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July 20, 2017
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Story of Cutting Time
by ML Azar on 07/13/17 09:55:00 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.

 

Hey guys! I’m ML, full time student at AAU(Academy of Art University) and my proficiency is in game design. Around 6 month ago, I had an incomplete idea to design a game just based on taps. I wanted to limit myself to just come up with a simplistic idea for gameplay or better to say for the whole game. A quick background about my interests, I’m huge fan of arcade and fast games, and I especially dig those with simple and understandable gameplay. Of course I play and enjoy complex games as well but those are not ranked among my favorites.

I discussed my idea with 2 developers which are my close friends. I explained to them we will make just one mechanic, and then we will work on every single aspects of it. They had mix feelings about this concept, but they loved the technical simplicity of it which would allow them to implement those details without any stress. Their biggest concern was the simplicity of the gameplay which would look very minimal and maybe even dull. After several brainstorming sessions, I was able to convince them about this new experience which would allow us to work on a new mobile game.

      

Post Mortem Analysis

What went right

  • Implementing gameplay: Because of simplicity of this idea, the prototype phase went through very fast and we were able to test the gameplay after 1 week. We didn’t care about lack of visuals, sound effects or particles at that time, we just wanted to make sure the base of gameplay was similar to what we had in our mind. During the collaborations, I asked them to provide me with more design datas in the editor so I can edit and balance it myself, which would allow them to focus more on different sections of the game such as implementing shop and currency system. This phase was one of those never ending phases which required polishing and balancing from day one till the release date. But we were very satisfied with the outcome.

  • Cost of development: We were delighted about the scale of the game from the very beginning, because we knew spending so much time and money on a project like this was a huge risk. Our main objective was to finish the project in less than 4 month and we almost made the prior expectations. It took us around five months to finish everything which I think it’s good enough. Probably the most challenging part of the project was hiring freelancers. We looked for an animator, VFX  and SFX artist. We have been introduced to several candidates via our connections, and we were lucky enough to find some professional and responsible applicants. I made a list of our needs and based on those, they provided a price quote of their work. Below is one of the early character sketches by our artist.

  • Experiencing monetization and F2P design: “Time Cut” was my second “Free to Play” experience, and it was quite entertaining and informative for me. We knew what we wanted from the game so based on that, we designed and implemented F2P elements. Probably the biggest challenge was how to balance these elements to not frustrate players. There is a one currency unit in the game which is coin and everything has a direct relationship with it. We included ads, reviving system and a small shops to allow players to buy more coins if they wanted to, but players can easily earn more coins by simply playing different game modes and spending some time on harder levels. We have tried to avoid balancing issues but avoiding such a thing required heavy testing and balancing. But overall the experience was very satisfying in all different ways as we met our expectations and went beyond that to create a simple game mechanic but addictive to players.

  • Personal time management: It’s obvious that I love to work on bigger projects as well, but the problem for me was to be able to manage my school life with professional projects like this. When you are a full time student, you will spend most of your time at school and besides of that you have to work on your homeworks, which will take so much time and energy. And to be honest I like to spend some time for myself. It can be going out, playing games, spending time with my friends and such things. Working on smaller projects would allow me to do all of these and I won’t get frustrated.

 

What went wrong:

  • Planning Test Sessions: This was very serious! Probably my biggest regret about this game is not having enough testing sessions. We were afraid of showing the prototypes to other people, because our theory was showing just the gameplay, without art and animation won't be impressive enough. So we had to wait for those parts to be completed and that took around 3 months. And During these period we almost finished the gameplay. I assume between 10 to 15 people have tested our game, both during development and beta testing, which is unfortunately a very low number. I believe no matter how big or small your game is, you have to consider testing sessions frequently, because you will get the real feedback from those who haven’t played your game or better to say those who are not involved in game production.

  • Fear of simplicity: I don’t know if this is a common thing among designers or not, but I was afraid of simplicity maybe till the last days (or better to say till the last minute :D). I was on the verge to make the game more complicated by adding new mechanics and changing some basic parts of it, but I was 100% sure that by adding a new simple feature, especially in gameplay, I will add at least one month of work to the development which it didn’t worth it for us.

  • Underestimating export process: We had so many troubles with our builds, especially when we wanted to implement IAP and ads services. At first It seemed to be easy but I believe it’s one of the most tricky parts. Because testing and building on Android devices is way different than apple products. And they are followed by different legal policies which it will take some time to understand.

  • Some important aspects of remotely working: Probably the worst part of working remotely is explaining some ideas via texts and notes, because it’s kinda tough to explain almost everything this way. Sometimes you cannot express your feelings just via texts, they need to hear you and feel the idea, which is not going to happen in remotely working. We have worked separately from each other all this time, our ways of communication were emails, skype and messaging apps. We didn’t use emails a lot because it was not fast enough for us, maybe just for some legal purposes. Working remotely will always bring some issues such as having a hard time finding that specific person, or facing some unexpected bugs which will force you to wait for someone to wakes up and give you step by step walkthrough.

At the end it was quite a pleasure working on this project, because we never had a chance to work on something similar to this. One of the biggest challenges that indie teams are facing is losing motivation because of multiple factors, such as lack of financial resources, publishing issues or not having enough time to work on the project. But we are very satisfied to choose the right scale for our game and that helped us a lot during the development.

Here are the links to the game: Appstore, Google-play.

Thank you so much for reading, please let me know if you have any questions. I will be more than happy to help :).

Cheers

-ML


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