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5. Underestimating ourselves
MadStone was a truly gargantuan achievement for my team. The last year was without a doubt the most challenging time of my life. We consumed an enormous amount of mental energy making MadStone a reality.
Unfortunately though, MadStone caused little more than a blip in the industry as a whole. It was sometimes commended, sometimes disfavored, and mostly ignored. Part of this is because we are a small team in a big industry, and part of it is because we held ourselves back from making something more remarkable.
Is independent game development the sandbox of blooming creativity we imagined when we were kids? Absolutely. I'm doing everything I thought I'd be doing when my brother and I held those rectangular NES controllers and decided that Mario's world would be our world too.
What I didn't anticipate was how difficult it would be to pry ideas out of my own head. It's one thing to believe in your own potential, and quite another to sit in front of an empty monitor and make that potential into a solid game with real art and tuned mechanics.
I wish we would have pushed the creative envelope a bit farther for our console debut. We prototyped plenty of more innovative, exciting, ideas, but we were too worried that we wouldn't be able to pull them off.
We stuck with what we knew. This was good from a project management perspective (hey, we finished!) but I'll always wonder what would have happened if we'd gone just a little bit closer to the edge...
The Lesson: You're an artist and your job is to push creative limits. Do a little bit more than your best. Make the game that only your team can produce.
On October 6, 2008, my brother and I achieved our childhood dream of publishing a game on a Nintendo system. Our feelings of relief and elation were tempered by the mixed reception the game received. Not everyone appreciated our effort as much as we hoped!
Despite the response of our critics, I stand by MadStone as a solid, entertaining, puzzle game. It has balanced, fast-paced mechanics, and unique, high-energy aesthetics. We worked hard to make it a game that we would have liked when we were kids. I think that shows.
Player 1 pwns Player 2
Do I wish that our game was a bestselling instant classic that made my company an overnight sensation? Yeah, sure. But ultimately it's important to remember that for all the hard work we put into it, MadStone was just one game. We've got plenty more struggles, victories, and challenges ahead of us as we continue trying to make better and better titles.
Achieving one dream just clears the way for imagining new ones. I thought that once we finally published a game we'd have smooth sailing for the rest of our careers. Instead, I'm learning just how much more we have to learn. The further you make it, the further you have to go!
Number of Developers: 3
Budget: Approximately $10,000 (all developers paid through royalties)
Development Time: 8 months
Release Date: October 6, 2008 (North America)
Hardware: Off-the-shelf Dell PCs with 4GB RAM and 256 MB video cards. Nintendo Wii development kits. Wacom tablet.
Software: Eclipse, Tortoise SVN, FL Studio 8, Adobe Photoshop CS2, DarkTree Textures, Nintendo Wii IDE
Notable technologies: Slag object-oriented language (www.plasmaworks.com)
Size of Project:
Art and sound files: 250
Lines of code (MadStone Slag Code): 15,000
Lines of code (Slag compiler and runtime): 46,000