對於花費4年時間的遊戲開發循環的總結

作者:David Amador

當我開始編寫本文時我正在回家過節的路上。這是瘋狂的一年,我花了將近4個小時的旅程寫下了這些內容。很抱歉本文可能會有點不連貫,因爲這主要是我的一些想法的集合。

Quest of Dungeons(from cnmo)

Quest of Dungeons(from cnmo)

對於那些瞭解我的工作的人應該會知道,在將近4年多時間裏我一直致力於《地下城探險》這個項目中,這是從2013年開始開發的遊戲。

現在我需要面向一個新平臺,即PlayStation 4去發行遊戲,發行時間爲2017年1月17日。不過這也是這幾年來我第一次有種《地下城探險》的旅程要結束了的感覺。我仍然想要通過最新更新去修補Android移植版本,我也還需要注意一些補丁等內容,但這卻是基於和現在截然不同的方式。因爲在這之前我始終覺得這是一個將延續好幾個月,好幾年甚至永遠都不會結束的任務。

花這麼多時間致力於同一個項目真的很讓人受挫,特別是我還獨自工作,所以我對自己感到驕傲的一點便是我能真正完成這項工作。你肯定不會相信我有多少次覺得這一切好不值得。但是所有的一切似乎都在往好的方面發展,我能夠將遊戲帶到許多不同的平臺上,它在某種程度上獲得了人們的認可。

我認爲自己能夠找到合適的“立基”玩家,即那些真正理解《地下城探險》是關於什麼且能夠接受它的缺陷與優點的人們。

在開發的最初幾個月,這還只是一款平板電腦遊戲,即我並不打算將其帶到PC以外的平臺。這也導致我做出了在之後將遊戲移植到主機時感到後悔的決定,但同時這也讓我能夠抄近路並且不用去擔心那些不適合PC遊戲的內容,如此才能加快遊戲進度。我花了很多時間不斷去思考每個全新平臺的而界面(除了與Xbox One相同的PS4),這已經需要佔用很多時間了,當然更不用提那些特定的主機功能。因爲每一個全新平臺都與之前的平臺有所聯繫,所以這並不是我需要放太多精力的地方。

我一直在使用自己的技術去進行遊戲發行,這麼做似乎有點太頑固了。但事實卻並非如此。現在,基於像Unreal 4,Unity和Gamemaker等多種不同的引擎,再自己創造技術似乎有點奇怪了,但對於我來說卻不是如此。過去我也使用過其它引擎,並在XNA上發行了我最初的兩款遊戲,然而在那之後我決定開始創建自己的技術,如此我便能夠更加靈活地工作且不用擔心引擎是否會停止,這也是我真正決定這麼做的目標。從這方面看來我的決定的確取得了成功,因爲同樣的代碼可以運行於所有平臺,除了一些特定渲染和輸入等。在將遊戲帶到許多不同平臺上後我也想出了一些更棒的理念,實際上在過去幾周我一直在爲之後的項目整理代碼,現在的我覺得自己很有幹勁。但也有一些平臺是我移植了引擎後又感到後悔且不想再使用的,如Wii U,或者還有任天堂3DS。

我嘗試着使用了3周Unity並對GameMaker進行了一些測試,這也的確是一次非常酷的試驗。但即使如此也未曾改變我不放棄自己的技術的想法,可能主要還是因爲我非常瞭解自己的技術,所以我可以在每個項目中快速改變某些內容,或者也是因爲我非常熱衷於致力於這項工作吧。當我要將遊戲轉變成完全的3D遊戲時我還會再來使用它。

這麼多平臺!

我所創造的是一款已經出現在許多平臺上的遊戲,而我之所以這麼做的原因也有許多,不僅能夠吸引更多用戶,能夠賺到更多錢,同時也能讓更多人認識這款遊戲,對於我來說品牌認知是非常重要的。同時也是因爲我覺得現在的自己擁有這麼做的機會,畢竟誰都不知道未來,而這也是與Steam,Xbox,任天堂和索尼建立關係的機會。我認爲不斷面向不同平臺創造遊戲是合理的,只是我們需要去縮短每次發行之間的時間間隔。

但市場營銷仍是我的軟肋,我擁有一個Twitter賬號並且會在上面分享我的遊戲以及其它東西,主要是關於電影以及自己的一些日常瑣事,這能算是一種市場營銷嗎?很遲的時候我才決定創建一份新聞通訊列表並將其放在Upfall Studios網站上,雖然我在去年獲得了100多個訂閱者,但如果我能夠更早去做這件事的話就更好了。

我還爲Upfall Studios創造了一個Twitter賬號,所以這裏將只有關於遊戲及其發行的一些新聞,這也是一個更加專業的賬號。關注於社交事宜,Twitter,Facebook等等都需要消耗大量時間,所以對於我來說這也是個需要面對的問題。我所關注的大多數是開發者而不是公司,更多的是獨立開發者,因爲這也是我自己想做的事。

社區

我喜歡與人們互動,我並不介意被問問題並且我也會100%回覆我所收到的郵件,不管那是關於遊戲還是遊戲開發。我會在其他開發者想要跟我提問的時候花時間親自與他們見面。以你想被對待的方式去對待別人。我便非常幸運能夠擁有一羣玩家和社區擁護着《地下城探險》,他們都很好,會活躍地向朋友推薦這款遊戲,這是我所奢求的最棒的社區。我的目標便是能夠繼續擴大這一社區。

永遠不要對你的用戶撒謊也不要突然消失。有許多Early Access遊戲便是莫名其妙地突然消失甚至未發表任何離別公告,這其實是錯誤的做法。因爲這會導致用戶不再信任你們,即使你轉向了其它工作室,用戶也不會忘記自己曾被騙的事實。所以如果你的項目遭遇了失敗,你也要向人們解釋清楚,如果你延遲了補丁的發行也要說明。因爲幾乎所有玩家都會報以理解與支持。當我在進行Xbox One和任天堂的移植時我便延遲了PC的更新好幾個月,玩家也對此報以支持,只要你告訴他們你推遲的原因便可。

這並不只是“還需要X個月的開發”

如果你認爲只需要再2個月的話,實際情況通常是還要4個月。大多數情況下我們總是不能有效計算時間(至少我是這樣),因爲我們總是在腦子裏構思遊戲,但事實上將其付諸行動往往需要更多時間。就像我的PC版本便遭遇了延遲,Xbox和任天堂移植也花費了比我預想中更長的時間,不過PS4時間便短了些,因爲我一開始設想了最糟糕的情況但沒想到第一次嘗試的結果便不錯。根據我的經驗,在遊戲發行前1,2個月完成遊戲會更好,特別是對於只有一個人的團隊來說。我便是提前2個月完成Xbox One版本,並利用剩下時間去推廣遊戲,累積遊戲的認知度等等。而任天堂版本則只提早了10天,從而導致不得不延誤遊戲的發行,我現在也很後悔自己不能更有效地計算時間。這是必須吸取的重要經驗教訓。

其它

在過去我曾犯的錯誤同時也是我現在仍在犯的錯便是,我不能有效劃分開發時間與現實生活,如此便導致我總是長時間地投入於工作中。

在一年半的全職工作期間,我是利用晚上去創造《地下城冒險》,但這並不意味着我能夠承擔雙倍分量的工作。當你在爲別人工作時你總是擁有一份時間表,但如果你是爲自己工作,你便很難去調節時間。很多人都跟我說很難專注於工作中,我也是如此,但這主要還是因爲我將休閒時間與工作時間混合在一起。如此我們便很容易分心,然後你便會有愧疚感並投入更多時間於工作中。儘管我不認爲自己很慢,但本來我可以更有效地利用時間。這也是我想改變的現狀,我不認爲嚴格的時間安排很有效,但是如果缺少明確的劃分也是不行的。

當你面對一個解決不了的問題時,不要再將大把的時間浪費在電腦上,請出門走走,做些其它事,如此解決方法便會自然而然地出現。只有將你的思緒分散到其它事情上你才能夠冷靜下來解決問題。

那現在呢?

遊戲的PS4版本即將在3周後發行,我也不再計劃其它移植了,所以我將能夠轉向一款全新遊戲。說實話我還是很擔心,因爲現在我還沒有一個可靠的想法,我只是在勾畫一些理念或嘗試一些原型,像“讓我花1至2年時間於這款新遊戲上,”“我能否賺回本,”以及“它是否會有好的表現”等問題都讓我很擔憂。

我希望自己擁有一個只需要幾個月時間進行嘗試的小型理念而不是什麼巨大的理念,但就像我之前提到的,《地下城冒險》本來只是一個6個月項目,最終卻花費了4年時間。我嘗試着不去想“這將會是所有人都能喜歡的理念”,相反地我將嘗試着去想出自己會喜歡的內容,即使其他人不一定會喜歡,因爲開發流往往是如此發展的。

在PS4版本發行後我要花2周時間去旅行,在長達2年時間裏我都沒出去玩過,我想去一些國家當揹包客,因爲這是一種既廉價又能放鬆心態的方式。

本文爲遊戲邦/gamerboom.com編譯,拒絕任何不保留版權的轉發,如需轉載請聯繫:遊戲邦

Some thoughts about a 4 year game dev cycle

by David Amador

As I’m starting to write this post I’m on my way to my home town for the holidays, It’s been a crazy year(s)(?) and I’m taking these near 4h of travel to write down some things. I’m sorry if it’s incoherent, this is mostly a dump of thoughts.

For those who follow my work a bit more closely you probably know that for almost 4 years the project I dedicated more time was Quest of Dungeons, which started development in 2013.

Right now I still have one more platform to release, on Playstation 4, 17 January 2017, it passed certification, ready to be released, so for the first time in years it feels that my QoD journey is finally completing. I still intend to patch the Android port with all last updates and sure, there will always be patches and things to take care of, but it will be in a whole different way now. Until now it always felt incomplete and a never ending task that extended for months, years.

Working for so much time on the same project can be incredibly frustrating, especially if working alone, so one thing that I’m proud of myself is that I actually finished it. You wouldn’t believe the amount of times that I said “F** it, is not worth it”. Things went good with the game, in a sense that I was able to put it on a lot of platforms and it was well received for the most part.
I think I was able to find a good “niche” of players that understood what QoD was all about, with all its flaws and good things.

The game was never meant to be released outside of PC, heck, during the first month of development it was a Tablet only game. That led to decisions that I regretted later when porting to consoles, but also allowed me to cut corners and not caring about things that weren’t meant for a PC game early on, thus speeding up development time. I spent a lot of time just rethinking the whole interface for each new platform (except PS4 which is identical to Xbox One) and that is time consuming, not to mention specific console features, on the other hand players do feel like it was hand-crafted for their device, so there’s that. Each new platform was made possible with the previous one, so it’s not something that I can say it was a total mistake.

Technology wise, I’ve kept using my own tech for all releases, stubbornness perhaps? And that is not without it’s caveats. With engines like Unreal 4, Unity and Gamemaker these days if feels almost ridiculous to consider building your own tech for many, but not for me, not yet anyway. I used other engines in the past, I did release my first 2 games on XNA, and after that I decided that it was time to build my own tech, so I could be more flexible and not caring if an engine is discontinued or not, that was the goal. And on that part it succeeded, the same code runs on all platforms, except for specific render, input, etc. It took work, a lot, and after so many platforms I have a better idea of things that need better abstraction, in fact for the past week I’ve been just cleaning up code for future projects, feels more robust now. But I have a bit of regret of platforms that I ported the engine and possibly will never use it again, like Wii U, maybe even Nintendo 3DS. While the others, now that the work is done I can reuse for future games, it’s possible that I’ll never use for some again, so it was an effort for a one time only, and that is a problem, one that could have been prevented by using an existent engine.
I tried using Unity for 3 weeks, did some tests with GameMaker, and it was a cool experience, knowledge doesn’t hurt right? But haven’t made my mind yet about switching away from my own tech, mostly because I know it well, I can quickly changes things around for each project and mostly because I love working on that part as well, it’s fun, even if it’s just for me. I’ll revisit this if/when I need to switch to a “full 3d” game.

So many platforms!!

It’s a game that’s on a lot of devices now, and there are several reasons to do so, more audience, chance to make more money, get the game more known, etc, brand recognition and proving the studio is capable of delivering. I also made it because I had the chance right now, I don’t know the future, may not be able to pull that again, also it was a chance to establish a relation with Steam, Xbox, Nintendo and Sony. My idea is to keep making games for platforms that each makes sense, but trying to cut down time between each release. It was too sparse now, because of the reasons mentioned above.

Marketing is still something I suck at, I do have a twitter account where I talk about my games, but also about tons of other stuff, mostly movies and general day things, is that even called marketing? Too late I decided to setup a newsletter list and put it on Upfall Studios website, should have done it earlier, I got 100 people to subscribe in the last year and half, I could have way more in these nearly 7 years as indie dev.
I also created a twitter account for Upfall Studios, so it’s basically a cleaned up version of my own, just news about the games and launches, a more “professional” account I call it. Taking care of so many social stuff, twitter, facebook, etc is time consuming and doesn’t come to me as naturally as using my personal account, so that is still a problem probably. For the most part I follow devs and not “companies” even when they are indies, so that’s mostly what I like to do, chances are there are more people like me.

Community (love you guys)

I like responding to people, I don’t mind getting asked questions and I’ve answered to 100% of emails I got, either about the game or gamedev in general. I’ve taken time to meet other developers in person when they wanna ask me questions. Treat others the way you wanna be treated, easy right?
I’ve been extremely luck with the players and community surrounding QoD, they are nice, active in recommending the game to friends and I couldn’t have wished for a better community. Goal is to keep incrementing the amount of course =)
Never lie or go on radio silence regarding customers. There are tons of Early access games that suddenly stop and not even a goodbye post, that’s the worse part, the waiting for months to see if project is alive. They won’t trust you again, even if you switch to a different studio, they won’t forget. So if project fails explain it, if you are delayed on a patch say so. Almost all the time players will understand and be supportive. When I was making the Xbox One and Nintendo ports I had to delay the PC updates for a couple months and players were really supportive, as long as they know why you are late on some promise.

It’s never just “X more months of dev”

NEVER, ever, if you think it’s just 2 more months, odds are that it’s 4 more. We suck at calculating time for the most part (or at least I do), because we conceive the game in your minds and you can see it, mostly complete, but making that happen takes much more time. PC version was delayed, both Xbox and Nintendo ports took much longer than I expected, the PS4 one was shorted, because I counted with worst case scenario but things went well at first try. In my experience completing the game 1-2 months before the release can have a positive effect, especially for a 1 man team. I finished the Xbox One version 2 months before, full approved on certification, and spent that time just trying to promote it, and was able to gather some awareness for the game. I finished the Nintendo versions just 10 days before, and even had to delay the game once, I regret now that I didn’t calculated/handled things better. Lesson learned, let’s see if I don’t make that mistake again.

Everything else

I made that mistake in the past and I still do, I can’t separate well development time and actual life time, so I end up working too many hours, and it’s addicting.
QoD was made partially at night when I still had a day job, and the last 1 and a half year in full time, but that doesn’t mean I was able to do twice as much work unfortunately.
When you work for someone else you have a schedule, but if you work on your own time, it’s harder. Most people tell me it’s hard to stay focused working, and I have that problem too, but not in a way that I can’t work, but mostly because I blend in leisure time with work, and working from home doesn’t help. It’s easy to get distracted, then you feel guilty and spend a couple more hours working. And while I don’t think I’m super slow, I could be using my time better. That’s something I want to change, I don’t thing strict work schedules work well, but not having clear boundaries doesn’t either. If anyone is managing this well please let me know. Open to suggestions :)
It’s easy to find people saying this, but I’ve now experienced it myself, when you have a problem that you can’t solve don’t spend hours on the PC, take a walk, go do something else, the solution will come to mind, seriously, it works very often. You trick your mind into something else and the other problem keeps getting solved in the background.

What now?

In approximately 3 weeks the PS4 version will be released, I don’t any plans for more ports so I intend to move to a new game, and honestly I’m scared, I don’t have a solid idea yet, been mostly sketching ideas or trying some prototypes, and the thought of deciding “let me spend 1-2 years” in this new game is a bit scary, “can I come up with all the money?”, “will it be good?”.
I wish I had a small cool idea to try for a couple months instead of a bigger one, but as I mentioned before, QoD was also supposed to be a 6 months project that turned out into 4 years so better not force anything. I’m trying not to think of “this is gonna be a cool idea that everyone will like” and instead trying to come up again with something that I would like to play, even if others don’t like it, development flows more naturally like that.
Oh and I want to take 2 weeks of proper vacations after the PS4 release, haven’t had vacations in over two years, thinking of backpacking a couple countries, it’s cheaper and it’s good “mind food”-(source:gamasutra