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  • Postmortem: Joshua Nuernberger's Gemini Rue

    [04.14.11]
    - Joshua Nuernberger

  • 2. Having a Solid Workflow

    Before Gemini Rue, I had worked on a five-year-long failed epic before giving that up and completing my first game, La Croix Pan in 2007. From those previous projects, I experienced the weight that over-ambition can have on a game and the importance of constraining your scope to reasonable limits. Because of that, I was determined not to let over-ambition prevent Gemini Rue from ever seeing the light of day like so many other independent projects. It's so easy, especially when you are starting out as a game designer, to get seduced by delusions of grandeur, endless feature additions, and revisions to make a game "better" (when all you're really doing is modifying, not improving content), and so I made the incentive to safeguard myself from that while creating Gemini Rue.

    I did this by trying to get the entire game done as fast as possible, regardless of how the game looked, played, or felt -- I opted to finish it first, and then go back and revise it; otherwise, there was a good chance that I would never complete the game. By building the entire game from the ground up in skeletal form, I had a fully playable build within eight months. At the start of production, the first thing I did was prototype the Blue Chamber segment, in which I could make sure that all the combat and interface functionality would work.

    Once I was sure that the combat worked, I then went on to mass produce placeholder art for Barracus and Center 7. For backgrounds, I used rough sketches; for characters, I used base character sprites without creating any walking, talking, or interaction animations -- this also helped me to refine each character's design over the ensuing months without having to redo any of their animation. For programming, I ignored all superfluous interactions and only coded in the navigation to make sure that players could walk through each scene. After that, I implemented only the gameplay required to complete the game from start to finish, nothing more.

    Once the first alpha version was completed in August 2008, I started to go back and refine the game, putting in all the animations, art, and extra interactions. By having a set foundation, it prevented me from a) falling susceptible to over-ambition and feature creep; b) getting discouraged that I would never finish the game. This allowed me to work on the game for the next two years without fear of abandonment, as the game was already playable and complete. Putting the whole game skeleton in place first and building on top of that gave me a more sobering view of the bigger picture and a more realistic expectation of what needed to be done production-wise in both the short and long term.

      

    3. Submitting to IGF

    Submitting the game to the 2010 Independent Games Festival and winning a Student Showcase award was a pivotal moment for what at the time was a hobby project intended to be freeware. Getting into the Independent Games Festival launched Boryokudan Rue (the game's original incarnation) into the wider indie scene and gave it some much needed publicity. However, entering Boryokudan Rue in the IGF easily could not have happened.

    Before the summer of 2009, I had never heard of the Independent Games Festival, let alone much of the entire indie development scene. However, that summer, I was doing some freelance artwork for another independent project. The creator of the project mentioned that he needed his art to submit for something called the "Independent Games Festival." I looked up the website myself and thought, "Hey, why don't I submit my game to this? After all, I'm a student, so it's free!" So with about two months left until the November deadline, still working with my skeleton build of Boryokudan Rue, (now with a bit of added muscle on top) I polished up the game as quickly as possible (and finished the art on the other project). I ended up submitting Boryokudan Rue the week or so before the IGF deadline and thought little more of it. However, that small act turned out to be one of the most important decisions for not only the game, but also my future as a game designer.

    Making it into the Independent Games Festival and to the Game Developers Conference ushered me into a world of gaming that I never knew existed and exposed the game to a wider audience. Eventually this led to showcasing Gemini Rue -- now with the new name -- at E3 (with IndieCade) and at the Eurogamer Expo (with the Indie Games Arcade), which was more publicity than I ever could have hoped for. Plus, when I finally made the decision to go commercial, it gave me some solid footing in which to promote the game, since it already had some previous exposure. So the lesson I learned is: send your game out, get connected, and don't stay cooped up forever.

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