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GCG Feature: 'Student Postmortem:  Skyrates '

GCG Feature: 'Student Postmortem: Skyrates'

December 13, 2007 | By Jill Duffy

Frustrated that graduate studies were sapping time away from video games, nine students from Carnegie Mellon's Entertainment Technology Center decided to build Skyrates, a game that one would play with the same frequency and minimal time community one spends checking email. In a new postmortem on, they share what went right and wrong.

The game’s development took an unexpected turn when the students created a forum and chat area where users could report bugs. Instead, the beta testers began interacting with one another to such a large extent, that it changed the direction of the gameplay:

“We added an in-game chat and web forum. Both were largely intended for occasional questions and bug reports, but quickly turned into something more. Suddenly, we found ourselves building and managing a community instead of simply experimenting with gameplay. Fortunately, we embraced what was happening, and now the community of dedicated players is our most precious and powerful asset.

Many games rely to some extent on a vocal community of players. One thing that distinguishes Skyrates is that we have encouraged them to take part in defining the world itself. Our players contribute to every aspect of the game: mythology and history, balance, and suggestions for new features. The ways in which they do so continue to amaze us. They've built tools to compare and contrast planes and upgrades; maps and distance charts of the world; imaginary sports and leagues complete with standings and results; in-game radio shows to disseminate news and rumors. They’ve even fleshed out the histories of major characters and events. Without the incredible passion and dedication of a community that was born accidentally, the game wouldn't be here today.

Many of the community members have invested as much creative energy in the game as we developers have. We hope that by providing the community a sense of ownership, they will want the game to succeed as much as we do.”

You can read the
full postmortem
on sister education web site for aspiring game developers,

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