Gamasutra is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.


Gamasutra: The Art & Business of Making Gamesspacer
Postmortem: Dejobaan Games' Aaaaa! -- A Reckless Disregard for Gravity
View All     RSS
May 23, 2019
arrowPress Releases
May 23, 2019
Games Press
View All     RSS








If you enjoy reading this site, you might also want to check out these UBM Tech sites:


 

Postmortem: Dejobaan Games' Aaaaa! -- A Reckless Disregard for Gravity


September 22, 2010 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 5 Next
 

5. We danced salsa.

All work and no play makes you a dull game developer.

All work and no play makes you a dull game developer.

All work and no play make you a drull game dvelozzz.

Having fun and getting our minds off of game development has always made our team work better. And for us, that meant dancing salsa.

It was something physically active, social, and while learning a routine can be mentally taxing, it involved a different kind of thinking than game development.

Ichiro and Leo first met at a salsa dancing class, where they were trying to break out of the science/engineering stereotypes and loosen up.

During development of Aaaaa!, weekends were largely no-work zones, while our brains caught up with things. Ichiro and Leo took time out for their girlfriends. Dan took time out to play D&D.


Salsa dancing at Water Fire kept us sane.

Focusing our tired brains on something else helped our unconscious minds chew on problems in the background. And distance from the project took the pressure off, allowing us to think strategically rather than tactically ("We must solve this system of five equations before I go to bed!" became "Say, we don't even need this algorithm, do we?")

Socializing helped in other ways, too. There's a vibrant gaming community in Boston, with monthly meetings of the local IGDA chapter called the Boston Post Mortem, and we're lucky enough to live in an area where the indie scene is also growing, thanks to the Boston Indies group. Networking has given us a chance to bounce ideas off of other bright minds and sit down and to chat about how to compete with the big guys.


A talk given by Turbine at a local pub. Check out the dude tossing up the horns.

What Went Wrong

...and how we're fixing it.

This is one of the toughest documents we've ever had to write, and that's partly because we're now looking back and asking ourselves how we could have been so utterly stupid.

5. We screwed up the demo.

"The demo turned me off, but I got the game on sale anyway. It turned out to be awesome!" We've heard this quote from gamers a number of times since launch, and eventually came to the conclusion that the trial version just wasn't doing its job.


This is the first and/or last thing demo players saw. Boring.

The demo's purpose was to give players a vertical slice of the game. Here's some tiramisu. If you're sampling it, you want a tiny taste of the whole experience -- the savoiardi, the rum, the mascarpone, and the sugar. It should give you a good idea of what the whole experience will be like and nudge you towards picking up the whole slice.


A demo equals one bite of this. A tip of the hat to Fire Hose Games for the analogy.

Gamers have hundreds of flavors of cake available to them (so to speak), so in a demo, we have to get them that taste as quickly as possible. A good one introduces players to the story and mechanics, gives them just enough of a juicy experience to start savoring gameplay, and then makes it impossible not to grab the full version.

Those who played the demo found an experience that started with boring tutorials and ugly geometric primitives. While it also included some of the game's character, players who didn't actively search for it had no idea. It was possible to play through the three levels that demonstrated the basics and not notice the meditation sequence or one of the more challenging maps, where the pieces all come together. We failed to convey the full flavor of the game.

This was primarily because we left the demo for the last minute. By this time, the team was exhausted, and just wanted to get the thing out. We didn't take the time to formulate a plan, and we completely failed to consider the experience from the player's point of view.

When we later had the opportunity to let people play Aaaaa! at public functions (parties, GDC, and PAX East), they had a better time if we guided them to particular levels. We took into account their skill levels and preferences (people who’d never played a WASD game were shoved through a tutorial, but more experienced gamers were thrown right into one of the more interesting areas). After watching them play one level, we could usually recommend something else that would appeal to them. And we cheered them on. Why couldn't the demo have been more like this?

In our next title, we'll try this:

  • Iterate until the demo demonstrates something "wow" worthy in the first 15 seconds.
  • Put something interesting out there from the moment players start the game. (Or, better yet, right from the moment they start the installer.)
  • Create an experience that, after 5 minutes, leaves players wanting more.
  • Make it clear how there's more fresh content on the way, and that players "ain't seen nothin' yet."
  • Foist that on a fresh tester and get feedback.

Bottom line for our bottom line: we created a poor demo, and that cost us sales.


Article Start Previous Page 3 of 5 Next

Related Jobs

Disbelief
Disbelief — Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States
[05.23.19]

Senior Programmer, Cambridge, MA
Disbelief
Disbelief — Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States
[05.23.19]

Junior Programmer, Cambridge, MA
Deep Silver Volition
Deep Silver Volition — Champaign, Illinois, United States
[05.23.19]

Cinematic Artist
Deep Silver Volition
Deep Silver Volition — Champaign, Illinois, United States
[05.23.19]

Senior System Designer (Living World)





Loading Comments

loader image