Lunacy is a game about isolation and exploration on the dark side of the moon – uncovering the mysteries of human existence by exploring an alien pyramid in search of Australe fragments, evading traps through careful movements, and the manipulation of gravity. The development took seven weeks, a total of 333 man-hours. The development team consisted of one programmer, one artist, two level designers, and me, the assistant producer. This was the team’s first development and they did a lot of things right, several problems arose, but most importantly the team learned a great deal to take with them in future developments. This is the postmortem of Lunacy.
What Went Right:
Collaborative Work Environment
The team worked hard to work together on the project, not only in their own discipline, but in other disciplines. Level designers were able to help with the programming aspect, giving the game a very polished and tight feel during gameplay. Not only did it increase the amount of polish and quicken development time, but it allowed all team members to know exactly what is happening in every aspect of the game.
Great Team Dynamic
From the beginning the team really benefited from having a great team dynamic. No matter the stresses of development or their other assignments, the team always had fun, cracked jokes and created an uplifting and fun atmosphere.
Due to the fun team dynamic, the teams morale was very high. Everyone was very motivated to create a great product as they were invested in the game and the team.
What Went Wrong:
Overly Optimistic Schedules
This was the team’s first video game development project and as such they were unsure in their estimation processes exactly how long tasks would take. In the end everything usually balanced out, but in some instances they did not and developers rather than cut things decided to work longer and harder to get features in the game. This can also be translated as pulling heroics.
Developer Gold Plating
Not only did tasks take longer than expected, but developers wanted everything to be perfect, which exponentially increases the development time of the game. The game’s quality increased, but the developers encountered sleep deprivation and heroics to bring the game to the team’s desired quality level.
During the game’s development, the team thought of cool new features to develop and implement into the game. This of course as all developers know, is feature creep. Even late into the development process, new features were discussed and implemented, new changes in art and level design. This caused the team to not adhere to asset locks. The team was able to successfully deliver a great game, but each team member suffered from heroics.
What We Learned:
Use Issue Manager
Early on the team communicated each bug found, notifying the programmer of the issue. While it is easy to do this early on while there are few bugs, as playtesting increases and more bugs are found. The team eventually switched to issue manager that greatly increased the amount of defects found and fixed, creating a more polished game.
Develop a Team Culture
The team realized how great working together really was, always enjoying working together whether everyone was stressed or easy. Having a great team culture can really mean the difference in making the game great and feeling unpolished. Nothing can motivate a team more than emotional investment and a great team culture, the team really understood this from developing Lunacy.
Research the Engine
The team had very little knowledge of the engine they were developing on in the beginning of development. As time progressed, the team learned more about the engine and its capabilities. Knowledge like this prior to development would have sped productivity and created less issues during development.
Overall the team learned a lot of great values from this project to move forward in their future video game developments. The team and I had a great time producing Chronoception and are very proud of what we accomplished.