises. At least I made it this far.
WHAT WENT WRONG: (wrong is such a strong word, tbh, but that's okay, I can accept it)
- First and foremost, getting sick in the middle of the month. Actually, I've been sick since February, but in the midst of the March mayhem, I got scheduled for in-patient surgery. Long story short, I was out of commission for almost 2 weeks. That's a drastic hit on the development of the game. I couldn't write or code, was always exhausted, stuck in bed—hospitalized, and would often sleep longer than I do on a normal day, as part of recovery. Writing got delayed, and even if I really wanted to work on the game, I knew the health problems would take its toll on the quality of the product. A lot of the original features I've had planned had to be modified or removed altogether. It was not fun to watch your plans have to be reduced in order to fit in with the remaining time. What once was planned to be a full game by the end of the jam has been reduced to a demo—a rough one, at that. It also felt unfair to keep reminding the artist to work on the assets constantly when I couldn't work on my part of the project, so I asked them only to resume once I returned. Overall, the project suffered. This event isn't something i can control though, so I have to accept it and use it as a learning opportunity.
- Extending beyond the hard deadline of the jam. Nanoreno is meant to run only within March. Considering how delayed my return was to the development of the project, it was inevitable how the team wouldn't make it on time. Since we didn't want to leave the project after all the support people on the Lemmasoft Forums gave us, we decided to push through to at least submit the project before the itch.io jam deadline on April 6. It's still a close call. We've made promises to amend the rough demo though, by releasing a more polished, extended demo within the year, followed by the full game near the end of 2019. Unfortunately, as I would be taking real-life responsibilities again (I have to take a board exam...) , that's also going to take some time. However, rest assured that we (ponprod) will make sure to release the game even without support from the audience (BUT PLS SUPPORT US D: lol)
WHAT I LEARNED:
- Game dev is hard, yo. Why did I even put myself through this?! Kidding aside, this entire thing is no joke. A lot of hard work (and love, probably a lot of sweat, and maybe some tears, too) is poured into making these projects (I guess? I sure hope so). I find that discipline is the most important thing to take away from this experience. You can have all the drive and motivation you need, and still fall flat on your own expectations. Having the discipline to continue what you've already started ensures that you'll at least be able to finish something despite deadlines, even when you feel like your efforts are going to be wasted and the outlook is bleak. This is a very personal train of thought that may or may not apply to majority of the people who also participate in game jams like this, so take it with a grain of salt.
- People who place expectations on your project pushes you to work harder. Talk about the pressure! It's great to see people supporting your progress and ideas (especially on the forums, shoutout to you guys for being so kind and awesome!),and it gives a temporary boost in morale as well, but make sure you balance your thoughts and your own capabilities as well (and let other people know about it as well, so you can temper their expectations too).
- I'd probably do this all over again. Making a game is fun. Making a game you can be proud of is even better. Making a game you've worked hard on that people actually like? Priceless. I want to to be able to do all that and more. I have so many stories to tell (and I'll probably need an editor in the future) so I think I have enough fuel for a few more VNs along the way. All of the things I've learned throughout March has helped me envision a cleaner, more streamlined process for creating VNs (and hopefully, branching out to different engines/game types).
Well, that's it for now from a newbie game dev person. I'm aiming to get healthier, pass my exam, and continue working on InTWON.
aehtrv drew a thing for all of us at the end of the jam. I relate to it so much.
Thank you so much! -neru
Get In The World Of Nightmares (demo!)
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