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Postmortem: Mommy's Best Games' Weapon of Choice
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Postmortem: Mommy's Best Games' Weapon of Choice

January 8, 2009 Article Start Previous Page 5 of 5

4. "Launch Title" Is a Four Letter Word.

Shipping a launch title is not something I enjoy. Technical and policy issues change constantly if they're yet known at all. Although the benefits of being one of the first games on a new, uncrowded platform outweighs these issues, there can still be plenty of problems.

Making a Community Game is different because generally, you have no special publisher connections and only get information as it becomes publicly available. For Weapon of Choice, we were not involved in the New Xbox Experience beta and therefore couldn't test our game with the new dashboard.

It was very frustrating designing features like trial mode and hoping they would work; we were only able to test trial mode definitively on the day the game went on sale.

All Community Games are required to use XNA Game Studio (GS) 3.0, which was made available shortly before the channel launch. Porting to GS 3.0 was quick and painless; however, WoC level load times increased by about 40%.

It's hard to say exactly what caused this, but it was probably related to the original, string-heavy method I was using to load data (See Wrong 2.).

Figure 12. Screenshot of "MountainVillage" level with a selection of the drawings used to create the final art.

All Community Games developers had access to the beta of GS 3.0 for months. I didn't feel like I had the time or manpower to maintain GS 2.0 for development and GS 3.0 beta in a sandbox for testing, and thus only ported to the final GS 3.0 near our launch. Regardless, I had the ability to discover the loading problems and fix them earlier.

5. Turns out They Pay Managers for a Reason.

Though I did most of the work on the game I had some help in a few areas. Determining self-contained areas in which others could contribute was crucial. Story writing and music worked out perfectly. Programming and level design were a mixed bag.

Preparing prototype animations, designs, and code reference ate into some of the potential time savings of having someone else do the work. Making sure everyone was synched to the current build, and updating everyone to new Game Studio versions were hassles.

Many phone calls and emails were required to coordinate all the work, keep everyone up to date, motivated, and moving towards milestones. I learned the hard way that it's not as simple as "If something takes me three days, someone else doing it will save me three whole days!"

Mommy's Best Game

Well, Mommy's Best has shipped our first game, and we feel Weapon of Choice turned out pretty darn swell. Don't worry; I won't sprain anything patting myself on the back.

Microsoft made XNA to get more people into game development. I think that's a great thing. However, I saw it more as an opportunity to take my years in game development and turn it into a viable company.

I took the XNA/Community Games opportunity very seriously and dedicated more than a year, full-time, to making Weapon of Choice.

There are a lot of amazing things that had to happen to make Weapon of Choice possible. Microsoft created a free, full-featured game-making suite for anyone to use, then allowed anyone to run, publish and sell their home-brew games on the Xbox 360.

Additionally, my family and friends sacrificed a lot, and often, to help us see our game to completion. In the end, we're left with interactive art that makes me happy as a gamer every time I see or play it.

With everything we learned and created while making Weapon of Choice, I'm busting with energy and anticipation as we start Mommy's Second Best Game. Hmm... "second best"... that was supposed to come out better!

[For more on Fouts' history in the game business and the creation of Weapon Of Choice, interested readers can check out his recent interview with Gamasutra.]

Game Data

Project: Weapon of Choice

Developer and Publisher: Mommy's Best Games

Platform: Xbox 360 Community Games

Release Date: November 19, 2008

Full time developers: 1

Contractors: 6

Development time: 1 year (4 months for pre-production, 8 months for production)

Hardware: AMD 2.2GHz, 1GB RAM; retail Xbox 360; stylish, 19" flat screen monitor; ancient, Buick-sized SDTV

Software: XNA, Visual Studio Express Edition, Photoshop CS2, GoldWave, Mommy's Best Level Editor, and Mommy's Best Object Editor


Article Start Previous Page 5 of 5

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Amir Sharar
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I really hope that this becomes a profitable venture for Nathan, this game was excellent in all manners and I'd like to see more. With all the lessons learned, and the custom editor created, perhaps it won't take as long for MBG to create other titles.

I have to stress how unique this title was in all aspects. I'm not talking about slight innovations, but rather, something completely different. I've never played a shootemup that had branching levels and stories (these aren't slight differences in the ending, they are completely different perspectives). Of course, the weapons are things never before seen in a game like this. The same can be said of the controls, in particular the ability to spiderwalk on any surface. The art (though I suppose my graphic designer friends would have issues with it) really look like they came out of a sketchbook, and isn't very typical of the art you'd see in 99% of games out there. The bosses are just twisted and epic. Despite being a short game (for $5 I'm not complaining at all!) there's so much here that's impressive, that I really, really hope MGB is financially rewarded and able to pump out more titles.

julian farquar
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My hat goes off to Fouts. I wish I had more hats to take off. We had to design our own level editor for Casebook, which was a rigmarole in itself. I also sympathise with any upper-indie game creator whose art design isn't glitzy and glamorous, yet competes against titles that most definitely are. As the writer on Casebook, I had to generate a plot to a miniscule budget, but my salvation was that the quality of plotting in the great weight of casual (and for that matter AAA games) is fairly weak. Nathan had no such headstart. Amazing.

David Hof
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Very interesting article about an impressive achievement. I also hope you make some money out of it, especially considering that with the volume of low quality games in XNA Community Games I fear it may be difficult for the diamonds to stand out from the duffers.

Andrius Kavaliunas
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Now that is a great article.

Looks like Insomniac is loosing the best programmers :-)

Shawn Yates
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Best of luck to Nathan, I'm curious to see what he comes up with next. Very impressive what he was able to do and I salute his efforts fully. I loved the art style.

Timothy Porter
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Nathan is a genius. Such a nice guy and a great person. I know that this game wont be the last for him or his company. Long live MBG!

Daniel Lawson
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David Hof... the diamonds stand out... like a giant light in the darkness. I think if they added in a common rating... like they do with users... then more games that are great will be shoved to the front of the pack.