Chronoception is a surreal, avoidance-based side-scroller. Armed with the ability to slow down their enemies or stop time around them for brief intervals, the player must navigate through the eerie Time Vortex while dodging supernatural hazards and collecting scattered pieces of Dr. Beau Ty’s broken pocket watch. The development took seven weeks, a total of 382 man-hours. The development team consisted of one programmer, two artists, two level designers, and me, the assistant producer. This was the team’s first development and they did a lot of things right, several problems arose, but most importantly, the team learned a great deal to take with them in future developments. This is the postmortem of Chronoception.
What Went Right:
The team did a lot to ensure they playtested the game internally and with Kleenex testers. The amount of playtesting really ensured the game was communicated well and the team found many problems through the amount of playtesting done.
Collaboration and Feedback
Everyone really discovered the value of constructive feedback from others. The game not only found a better direction in all disciplines, but each and every section became much more polished because of the constant and constructive feedback from team members and those outside of the team.
The team really found value in using the issue manager bug tracking system. At first it was difficult for the team to remember to use it as it was not a habit. After using it for some time, many defects were found and fixed, and the team is convinced that without the issue manager, the game would not be nearly as polished as it is now.
What Went Wrong:
In the beginning of development, the team was unsure as how to communicate with each other in the beginning. Several members had conflicting personalities and some had trouble receiving constructive feedback. This in turn caused a semi-conflicting environment. As the game progressed and the team found ways to communicate more effectively, the team dynamic very much improved from this.
In the beginning, the team developed the ideas for the game, while everything was going in the team felt was necessary and fun. The game did not feel cohesive. Due to this, the team had to redirect their focus and redo many of the already created assets. This put a lot of setback and lowered morale on the team. In the end, the redirection made the game feel much more cohesive and brought it to a much better quality.
The engine the team used was still in development during the production of Chronoception. This created a suite of problems, many of which were being discovered as development continued. Technical limitations prevented the team from doing some things they wanted to do, and created more work than usual for the programming team.
What We Learned:
Tutorials are difficult
Developing a tutorial is very crucial to the game’s development and for new players to understand. The team created a tutorial, but found it was too confusing, too much was going on. They made it more simple, and it was still too complicated. After many iterations, the team finally found a way to communicate the tutorial effectively to new players. They realized that they know the game so much, that a tutorial needs to be very basic, much more than previously anticipated.
The team learned the importance of proper communication between team members and giving good, constructive feedback. They learned how bad a team dynamic can suffer just from poor communication and will take this knowledge in their future developments.
Have to kill our children
The team had a very cool idea in the beginning, but it was too obscure and unfortunately the team had to get rid many of their ideas. This created an issue as they were very much emotionally invested in their game and ideas. Though, they learned they had to “kill their children” metaphorically speaking of course and move forward for the benefit of the game, not their emotions.
Overall the team learned a lot of great values from this project to move forward in their future video game developments. The team and I had a great time producing Chronoception and are very proud of what we accomplished.