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Postmortem: Pipeworks Software's Deadliest Warrior
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Postmortem: Pipeworks Software's Deadliest Warrior


November 11, 2010 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 4 Next
 

What Went Wrong

1. Selecting and Processing The Motion Capture Data:

JM: Even though the decision to go with motion capture was the correct decision to make and the end result was what we wanted, our initial methods of selecting and processing the mo-cap data caused us quite a bit of extra work.

We were definitely unaware of the complexities and time required for selecting hundreds of motion capture moves based off of videos of said moves (each move having multiple takes).

This caused us to put in our order for our moves much later than we would have liked, and also resulted in us receiving some of the data later than desired. Luckily the studio we used, House of Moves, was extremely helpful and got us everything that we needed while answering all of our questions.

Processing the data once we got it back also took us by surprise since we had to take a move that had, say, 100 frames, and then cut it down to 50 frames or so in order to keep the action moving quick enough for a fighting game while still maintaining the realistic movements of each warrior. The animators definitely had their hands full.

Since there was more cleanup work than we expected and the game relied so heavily on the warrior animations, this put a lot of pressure on the team to work on other aspects of the gameplay while chomping at the bit for each processed mo-cap movement to come in.

Because of this, we had to condense some of our milestone deliveries towards the end of the project, which gave us more time to get all of these animations hooked up while still delivering what we promised the publisher, but which made us work harder than we would have liked.

2. Unprepared for Localization

PV: We opted for double compliance testing, which was great, and we foolishly underestimated the amount of work required for localization. We also thought the game would be in a more polished state than it was when we started localization, and this caused us to have to add new text to the project as we went on.

Not only was it hard to manage, but we also worked with an offshore team that did not keep the same hours. Normally this would not be a problem, but since we did not have all of the text ready from the start it meant that we would receive new text from Pipeworks during the daytime but the localization team was out of office and could not get to it until the next day.

Since they were out of office, they could not schedule resources for the next day and thereby we would miss a day while we got everyone assigned again. This seemed to happen all the way to the very end of the project, even after our contract with the localization team was over. We basically had to reach out to all of our friends all over the world to get them to translate pieces of sporadic text. My Facebook status updates were pretty funny for a while -- something random like "How do I say 'sever limbs' and 'decapitate your enemies' in German?"

JM: Our original plan to have all of our in-game text ready for localization was foiled for a number of different reasons. The main reason was our focus on tweaking and refining the actual gameplay fighting mechanics, and not concentrating on what would make the UI better.

As we were compiling all of the in-game text for translation, we realized that we still hadn't named all of the warriors' moves, nor had we come up with hints and tips for the loading screens. We ended up sending updated drops of text to be translated after our initial drop -- much to the chagrin of the publisher and localizers, I'm sure. There are always a few pickup lines here and there, but the amount of pickup text that we sent was more than we felt comfortable with.

3. A Need for More Multiplayer Testing

PV: The hardest and most vital part to get right in a fighting game is character balance. We played over 100,000 battle simulations, had a full-time team of dedicated testers, and bought in new players for game testing sessions throughout the project, in order to get the intricacies of each character right.

After releasing the game, the thousands of multiplayer mode users quickly discovered the ninja was overpowered. For experienced players, they could avoid most of these issues, but for newbies, going up against the ninja was a frustrating experience. After about a week of observation we were able to get a good handle of balance issues and began work on a Title Update immediately.

One of the great things about the gaming community is that the dedicated fans are very vocal. We were able to get a lot of great feedback from the players on the forums, Xbox Live, and Spike.com. Using this feedback and running some ideas past the players, we were able to create a Title Update that addressed all the balance issues. If we were not listening to the community, it would not have been possible to get this done as quickly as we did, so a big thank you must go out to all the fans that played this game for hours on end and gave us excellent feedback.


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