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Released my first indie game on itch.io. Here is short post mortem.
by Grzegorz Dalek on 03/20/17 09:24:00 am

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

I've released my game Torn Sails on itch.io on Monday - March 13. It's a small, arcade, couch-multiplayer game about 2 dueling ships on a flat sea. The game is free - available in "pay what you want" model. 

Check out the trailer here: 


About me

I've been working in gamedev for 10 years now, but never had the confidence to make my own game. I've started doing art for casual games released by Alawar in 2007. Then became a lead artist working on games for Nokia's N-gage 2.0 games. Since 2010 worked as a lead animator/combat designer on 2 AAA games and AAA mobile f2p hack&slash game.

Tools used

Torn Sails is done with GameMaker: Studio 1.4. It was a blessing and a curse. GM:S 1.4 is outdated, but I like it due to it's simplicity. I can prototype ideas very fast with it. The engine has everything I needed: pixel screen coordinates. fast asset pipeline and so on. Also it's pretty cheap. 

For art I used Aesprite which I adore. I'm amazed how such cheap app can have so much functionality to it.  It's great for pixel-art, especially the animation. Making palette gradients is my favorite feature. For the project I've used it for about 200 hours.

For music and sound design I've used Cubase 8.5. I did some music on my own, but at the end didn't use it. My friend Arek Reikowski, who was a composer on Layers of Fear and upcoming game Observer did the final soundtrack. Here are some of the tracks I did: 

In-Game Music Menu Music
I've decided more universal music style will fit the game better. 

Production

Since I have a full-time job at the studio I was only able to work on the game in my free time. Which is around 1-2 hours per day. Entire game took me 6 months to make - including prototyping, design, art, sound design and so on. For project management I've used Trello. Never used it before but now it's my go-to tool. I've planned to finish the game in 3 months tops, it became a bit over 6 months. Of course I did a lot of things wrong on the way - there are a lot of coded features which didn't end up in the game. In example I had destructable arena. It was a cool idea but ended up being pretty frustrating. It required to make complicated spawn point logic (i.e. to avoid respawn in an area destroyed during the next second). There was also 5 more weapons and 4 more perks - all usable for more than 2 player battles, which also aren't in the game. 

The most complex thing in the game is by far an input system. It has dynamic input detection and assignment. Game is played best with controller so it favores gamepad input. If player has a gamepad connected but wants to use keyboard - it dynamically switches when any keyboard key is pressed. It's called "timestamp input switching". It gets a bit complicated if 2 players can play on the keyboard on switch to gamepads. Game has 3 keyboard layouts. The most comfortable for single player or multiplayer with one controller. It remaps for 2 players playing on the keyboard. I made those layouts remapable, but didn't do the interface to do it in-game. 

Handling gamepad disconnection was hard, since GM maps gamepads up to 12 ports. There is a bug when gamepad is connected to port 5 and none to port 1 then it shows both ports as being used. So first thing - limit controllers to 4 ports. Then you need to remember proper gamepad port since when disconnected it may reconnect it as a different port ... duuuh. Timestamp inuts are cool in single player game, but multiplayer makes it way more complex. 

Problems:

  • random GM bugs (i.e. audio resources being replaced while loading other resources on the list - my cannonball_hit sounds suddenly started played music)
  • not much pro resources (i.e. about how shaders in GM or custom 3d geometry)
  • hard to playtest multiplayer game if you're working on it alone - even if I could play the game with few of my friends, soon they learned how to play it and it wasn't a reliable test anymore
  • I started with a weekly plan to make a build which was motivating at first, but later I had big motivation problems due to my personal problems and I got depressed. Stopped working on the game for 2 months. Later I came back because it was haunting me - so much work done and not much left to finish the game. I did a final push and released the game after month of work.

Reception


In general people really like the game! I'm a bit disappointed not much of them know it exists. Game was covered on FreeGamePlanet.com and few people contacted me asking about more content and saying how much they love the game. It really made my heart grow and was the most rewarding experience in my 10 year career in game development.

Torn Sails really impresses with it’s charming premise, excellent pixel art animation and easily accessible but highly competitive nautical warfare. A fabulous pirated combat game we highly recommend setting sail for!
~Free Game Planet


Summary


As for now about 250 people downloaded and played the game about 800 visited the page, 7 people paid for it total of 28$. It was covered by IndieGames.com and got a nice preview at FreeGamePlanet.com. Most of the traffic comes from those websites. Even tho the numbers aren't impressive I'm very happy. Finishing my own game gave me tons of confidence and now I'm looking to a new project. 

So if you're making your first game and struggling to complete it - cut the features and don't worry much. 

Thanks for reading and good luck on making your own games! Can't wait to play them :) 

 


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