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  • Student Postmortem: DigiPenís Toblo

    [03.01.07]
    - Steve Chiavelli

  •  What Went Wrong


    People Get Sick. It seems like most of the things that went wrong during Toblo’s development have a common origin. Early on in the project a team member fell ill and was more or less unable to do a significant amount of work. He didn’t fully recover until the second semester of the project. The team adapted as best it could, but we probably should have reevaluated our project timeline and rescheduled accordingly.


    Lack of Tools. We had originally planned on having level and object editor tools. Unfortunately this was a major feature that got cut due to time constraints. We ended up using Photoshop as our level editing tool. As you might imagine, creating levels this way was limited and extremely tedious. Object creation was also quite difficult without the proper tools. In Toblo, all objects in the game are made up of blocks. The creation of these entities required tweaking the size and placement of each block individually in a text file. We simply did not have enough time to create many interesting objects in this fashion. As a result, the only prominent objects in the final version of the game are trees.

     

     

    Too Long to Implement Gameplay. We didn’t have a testable version of our game until just over halfway into development. Once we started our play-tests it was immediately obvious we needed to make some changes to our original design. If the gameplay had been present sooner, we could have had more time to make the necessary changes and flesh them out.


    Game Design Change. Due to the complete redesign of Toblo, we had to throw away a huge amount of gameplay and AI code. This sort of thing happens all the time when features are cut, but I think that we were hit especially hard. Roughly half of the existing gameplay code was salvageable after the shift, but unfortunately almost all of the AI code had to be scrapped.


    Menus Implemented Too Late. There wasn’t any sort of menu flow implemented until the last couple months of full time development. Up until that point the engine was structured only to start the game and shut everything down on exit. Once menus were introduced it was a nightmare getting everything stable enough to continue.

     

     

     

    Conclusion


    While there were certainly bumps in the road, I think that Toblo’s development was a resounding success. We faced some immediate setbacks when a team member became ill, and had to juggle our schedule around. As a result some features were dropped, but nobody panicked. We focused on getting the game to a playable state so that we could begin harvesting tester feedback. Once that feedback started coming in, the team managed to overcome a complete design overhaul and pump out a polished product that we all love to play.


    Getting recognition for our hard work is just icing on the cake. We have won a number of awards including the audience award at the 2006 Northwest Games Festival, and the $30,000 grand prize in Intel’s game demo competition for Best Game on the Go. We have also been nominated for Design Innovation and Best Student Game at the 2007 Independent Games Festival. The best thing about these awards is that more people are finding out about Toblo and as a result are playing it. As up-and-coming game developers, that is our dream come true.


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