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  • How Not To Make A Game: An Illtide Postmortem

    - Antoine Sarrazin
  • A few months ago, my graduation ceremony happened, ending my student life, and officially giving me a Master degree in Game Design after working on my last student project: Illtide. This project was a nightmare. And thanks to this event, I had the opportunity to talk about it one last time in public in front of a few people working in the industry, but mostly student in first or second year working on their projects. And instead of telling how "amazing" our project was, I thought it was better to be honest and talk about what happened during production. This article is a bit edited (and translated) transcription of what I said.

    So first, let me present to you the project I've worked on with nine classmates for 4 months.

    Illtide is a three player online action/adventure cooperative boss rush game.


    To be honest, nobody cares about the game, and neither me or the team have interest in trying to sell you what we made or what we could make because nobody on the team would like to continue what we started, because we lived hell working on this project.

    Our classmates can testify of how "salty" we were during production, so salty that we may have left marks in what used to be our working space. But, I'm still here to write about it, and the whole team was there during the presentation to talk about it.

    So instead, I took the opportunity to tell you about the major lessons we've learned thanks to this project, in hope that you don't make the same mistakes as we did, and if you do or did, tell you that you are not alone, and that solutions exists.

    Part 1

    Let's go back to November 2017. Game pitches have been selected by professors, a "pitch dating" event is organized, and everyone has an idea for which project to work for.

    Students in management set a (scrutiny) with a completely neutral selection, not taking in account any sorts of "blacklist" or personal preferences of everyone to impose impartiality" ...

    Votes are in, and every team is formed with more or less joy as not everyone is going to work on, they're most wanted project. That's normal, that's how it works, and it's the same in the industry.

    This is when the "Purified" team was formed (The game was renamed during production to avoid misleading ideas)

    Purified, at first, is an Asymmetrical, Cooperative Action/RPG video game set in an universe mixed between fantasy and medieval.

    Do you see a problem with this pitch? No? Absolutely normal, it seems to be a cool game.


    This is also a game with online coop, with a third person view where our vertical slice prototype objective is to make a full level with puzzle that have multiple solutions and ending with an epic boss fight.

    Do you see a problem now?

    If you don't see any problems, you might be working for Activision or Rockstar and are able to work 110 hours a week on the project with a fully experienced team, but when you're a student, It is impossible to be able to achieve this fully in four months.

    Which leads us to our first lesson.

    It's always too big !

    Your objective is to reduce the game as much as possible and cut any superfluous features to focus on the essential parts of your game, and maybe you will get to add new thing (but you probably won't have the time).

    Spoiler: Every company has this problem.


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