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Postmortem: Smudged Cat Games' The Adventures Of Shuggy
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Postmortem: Smudged Cat Games' The Adventures Of Shuggy

September 29, 2011 Article Start Previous Page 4 of 4

4. Publicity

Shuggy appeared on XBLA on the 15th of June, without warning or fanfare.

I left publicizing the game in the hands of the publisher, and ended up feeling quite disappointed at the amount of publicity Valcon managed to generate. Once we had a release date, I felt we needed to be letting everyone know about the game. I spoke to the publisher as I felt we should be emailing game video and screenshots to as many web sites as possible.

Valcon didn't want me to contact any media directly, as this would be duplicating their efforts, so I left the publicity in their hands. It took ages for the official press release about the game to appear, because apparently Valcon was waiting on it being approved by Microsoft. We even had to wait until the game was actually released before getting any review codes, meaning there were no reviews of the game available on the day of release.

As this is my first XBLA, game I don't know what kind of PR Microsoft could or should do, but Shuggy didn't get any attention on the Xbox dashboard. Combined with the lack of pre-release publicity from Valcon, this meant that the game went live without anyone knowing about it.

Shuggy was also released on the same day as the latest Magic: The Gathering title, which got a lot of attention and has been really successful. The combination of going out cold and up against such a strong title really didn't work in Shuggy's favor.

Trying to put myself in Microsoft's place perhaps its lack of interest stems from the fact it took so long to release the game. By the time Shuggy came out, a few of its more interesting elements had been overshadowed by other titles, so Microsoft may have felt the game was treading over old ground. I don't know any of this for sure, and still think that each new XBLA release should have some kind of attention of the Xbox dashboard.

In hindsight, I wish I'd followed my instincts and taken the matter into my own hands. I'm going to make sure I give any future projects a bit more publicity during development, rather than waiting until they're released. I've learned this lesson the hard way.

5. I Tried to Do Too Much

Like most projects, Shuggy started out fairly simple, and then more and more features kept getting added. As well as adding the various different game mechanics, I had the co-op, challenge, and head-to-head modes, as well as some grand plans to have various minigames themed around some of the mechanics. The minigames actually got implemented, but never got polished enough to make it into the final product, after Sierra suggested that there might be a bit much going on.

Since then, I've released the mini-games as separate Indie titles. There's A Bomb's Way, based around the floating jump and rotating mechanics which is like a version of the old arcade hit Bomb Jack, the game the floating jump was based on. The Tower: A Bomb's Climb is based around the zombie game mechanic where the player doesn't have direct control over the character, but can power up his jump to propel him up a never ending tower.

I'm not a big fan of the head-to-head mode; I don't think it's that interesting, and while I quite like the challenge mode, I think it would have been best if I'd just implemented the single player and co-op modes from the beginning... and added support for playing co-op online. It's too easy to get carried away when you come up with an idea for something, but when you're working with such a small team, I've learned that you really need to keep things simple and focus on the best aspects of your game.

The End?

The development of Shuggy has been a bit of a headache and a cause of concern for me over the last four years. So much so that it has made me consider if it's what I really want to do, particularly considering how badly the game has sold to date. My wife and I now have a newborn baby (a lot of this was typed out using one finger as I held my baby in the other) so I'm not sure I can face the financial risks that game development brings.

I have another couple of projects in the pipeline that I'd like to see finished, and see how they go, but I'm just not prepared to take the same risks that I took in order to complete Shuggy. They'll probably be released as Indie Games. While I will always love playing video games, and dream of crafting my own virtual worlds, I fear this may be the end of game development for me.

Data Box

Developer: Smudged Cat Games
Publisher: Valcon Games
Release Date: 15th June 2011
Platforms: XBLA
Number of full-time developers: 1
Number of contractors: 5
Length of development: 4½ years
Budget: $250k
Lines of Code: 70,000
Key Development Tools: Visual Studio 2008, XNA Framework 3.1, CorelDRAW, SVN
Number of SVN revisions at release: 666

Article Start Previous Page 4 of 4

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