2. The audio trek.
As mentioned before, initially we had to deal with the size limitation on XBLA titles. Fitting in ten full songs at high quality even with Xbox-specific music encoding was a tall order for our overall memory budget.
To deal with this issue, we decided to create our audio engine based on a MIDI player concept. Since a lot of the hip-hop music is constructed out of loops, we could store the individual loops on disk and create the song at runtime using a metafile that described the playback time for each loop. We could then fit one song in under 2MB of disk space.
The problem with this solution was that it became a creative road block for our audio artist (a local band member we had contracted to create music for us). Consequently, this reduced the rate of production of songs creating a further roadblock for gameplay development.
Luckily, halfway through our production cycle Microsoft removed the limitation on size. We were then able to use licensed music, get it preprocessed and into the game in a decent amount of time.
This allowed us to find the collection of songs that provided the best gameplay experience and at the same time we increased our base count from 10 songs to 20.
3. No art without artists.
Very early on in the development of GGBS, we decided that we wanted a very unique hand-drawn, classical animation look for all our character animations and we wanted that to be very much the visual hook for the game.
Unfortunately, we completely had no notion of how much work such a technique would entail and how difficult a task it really is.
Initially, Craigslist was a great resource for us to find the artistic talent we wanted. We started off with two artists with no animation experience and asked them to work on the character design and the overall art vision of the game.
One of these artists introduced us to our audio artist, but otherwise we were getting nowhere with regards to getting an animated character to work in our game. At the same time we were desperate to get a demo out to Microsoft so we know one way or the other whether this game would be accepted for XBLA.
As luck would have it, we had found our lead animator who did all the character design and helped us recruit a second animator. Together they designed and animated our first character. Their drawings quite literally amounted to hundreds and hundreds of pages.
However, we learned quickly after the first character that the tracing and digitizing of the hand drawn images was a major bottleneck for the animators.
We then looked to outsource this task and found an art company in the Philippines that agreed to perform the tracing and digitizing work at a very decent price. We would scan the hand drawn frames and send it to them over the internet, and a few days later get back Flash files containing all those frames.
It still took over a year to complete all the character animations, but without the talented classical animators on our team and the out-sourcing initiative we would never have made it to the end.