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5. Let's Git-R Done!
So development went on, and E3 came and went. We had reached a crossroads in the project; Conduit 2 was behind schedule, a lot of work still needed to be done, and things had to be brought back on track, quickly. All the pieces were there, but they weren't getting brought together fast enough to meet our milestones. A company decision was made and Conduit 2 team received a few new faces. New production staff was brought on board, more team leads were added, and a large group of staff were brought on to help.
Normally you would find a description like this in the "what went wrong" section, but in our case, this turned out to exactly what was needed to put the project back on track.
With budget and time running out, critical decisions about what to focus on had to be made quickly. The new team members were better suited to making unbiased decisions about these things leading to faster, more efficient shifts in direction
This wound up breathing fresh life into the entire team. Old and new team members alike quickly generated a flurry of improvements, dramatically improving the overall experience and presentation of the game. This allowed us to finish even stronger than we did on the first game.
The light at the end of the tunnel isn't always a train, sometimes it's your goal, and it just depends on how you approach it. This team put a lot of effort into making Conduit 2 as good as it is today and we are very proud of how the entire company came together to get the project done well.
1. Poorly Defined Milestones
Members of any team thrive when they have clear goals to accomplish and the deadline in which to accomplish them -- especially when these are defined early and often.
Unfortunately, the milestones were never defined with enough detail, nor given to the team early enough. Instead, many of the goals given to the team were based on meeting requirements for product demos given at various consumer, media, and developer shows and conventions.
Often this resulted in the team diverting from meeting an actual milestone in favor of prepping the game for the next show. This approach resulted in awesome demos at the expense of the completed game. Had the goals been based more on the production timeline, been given better definition, and been revisited throughout development, the team would have been able to focus better and the end of project push would not have been as elongated.
2. The Script
One of the biggest criticisms of the first game was the single-player campaign felt dry and uninspired. It was considered too short, lacking a cohesive narrative or major dramatic moments, and didn't have any memorable boss battles. We did not want to repeat those same issues and while Conduit 2's campaign delivers on the elements that were lacking from The Conduit, it was a long and difficult battle to get there.
To address the problems from the first game, we hired an external writer to focus on crafting an epic storyline. We brought him into the studio and had him spend multiple days every week with the team. He played the build, interacted with our team members and fully immersed himself in everything Conduit.
Unfortunately, his vision was unrealistically grandiose. The combined length of the cinematic sequences would have been well over that of multiple feature films. We simply didn't have the budget or the manpower to dedicate to creating that many hours of story. Additionally, the tone was extremely serious and heavy-handed, which didn't go over well with anyone in our initial showings of the game. In fact, they celebrated the occasional humorous element, leading us to the realization that things needed to be lightened up significantly.
As we got closer and closer to our deadline, despite our writer's best intentions, the cinematic sequences were still too long and too serious, missing the lighter tone we were hoping for. Consequently, we were forced to do a massive edit and rewrite -- working at all hours of the day and night -- to get the script polished in time for the final recording session. If we had only given the light-hearted direction to the writer initially, we could have saved a lot of time and effort.