A common theme for the recent few weeks is that what I’ve been doing isn’t good enough for The Big Project. There are three main areas where this is true: Music (and Sound Effects), Art, and Design. Yeah, that means pretty much the whole game, but let me explain:
Music and Sound Effects
I’ve always done everything myself for music in my games. With TBP, I realized early on that my best wasn’t going to cut it. I’m not bad at a certain style of music, but honestly it’s pretty random whether my music turns out the way I intended, and my attempts to branch into other styles haven’t gone too well. The situation is the same with sound effects, where my style is fairly limited because I only use a couple tools (that I know how to use quickly).
I could spend a lot of time learning new styles of music and sound effects creation. Or I could save a lot of time and end up with a better product by getting help.
Just browsing through some royalty-free music on Audio Jungle, I found styles and tracks that fit TBP much better than anything I could do myself. I’ll be trying to get custom made music for TBP, and having something to reference for getting the custom music will hopefully help get exactly what I need.
The story is actually very similar to music, but it took a little while longer to realize. With TBP I’ve spent a good amount of time working on visuals, particularly a couple months ago (before I showed the game to publishers). I got most of the way there, but having a game that looks 75% awesome is fine, but it means 25% is not awesome, and that’s what people will notice. I’ve got what it takes for making awesome particles and effects and code-driven animation. But with UI, I can do good but not great. And with characters and backgrounds, I’m just plain not good enough.
Looking through the portfolio of other artists looking for work (see conceptart.org and indiegamer.com), there are just some aspects of art that some people do better than others. It’s difficult to quantify what makes one artist’s work stand out so much more than another, but you know it when you see it. And when I see it, I write down the URL to their portfolio. And this morning I emailed my top choice.
I’ve been a designer my whole professional life, so what made me realize TBP’s design wasn’t good enough? It wasn’t a revelation I had myself. My producer told me.
Lately I’ve been focused on refining the controls, progression and upgrade systems, and how the levels are designed. Then I sent a build that I felt was pretty awesome to my producer at Chillingo. He played it, talked to others about it, and then basically told me that something was still off or missing. I was baffled and frustrated, but after a bit of discussion we figured out what the problem was.
It had nothing to do with what I was working on, but what I wasn’t working on. In short, the game wasn’t hardcore enough. That revelation wasn’t one I was close to arriving at myself, and it was a bit painful to get there. But after figuring out the nature of the problem, the solutions have been very effective, easy to implement, and haven’t harmed the smooth initial progression or any mechanics that I’d been working so hard on.
I expect I’ll work all by myself again on some future projects (aside from playtesting), but for now I’m happy to have a bit more input and assistance to make TBP the best it can be.
I’ve acquired a 5th-Gen iPod Touch. That means it’ll be a lot easier to add support for widescreen devices. I hope to have updates for Slydris, Inferno+, Ballistic SE, and Fireball SE available before the end of December. If that happens, there might be a sale when they go live.