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  • Postmortem: Octodad

    [10.13.11]
    - Octodad Team

  • 3. Failure to Communicate

    Whenever our team got together to talk in person, we were excellent communicators, and our meetings were fruitful. Once we were in different places working at different times, our ability to communicate broke down. We collectively had a bad habit of not recording our conversations on or offline, so it was easy to forget what we had talked about without being around to remind each other. Our system for storing information online was also a confusing mess. Each discipline had its own task list pages hidden among many nearly identical superfluous pages in a wiki. Nobody would read other group's pages, as they were difficult to find or possibly an inaccurate duplicate.

    Because of these communication issues, we lost a lot of time to team members waiting for other members to complete tasks they were dependent on, not realizing that either the task was never communicated, or that the task had been completed already. This problem was the most ruinous in September, when school resumed and the team spent more days apart than together. Our final crunch snapped us out of it, for the most part, and demonstrated to us just how bad our communication had gotten.

    4. Late, Late Bug Tracking

    Part of what made our Octo-ber crunch successful was the inclusion of bug tracking software. We suddenly had a dependable way to see who needed what done, and a steady meter for how much work remained on the project. We were foolish to wait so late in the project to set up such a clearly beneficial system. Doubly so because we realized the need for bug tracking at the beginning, but pushed it aside because it took more effort to use compared to talking in-person. The need for one consolidated source of updated information was crucial, and personal communi

     

    cation is less reliable than we thought. We won't be doing that ag

     

    ain.

    5. Minecraft

    No, seriously, it was a problem for the Octodad team. We're fun loving people, and an accessible game with infinite replay value is the death of productivity. For two weeks after the Minecraft Beta was released, it steadily took over more and more of the team's time; sneaking in a minute of Minecrafting could swiftly become an hour lost. Incidentally, this was also around the time of our vertical slice. It saw a lot less play after the slice. While Minecraft itself was only a short-term problem, it was a symptom of something more.

    In general, we had issues with getting distracted. During our online meetings, people would have pointless side conversations, or they'd post links to silly videos. In the middle of work days, we'd often play games or stand around watching even more silly videos. The downside of having such a fun, friendly atmosphere is that it's difficult to take things seriously.

     

    A Game With Legs

    Octodad was officially submitted to the IGF on November 1st, about four hours prior to the submission deadline. We simultaneously made the game available to the public and asked a few members of the press to check it out. We felt the pride of accomplishment in seeing our development all the way through, and a nervous anticipation as our bizarre brainchild was released into the world. We also held quite a party in celebration.

    Prior to the announcement of the IGF finalists, we received a lot of positive attention. In the two weeks after releasing the game, Octodad was mentioned on Kotaku, Joystiq, IndieGames.com, RockPaperShotgun, and many other news outlets. The trailer that we prepared for the launch of the game, which has been viewed 220,000 times as of this writing, made it easy for the media, as well as players, to share our game with others. The game has been downloaded 160,000 times from our web site, with mirrors and torrent files popping up all over the world. We were also able to get feedback from players by keeping an eye on Twitter. Releasing the game for free has allowed us to gain a reputation as a group of talented developers with insane ideas before we even finished school.

    Ultimately, we achieved our goal and won a spot in the IGF Student Showcase. We've gone to GDC. Soon enough, we'll have to close the chapter on this first incursion into the cephalopod fatherhood simulator genre. The friends we made, the lessons we learned, the trials we overcame, and the experiences we had will stick with us even as school ends and the team goes their separate ways. In the future we'll look back, shake our heads, and laugh as we remember that strange and silly time when we became the fathers of Octodad.

    Author Credits

    Brian O'Donnell was the lead programmer on Octodad. He is enrolled in DePaul University's game development masters program. Jake Anderson was the lead designer on Octodad. He recently graduated from DePaul University's game development program. Nick Esparza was the lead artist on Octodad. He is a recent graduate from DePaul University's animation program. John Murphy was the executive producer on Octodad. He is a recent graduate from DePaul University's game development masters program. Kevin Zuhn was the writer and project lead on Octodad. He is a recent graduate from DePaul University's game development program. Kevin, John and some of the other energetic, playful and rebellious Octodad developers have started an independent studio, Young Horses, where they will develop a commercial followup to Octodad as well as other unusually innovative games.

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