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Postmortem: Blitz Games' Droplitz
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Postmortem: Blitz Games' Droplitz

January 6, 2010 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 3

What Went Wrong

1. Utilizing Staff!

Even with a small game and a well thought out design that did not need iteration, having a fluid development team did have its share of problems. Artists, programmers, and designers moved on and off the project, frequently at very short notice, as the larger commissioned paid projects took priority and consequently the handovers were often not as well-managed as they could have been.

From a cost perspective the changing of hands and re-learning that frequently had to occur meant that the game took many more man-months to create than it would have done with a static team.

2. Decentralized Development!

The wonder that was decentralized development also provided its own set of issues. With this very empowered team focused on delivering the most bang for buck with every tight iteration, the last thing that people really wanted to do was hold off on delivering a feature and instead tidy up the code base. This approach worked, but only just, as the code is now creaking pretty badly from the amount of rapid hacks that were made to it.

By the end of the project, seemingly simple changes became bogged down in crufty legacy code; in many ways it was like going back in time to the early days of game development when this sort of thing was the norm -- and it wasn't any more enjoyable this time round...

3. "Politics Trumps People"

The flip side of empowering our fluid teams and adhering to the "People Trump Process" ideal is the almost equally famous saying: "Politics Trumps People". The game's requirements were very visible, and the team were fully aware of what was needed by when, but that still didn't mean we were impervious to external attacks.

During the course of development there was much catching of curveballs as the team had to change course to cope with changing requirements from stakeholders and platform providers. They did a sterling job at coping with this, but the politics definitely called the shots over everything else.

4. PC Version

Of the four versions of Droplitz that we developed, the PC version gave us the most trouble. Perhaps this was to be expected, since for the last several years BGS has focused mainly on console development. In many ways we were just not set up for PC development (although this has now changed).

In addition, as mentioned above, although Atlus gave us excellent QA support, we struggled with compatibility issues; audio in particular proved problematic with some sound cards bizarrely playing at double speed! Although we did our utmost to support the PC version, we're very aware that it was the least reliable of the formats and this is something we are improving for future projects.

5. Difficulty

It's tough to admit it, but we knew from the start that the game was perhaps too difficult. This goes back to the beginning of both this post mortem and the project itself; the prototype was crucial to getting the project greenlit because it was too hard to describe.

Is this a problem when trying to make the game successful in the marketplace? Yes, it can be; to put it another way, how do you successfully market a hardcore puzzler?

Here again, the way this project was developed comes to the fore; while the game progressed in short bursts -- and when people were available this meant amazingly high levels of commitment and morale -- it also meant that we could never schedule the time necessary to create a tutorial.

Many people pick Droplitz up and get it immediately, but conversely many face a huge block in understanding what's being asked of them, and panic in the face of those rapidly falling drops! Given our time again, we would definitely make it a priority to build in a tutorial or training level.

And We Learnt...

From Arcade's point of view, we learnt a heck of a lot from the development of Droplitz, not least that sometimes you can use the wisdom and creativity of your company's crowd to find a rough gem and turn it into a polished diamond with little overhead -- but a lot of enthusiasm!

When we go through this process again, we'll be a lot more prepared for the downsides and will definitely force ourselves to "tidy up" and document more as we go along. On balance though, the passion and commitment that the project generated, and the new practices we learnt, made it worth it 100 percent.

Developer: Blitz Arcade

Publisher: Atlus U.S.A., Inc.

Release Date: June 2009

Platform: Xbox Live Arcade; iPhone; PC (Steam); PSN

Number of Full-Time Developers: 3-8 depending on stage

Number of Contractors: None

Length of Development: 26 months (with large periods of inactivity)

Development Software: Visual Studio, Photoshop, Maya

Technology: BlitzTech middleware

Article Start Previous Page 3 of 3

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