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Postmortem: Vivid Games' Real Boxing
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Postmortem: Vivid Games' Real Boxing

January 21, 2013 Article Start Previous Page 4 of 4
 

4. Kismet and Animation

We had problems with Kismet, which was used by designers for the prototypes. Their job was well done, but a problem appeared in the final version of the game. We saw real monsters built from the blocks, and gargantuan links between independent elements of the game. It was a source of extreme errors.

We also had to deal with the framerate and drops in performance. For example, the reaction to the attack was associated with face and body deformation, facial expressions, blood or bruises. Problems ended after we transferred those events to the Unreal Script -- programmers rewrote what level designers had created in Kismet on the scripting language. It gave us better control and improved performance.

We also encountered serious problems with the animation. Perhaps we didn't spend enough time on research and training, because part of it was incorrect. Particularly troublesome was the distance between players. We recorded three different distances for each hit, so that devs could afford to choose the best one.

However, we still had the unusual situation when the boxers began to attack at the same time. We had to use a couple of tricks to overcome this including collision detection, inverse kinematics and selection of the most appropriate action.

5. Crunch Time

The decision to cooperate with external companies was correct, but we found out that reporting errors and bug fixing became much harder. Direct contact always shortens the path and speeds up the process. It was the right decision, but passing the data to the new programmers who later joined the production almost killed our server on the same day when we had to finish a valid build!

Like most developers, our team was working flat out at the end of the project to deliver on time, as Apple had indicated they would possibly get behind the game in a big way. During this time, one of the rooms literally turned into a repository of energy drinks and local restaurants provided meals on a daily basis for those working extra hours. The ambitious nature of the project put massive pressure on the team, and each developer was aware of the need for it.

There is no simple recipe for a solution to this problem. We can't pretend we found one either -- yet -- but we will change few things in the future. To name but the smallest one, for example, as we experienced occasional delays due to lack of complementary equipment -- graphic designers required additional monitors and had to wait for delivery, so we'll surely optimize the work stations earlier next time.

In the case of a tight schedule, every short downtime can cause people to stay longer. For our next high-budget title we will spend more time planning, researching and will invest even more resources into the project preparation. For Real Boxing, we knew that we were working on a triple-A title, but that's easier said than done.

It is certain, however, that every team needs to rest and regenerate after such a hard work, so everyone got additional paid vacation after the release of the game and began to receive overtime. We also prepared a huge “Thanks for the hard work” banner for the office.

Final Verdict

We feel that with Real Boxing, we achieved a victory, one that was confirmed by reviews and gamers alike. The investment in quality shone though, and we were awarded the coveted Editor's Choice by Apple, and received almost universally great reviews from all the major media that we targeted.

We also learnt a lot of lessons, as developing high-end games for mobile devices is new territory. Real Boxing has by far and away been the biggest venture for our studio and brought invaluable experience. But this is not the end. We plan on supporting Real Boxing by providing updates, releasing new content (arenas, boxers, items), and expanding the multiplayer mode. We're also looking at the possibility of releasing our game on other platforms. Of course, Real Boxing is just the first of a few high end titles we've got in the works, so watch this space!

Data Box

Developer: Vivid Games
Publisher:
Vivid Games
Release Date:
15 November 2012
Platforms:
iOS
Number of Developers:
25 full-time, 8 subcontractors
Length of Development:
5 months
Budget:
$300,000
Development Tools:
Unreal Engine, Scaleform
And:
More than 500 energy drinks, few boxing training sessions, 25 pairs of boxing gloves, about 200 dinners, one punching bag, a few thousand coffees, one big Thank You banner for our team.


Article Start Previous Page 4 of 4

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Comments


Valentina Ciolino
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Great article guys!

russell mckee
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Soooooo........ ummmmmm.......... most (if not all) Post Mortems talk about sales, like in the number of paid downloads??? Like um, how much money did you make off of this game?? But you give us one little ol sentence in four long pages "We feel that with Real Boxing, we achieved a victory, one that was confirmed by reviews and gamers alike". You'd rather talk about "Joe Shmoe beta -tested 36 hours" and "More than 500 energy drinks"???

Simon Carless
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Russell, I note that the game has IAP, so it won't just be about 'paid downloads', but yep - $300,000 is a fairly hefty sum for a mobile title (or maybe not nowadays, but seems like it to me!), so I wonder how it's doing on the road to making its money back.

Quan Ngo
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Totally agree. This article provide little useful information as a postmortem.

Grzegorz Brol
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Hi Russell,

One month and a half after release = almost 150 000 sales.

Bram Stolk
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Is there is 0 missing in the budget?
How can you hire 25+8 people for half a year at 300K?

Justin Lloyd
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You can't. $300K would barely cover a single month of a 25-person team's salary plus G&A unless you are paying each of them $1,000 a month.

Pawel Miechowski
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You can. The guys are from Poland where costs of "daily" life are significantly lower than in US or Western Europe but the salaries are lower too. And I'd say not each one of the 25+8 team was 100% assigned for this game so the costs should be filtered thru this. Of course, they have had to pay for the office and the overhead costs, but I can easily imagine this team would have done RB for 300k. After all, I'm a developer from Poland too.

Grzegorz Brol
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Hi Paweł,

Thanks for the answer. I could write exactly the same thing :-) Btw, great article about Anomaly!

Justin Lloyd
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I concede the point to Pawel.

Pierre Xavier
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Hmmm, i still prefer super punch out! :D

Jorge Garcia
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I really appreciate the postmortem on this, I am a huge fan of boxing and interactive media, so this was a joy to read.

Bram: I was thinking the same thing, there doesn't seem to be enough in that budget to pay the employees a reasonable wage...

Jay OToole
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I really enjoy postmortems and yours is no exception. So, thank you. I apologize if some of my questions appear naive or unimportant. I am still very much learning about game development and the inherent challenges and risks associated. For what it is worth, I thought I would offer a few questions and comments that remained with me after reading your postmortem.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

1. You write that "one of the key decisions was to bring people from different teams together to work on the game." Why was this so important?

Beyond simply providing more "hours" of production in the last weeks before release, how did having people from different teams working on the project make this particular development process better than it otherwise might have been? Did the diversity of perspectives or experience lead you to make novel decisions? Did you find that having people from different teams allowed you to generate more creative ideas, new ways of developing the game, etc? Just curious.

2. I really enjoyed reading the section on The Fighting System. I thought it was thorough and provided sufficient detail to allow me to see how it might generalize to other game development projects. Admittedly, I am not a game developer so maybe others who are actively making games feel differently.

3. Sounds like the decision to outsource some of the development was made early. I would be curious to know what criteria you used during your selection process. How many animation studios did you consider before making your decision to work with Dash Dot Creations? I have similar questions for your decision to work with Alvernia Studios and Studio OM. I thrilled to hear that it worked out for you and I think giving readers an understanding of how you came to those decisions would be really beneficial (especially if the cost of outsourcing to those particular studios is prohibitive for other projects).

WHAT WENT WRONG

1. Is it standard practice to implement changes AFTER final testing? Again, my ignorance of game development is exposed, but I am still curious. Based on my experience with other software testing and my understanding of other development processes, changes are not encouraged after final testing, for the very reason you illustrate in the postmortem. Are implementing changes after final tests a necessary evil?

2. I really appreciated the concrete suggestions you outlined under "Crunch Time." To give me/us some perspective, how much time did you spend planning and researching for this project? Having an a better understanding of the resources (time / money) committed on this project would give me/us a sense of what "more" means in this scenario.

Thank you again for your insights and contribution.

Grzegorz Brol
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Hi Jay,

'Did you find that having people from different teams allowed you to generate more creative ideas, new ways of developing the game, etc?' No, it was the last month of the production. There was no time for such things.

The Fighting System - developer Diary Part #2 should help.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hVbjjORop3U

The decision to outsource some of the development - developer Diary Part #1 should help.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GwEbsqfkOOg

'Is it standard practice to implement changes AFTER final testing?' Well, "final testing" should mean "final testing". Theoretically... 'Are implementing changes after final tests a necessary evil?' It could be true ;-)


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