Progress, and timing, and scope. . .

Yesterday was a pretty good day for Exodus. We had some slight setbacks in terms of figuring out scope and timing, and it looks like we might not be able to hit the September deadline. Good news, however, is that our programmer/co-designer can stay on past that date, just not as intensively.

This is a project that has definitely seen a lot of feature creep, especially with the addition of the narrative campaign. I think that it has been to the game’s benefit, but it has definitely put a strain on development planning, mostly for our programmer and co-designer, Michael Cameron. He has been totally awesome about bringing in reality checks about things, but also going for the stuff that sounds cool and doable. The thing is, he is also the member of the team with the most out-of-project responsibilities, so his time is like gold to us. I am constantly amazed at how much progress he squeezes out of the scant hours he can spend on this game per week.

Realistically, this game is a labour of love first and something commercial second so we are ok with the deadlines stretching and work being slow, but similar to last week’s post I would definitely not suggest building like we have been. The project keeps growing, in interesting and useful directions I think, but each new idea means more work for everyone. Had we mapped out the whole thing at the beginning I think it would have taken half the time to build. Practically every week we come up with something that has to be nixed because our engine would need to be rebuilt from the ground up to incorporate it.

It’s been a great learning experience for me though, since I think that 90% of the feature creep has been my fault. Part of it is that I have the narrative structure in my head really strongly, but never gave everyone else a clear, feature-specific, map of it early on… properly documenting it would have saved us a TON of time and trouble I think. Sigh . . . next project!

In terms of new stuff going in, this week we got some of the new enemy animations on the boil, which is pretty exciting to see, so hopefully I will be able to post a video of them chugging away soon. We also, and most excitingly for me, got the story engine actually up and running! Level building has commenced, and is going strong. Hopefully by next week we will have at least a few of the levels ready for testing, which is super exciting!

Also exciting is the shape of the music we are getting. I have only heard a rough pass, but our new sound guy, Ryan Roth, is doing some amazing work for us. Distorted Sitars, tabla beats, and crazy synth stuff are blending together into something really cool.

For sound what we hope to get going (scope might change) is an adaptive music system, where there are three core songs, based on the intensity of the current fight, and each enemy type has its own instrumental voice and theme, so the music will act as a warning of what is spawning, and an indicator of when you have nixed a given enemy type for that wave.

Overall, the game is pulling together nicely, I just wish that our schedules would allow us a few weeks of fulltime focus on it, but it isn’t to be. Cursed jobs and rent-paying!

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