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Postmortem: Avalanche Studios' Renegade Ops
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Postmortem: Avalanche Studios' Renegade Ops


June 8, 2012 Article Start Previous Page 4 of 4
 

2. Lust: When Passion Goes Too Far

In regards to overtime, the team got so passionate and devoted to the game's success that it quite frankly went overboard. It was unhealthy. The lesson I have learned here is that, while a steady stream of positivity and upward spirals can be an awesome wave to ride, it can easily lead your team to a destructive place if left unchecked -- as expectations are constantly raised on all ends.

The more we strove to outdo ourselves with each milestone we delivered, the more pressure we put on ourselves to be even better. If the project had gone on for much longer than it did -- 18 months -- we would have crashed.

Luckily, that did not happen. Instead, the experience has given me a profound appreciation for developers that are able to ride that wave of positivity -- and create top-rated games -- all within normal working hours!

3. Gluttony: More Than Enough is Often Too Much

The scope for Renegade Ops from a feature standpoint was too big. At a glance, this seems similar to the first sin: that our high ambitions also caused us to go overboard with the amount of features we pushed into the final game. However, the symptoms tell a completely different story.

Our "lust" (passion and high ambitions) resulted in a core game experience with high production values and an AAA-budget feel to it -- something we arguably succeeded with at the cost of our health and free time. Our "gluttony" instead pertains to the parts of the game that fell outside of the core game experience -- this includes the in-game cutscenes, split-screen, online multiplayer, and the boss fights.

These are areas of the game that we really did not have time to implement to the same level as the games core features. If we had dropped one or two of them at an earlier stage, it would have saved us a tremendous amount of time, and the remaining features would have had a chance to reach a much higher level of quality.

Alternatively, we could have used that time to implement some systems that were planned to be a part of the core experience -- such as a checkpoint system within each level, so that players wouldn't have to restart the entire mission after failing, or the "skip in-game cutscene" feature, which we were forced to remove very late in development due to the amount of bugs it caused.

4. Ignorance: Not Always Bliss

If we look at player behaviors for Renegade Ops today, the three and four player online modes have been played to such a little extent that I get a headache just thinking about how low the return has been on that particular investment.

So, how could we have been aware of this before the game was released? Well, it is funny how these types of things usually are hiding right there in front of you, in plain sight. For all our attention to gut feeling and gamer intuition, we somehow completely missed the fact that no one on the team -- or even the company for that matter -- ever really preferred playing the three and four player modes.

They were fun for very short bursts of play, but the game simply got too chaotic with that amount of players. This is not something that applies to all games, but it certainly was the case with Renegade Ops -- and we failed to pick up on it as we sat there groaning to each other, "Oh, no! We have to test this in four-player mode, too? Snore!"

5. Vanity: The Failure to Accept Limitations

Renegade Ops was a project without any margin for error from the very start. The initial plan we committed to gave us a total of 16 months with one month for the alpha, beta, and release phases, respectively. Our intuition warned us that this would not be enough, but we went ahead with the notion that we could shift things around once we got to the main production phase. Once we did -- seven months later -- we were very happy and proud with the quality and level of completion of our vertical slice, but the plan still had very little room to shift things around.

In the end, the project was delayed by two months. This had several negative effects, the most important one being that we missed a very important promotional event (by just two or three weeks!) that would have given us major backing in the form of marketing and general exposure. It also lead to a constant feeling throughout the project that we were playing catch-up, and never really got to stop and take the time to reflect on what was going on. Our reflections instead came all at once, after the game was released.

So, what could we have done to stop this from happening? Well first of all, we will never plan a project to have as little as one month, respectively, for each of those last three phases of development. It's just not realistic, and we've experienced that firsthand now.

Second, the next time we feel like a project is stuck playing catch-up with itself, without any signs of pit stops for reflections and perspective -- then it's time to pull the emergency brake and take a look at what's really going on. Perhaps there is a problem with the processes, or maybe it is time to get the axe out for some serious re-scoping. Whatever solution is deemed applicable, as long as something is changed to break that cycle.

Summary

Renegade Ops has been an amazing project to be a part of! Through the highs and lows of its development we have laughed, danced, cried, not slept that much, and thrown hundreds of tiny post-it-paper-airplanes at each other.

The following quote from Giant Bomb's review of Renegade Ops sums everything up nicely: "It's big, loud, sort of dumb, and a ton of fun..."

Thanks for reading!


Article Start Previous Page 4 of 4

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