Hi, everyone! I’d like to share my experience, and namely my experience of a slightly protracted developing a plain and simple point-and-click quest.
30 wasted years
I was 21. I was young and I hold a web designer position at an ad agency. I had enough money only to rent a house and have some plain snacks, but I was pretty resilient, because that was my first job..
At some point I came across some flash blogs with extremely successful stories of simple workers. And every day I was getting more and more excited about the idea of throwing up my job and trying to create a game for further selling my product. While there were no clients in the office I composed the following prototype. Prototype
It was playable and made entirely on my own — this fact is very inspiring to heroic deeds. Finally my hour X arrived.
After working exactly a year I quitted and came back to my home village. With a crumbling computer and a graphic tablet at hand I started creating a full-fledged adventure based on my prototype.
Good old times
The first flub — computer’s RW memory was 2 GB it did not cope with Flash and Photoshop open at the same time. I bought 2 more GB and the ball started rolling.
I really like “Machinarium” and “Samorost”, I’m truly in love with their visual and sound design. Being inspired after five months of work I released my first game — Shapik: the quest, the quest of my dream.
Shapik: the quest - Trailer
“Shapik” is the best name I managed to create for this game where the hero wore a hat (“Shapik” sounds very similar to the Ukrainian word “шапка” meaning “hat?).
Some details of the developing process
I painted with a help of Wacom Bamboo A5 graphic tablet. That was the first experience of real painting I had used the tablet for creating web-layouts Backgrounds were created with a help of Photoshop and animations were done with a help of Flash.
When the first three levels were ready I fell to thinking about music. I found a composer at the Flash forum. I described him my wishes and sent screenshots of the game levels.
90% of sounds were taken from freesound.org and other sounds I recorded myself. Sounds were processed in Adobe Audition. The game obtained more than 100 sounds.
The game was ready and the task was to sell it. At that time flash-games were actively sold at FGL (flash sale) I uploaded the game. The sale lasted for three weeks. I was very worried and happy about every new bet. At a point I received a proposal equal to my annual salary at the agency. I was very happy; I was really at the top of the world.
Accidentally I came across FlashGAMM (developers’ conference) and sent the game for competition. Since the event was held in Moscow, I did not manage to visit it and the truth is that I didn’t hope that my first game could win something.
A miracle happened, three days before the start of the conference a notification came, it informed that my game was nominated in three categories at the same time. I asked a friend of mine who was at the conference to watch what would happen next. And he wrote that my quest won in the “Best Future Mobile Game” category and the main prize — Microsoft Surface. There was no limit to my joy — I felt a tough indie-developer. Winner
On a dream run I found a programmer and we stamped physical puzzle-platformers thick and fast. Web games
In addition during that period there was a mass shift from flash to handles.
I remember that once I created quite a good quest and I ported it to Android with a help of Adobe AIR in order to keep pace with this trend. Fortunately the entire process of porting was done with the click of a single button “publish”.
The game was presented in Google Play. Since I hadn’t the wit to tie advertisements and I considered the game too small to be a paid one it was presented as a free game. I uploaded it and forgot about it never counting on any success: the task was to create a game for the mobile platform.
I hadn’t got any Android device and I didn’t visit the shop at all. At one of the parties a friend of mine took out Samsung Galaxy S5 (for that period of time that was a device with an enormous diagonal line and a really mighty display). And I decided to have a look at how my mobile brainchild was doing, and to my amazement I discovered 35000+ installations and over 800 comments. I was really shocked.
On the basis of that the idea of creating another game was born. This another game had to be twice as cool and interesting.
Shapik: the quest 2, 2015
The general story of a nuclear war and its consequences appeared very quickly.
Literally in three days the first level was ready with Adobe Flash. Start
I also painted the main character. In comparison with the previous one he had a sound body, head and neck. His predecessor was a sausage-like creature.
Old vs new
The game was in Full HD and a simple flash didn’t cope with the load. There was a need to rewrite on GPU (starling). I’m not a programmer at all, so I wrote a post on gamedev.ru about searching a partner.
Five persons wrote back. The first one didn’t answer, so I got in touch with the second fellow and the ball was set rolling.
The rest of 2015, the programmer learned to work with the GPU flash, I learned to paint and animate.
Although we didn’t have experience at all the process of development was going with a lot of pep. I really felt that we were a single team.
Our brain storms on Skype alone were a real story. There were periods when nothing new entered my head for a couple of days in a row but as soon as we got in touch ideas were coming by themselves.
It worked approximately as follows.
Samples of levels from sketches to the final variants
- We discussed a new concept of a level or a brain-teaser;
- Often the programmer drew it schematically;
- Branches and animations were described.
Then we performed tests. I formed a list of edits and sent it to the programmer. The entire working process went through Dropbox.
Active development took a year.
12 levels and a demo were ready and that was twice as much as in case with the first part. I uploaded the result of our work to Steam Greenlight. And we got the green light within two weeks.
And there it came home to us that the game didn’t have any plot at all and its levels were in fact a set of separate brain-teasers. In addition to that the levels were very short and the game had bad sound effects and music.
We developed the plot. The programmer was really successful in that.
We added levels, cutscenes, new animations.
I painted components for animations using Photoshop and animated with a help of Flash 30 sec
Our team was supplemented with a composesound designer. An atmospheric soundtrack as well as the coolest sound effects were created.
The game was felt with renewed vigor.
Due to some specific features of the project synching is not fast, since each animation is a mini-cartoon requiring unique sounds. Sound design
The quest was 80% ready; almost all levels were finished and equipped with sounds; cutscenes, a note pad of tips and the main menu were missing.
I created cutscenes with a help of Flash and then I exported video. With large volumes Flash was really slow. So, I had to compose separate scenes and only then I could combine them. It made the process very slow. Flash
In the process of work the Menu was thought out on separate sheets of pape It looked cool and the main thing was that it didn’t have any text.
The beginning of 2019. The game was ready and it was played through from the beginning to the end but it wasn’t tested properly, there were some minor bugs and some bonuses hadn’t been added. We were in limbo: on one side the game was ready and on the other side it wasn’t.
HTML5 games and Flash games were not sold at all. In parallel with developing “Shapik: the quest 2” we all worked on other projects — those other projects gave us something for living and continuing developing.
The programmer got a job at an office. Although I was optimistic, I understood that the things wouldn’t be as before.
Within a month nothing was done for the game, and we never got in touch — that was for the first time. The programmer was very much tired at work and I didn’t blame him. I was working hard on testing and composing the list of edits.
Edits were implemented on weekends; sometimes there were two weeks long idle periods. I was frustrated and upset as such pace it would drag on the process for another couple of years.
I asked the programmer to create a folder with the game sources (that had to be done in the very beginning of development — a ton of time would be saved). I started picking at the art, animations, atlases and a home-made editor of scenes.
The editor is a story in its own right. Game resolution was 1920x1080, and editor’s windows were 600x550. Working in such a small window required really many camera motions and the editor was really slow. In addition to that it didn’t have “cancel” function, so if something was bungled only the last saving could save.
The editor could open and play .gaf animations, which were then placed on stage. After the entire art elements and animations were placed I pressed “Save” and obtained a really long line of parameters which had to be brought to the FlashDevelop and then compiled.
The FlashDevelop and that very line
If something shifted I had to repeat the operation. Editing a minor thing took a ton of time.
Finally I couldn’t stand that any more. I got to the initial code of the editor and found the line responsible for the workspace size. I changed it to 1920x1080 and so the entire level could be viewed wholly. I also compiled the editor as a separate application and all brakes were over. I don’t know why we hadn’t done that before but suffered torments for so many years. Spring period.
I had a lucid moment and became aware that levels made in 2017 looked empty and were of poor quality. The same was true about cutscenes, brain-teasers and animations. A new wave of improvements was going on… https://preview.redd.it/7t0a81n73bv41.jpg?width=1920&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=feb743485423a24ebbf2f99743c768a735ddb522
The sound designer was also very busy then, synching suspended.
I renewed all levels; we composed a new demo version. It was the time to create a teaser for the game.
I cut video and tried to edit it. Intermediate steps were discussed with the programmer and the sound designer. That was my first experience and it took a lot of time. Shapik The Moon Quest - Trailer
We understood that we had to get rid of “2” in the name “Shapik: the quest 2”. A new name was created — “Shapik: the moon quest”. Publishers.
Who are they and how should one work with them? I had no idea about this. I found a cool article telling about game pitching.
I sent it to everybody in the list. 20 out of 60 persons answered; 5 of them are really interested; I got answers once per week.
Early summer period. I picked the game alone. I read forums hoping to find some info concerning removing bugs. I brought edits to the code, corrected jerks in animations, cut video for post-synching; In some places I corrected sounds, set up the assembly, communicated with editors, got acquainted with Steam and was engaged in resource optimization.
I got a feeling that I’m the only one who needs the game. I spent weeks waiting until few edits are closed. the very moment of waiting was very tedious, and it wasn’t clear what to do next. I couldn’t give up the game when it was 95% ready but I also couldn’t finish the work myself. Releasing a bugged project wasn’t a variant as well.
I went to a three week walking tour to the Carpathians. In the mountains there is no mobile communication, and the Internet is even less so. It really helped me to get mind off things.
Before the walking tour I uploaded the list of edits.
When I came back three weeks later I discovered that the list hadn’t even been opened. For the first time during the entire period of working I was burnt. At that moment it seemed to me that the game was pissed on.
The period of depression started. I could think of nothing but the game but I couldn’t find a way out of that situation
That was the time to change something. The time of office work had arrived. Office Time
It seemed that during my work on casual projects I had gained some experience; and so, I looked for animator vacancies.
I quickly got answers with test tasks. I performed the tasks and so I was invited for interviews.
It happened that two interviews were on the same day. The way from my village to Kiev takes 10 hours by train. The train arrived at 8 AM and the first interview was planned for 11 AM.
Let’s go to the interview!
So, I was in Kiev walking around the city. I was really worried: that was my second interview and the first one at a serious company and I had no idea what was waiting for me there.
At 9 AM I received a message.
Good morning,Terribly sorry, but we are forced to report that we cannot accept you for an interview — your age is not suitable.
I thought that was a mistake because my age had been suitable for them before and if they had invited me for a real meeting my test task was OK; and I had already arrived to Kiev spending time near their office. I called them back and the text of the previous message was repeated to me.
What kind of answer was that? What was all that nonsense..?
The next interview was planned for 2 PM I was walking around the city moving smoothly to the meeting place. Half an hour before the interview the following occurred.
Terribly sorry, but we are forced to cancel the interview. You do not suit us. We will not specify the reason so that it doesn’t look like a call to action.
I am completely at a loss; the interviews had ended before they could begin. It turned out that I was old and castaway. Alone in Kiev
I was slowly dragging my feet along St. Andrew’s Descent. I came into a small café where I met an old acquaintance of mine. Over glasses of beers the day ceased to be sad. My train back was at 9 PM
So, to say that after my “employment” I was depressed would be an understatement.
Upon arrival home, my sense of helplessness became five times stronger. I turned out that in my age of 30 I was very old.
I realized that the distressful quest had to be brought to release. We got in touch again, told how everyone is doing, and discussed my burnt state as well as what might be done to complete the work.
I was set free and I had got my second wind. I complete tons of animations and art elements which had been previously put off. I worked hard on testing the game and compiling the list of edits. And finally I designed the web-site and a web-page on Steam Concerning my burnt state.
At that moment I probably inhaled too much fresh Carpathian air. How can felt burnt when the project is held in place with enthusiasm.
At the beginning of the year the programmer had a vacation, and we manage to close all the bugs and edits. All the music and sound effects are also completely ready.
The game has got 22 levels, 90 minutes of game music and over 1,000 unique animations and sounds. Shapik: the moon quest
At the moment, I can confidently say that the game is completely ready (I just can’t believe this). Shapik: The Moon Quest released on Steam 5 day ago. Steam: https://store.steampowered.com/app/1073810/Shapik_the_moon_quest/ #1 #2 Summing up I’d like to define mistakes we made.
- Lack of script and no understanding of what the game will be like;
- Constant underestimation of real time frames;
- A wish to make 100500 pieces;
- Lack of proper tools (game scene editor, version control system, assembler);
- Lack of proper testing;
- Work with the community.
This post was written not for the sake of whining or to arouse pity, but in order to show the everyday life of a simple developer.
And there is one more thing I’d like to note:
I have great respect for the programmer and the sound designer due to the fact that we like crazy ones are finishing what we think is right and are trying to do it cool while hundreds of other “adequate” developers would have turned around and left for a long time ago.In general, it is very funny that the three lefty dudes from the Flash forum managed to finish the game. P.S. Plans for the future:
- to find a job (a revolutionary position of a watchman-programmer has been recently offered). The Responsibilities include: advertising products on the Internet, creating business cards / leaflets, tours around the territory every hour).