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  • Postmortem: Octodad

    [10.13.11]
    - Octodad Team

  • 4. Setting our Sights and Sounds

    Ensuring that the sound and visual design of our game fit the silliness of the mechanics and narrative improved our game immensely. We had a dedicated sound designer from the beginning, so we were able to avoid the common pitfall of shoving all the sounds in at the end of development. Our sound designer, Seth Parker, went wild making ambient music, collision sounds, hilarious placeholder voices, and octopus noises (often times with his own body).

    Furthermore, our team's early attention to sound gave us the time to seek out and work with professional voice actors, and to obtain permission to appropriate Dalmation Rex and the Eigentones' "Octopus I Love You" as our theme song. The sounds, voices, and songs did more than make Octodad extra funny and charming; they also brought a sense of reality to the team whenever we listened to them, bolstering our confidence about the whole project.

    From the beginning, we consciously thought of visual design as a way of reinforcing the hilarious experience that we wanted to create. We made a decision early to follow mid-century visual aesthetic and design. During pre-production, we pulled a lot of inspiration from Cartoon Modern, a book all about 1950s cartoons, and the Incredibles art book. For the environments to reach the same level of inspired design we looked to famous modern architects and industrial designers from that era: Mies van der Rohe, Ray and Charles Eames, Dieter Rams, and others. While we developed our own feel, this style was at the core of our design decisions along the way. We chose this because the team felt it would match the lighthearted comical feel of the game. The clean lines and bold colors serve to create an idealized world for Octodad to explore and destroy. Going with this visual style also inspired the art team, because they were required to explore graphic design, typography, animation, color theories, furniture design, illustration, and architecture.

    5. Octo-ber Crunch Time

    No matter how well Octodad began, what really mattered was how well we finished it. We had a great number of troubles in the middle of development, especially when school came back into the equation in September. Schedules were shattered, priorities were mixed, everything was grinding to a halt, and the November 1st deadline only loomed closer. We made a stand, and declared the final month of development "Octo-Ber." The whole team would meet on Saturdays and work from 8 AM till 6 PM. With about four such meetings possible, we analyzed all of the things we had left to finish, and broke them into weekly chunks. Amazingly, we got more done each Saturday than we had done in weeks previous. The ominous pressure combined with our love of the project forced us to focus, cut, and refine the game in bursts of activity.

    We continued working up until the day of the deadline, but we got it all done. When we say that this was a positive aspect of development, we don't mean to glorify crunch. We weren't actually working many more hours than we had been previously. However, we were able to recognize that school had impacted our ability to communicate and work effectively during the week. Making a short-term sacrifice of a weekend day in order to gather at the same time and place allowed us to make more efficient use of our precious time, which had a positive impact on our ability to finish the game.

     


     

    What Went Wrong

    1.The Vertical Slice

    Our first attempt at a vertical slice of Octodad was an unmitigated disaster. We were feeling great after some successful pitches and prototypes, and our vision for what Octodad could be was outrageously out of scope. We decided that Octodad's entire house would be the first "level," and set out to make it in a scant few weeks. When the time came to show it to our advisers, they were livid. It was forty minutes long, it was terribly buggy, the art was completely unfinished, there was no work done in the UI, player direction, or camera control, and worst of all, it wasn't the slightest bit funny or fun. In no way did it represent what we wanted our game to be. We had left behind everything that made our prototypes good in an effort to make the game larger and longer, and in do

     

    ing so, failed to accomplish anything.

    After our defeat, we took a good, hard look at the state of things and realized that it would take the entirety of our development to finish Octodad's house alone. And so we did that. Our lesson thoroughly learned, we focused on making a "real" vertical slice out of Octodad's kitchen, and it was the total opposite of our previous effort.

    2. Physics

     

     

    Building a character entirely out of physics objects and having him slam into other physics objects is the crux of our game. And it was a headache to deal with. With so many different kinds of bodies and meshes flailing around, there was an endless stream of physics bugs to sort out: objects not colliding, objects colliding too much, objects jettisoning from the room, and in one strange accident, a room jettisoning from itself. Each bug corrected and each feature added sent ripples across all development, invalidating designs that had worked earlier, or required new designs to be put in place. Any game that tangles with physics is bound to have these troubles, but in our case, we had no game without it, so there was nothing we could do but slog through it all.

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