Eyes of the Exorcist Post Mortem.

January 9th, 2012 2:24 pm

Eyes of the Exorcist was made as the first collaborative effort
between six strangers from who met through the San Diego Game
Developer’s Meet-up Group
. The team consisted of 3 programmers, two 3D
artist, and one 2D artist/musician. We spent the full 72 hours of the
Jam in the living room of one of our member’s home. On a whole it was
an incredibly fun learning experience.

What went Right:
* The Location – Caryn and her family were gracious enough to let 5
strangers take over their living room for the weekend. Sharing ideas,
sketches, and code face to face was far more productive than a more
technology based solution.
* Concept Voting – Once the theme was announced we brainstormed for a
while but had not reached a consensus. We agreed that main proponent
of each idea would do a final pitch, then we would vote on all the
ideas. Voting was handled by anonymous paper ballet. Each participant
wrote the numbers 1-8 next to each of the eight ideas. Eight indicated
their favorite idea and one was the least favorite. Each idea’s ballet
score was added up, and we picked the one with the highest cumulative
value. This process allowed all of us to air our ideas, and choose one
that we could agree on.
* Team Energy – Working face to face and having other people depend on
your output brought about a tremendous energy among the group. Two of
us had participated in prior Ludum Dare’s as individuals. We both had
far more energy and drive working as a team than our individual
* Using Unity – We used Unity for game development. We were able to
take advantage of the input, GUI, character controller, particle
system, and camera components that unity provides. This saved us a
great deal of time not making basic game control objects.
* Art Asset Naming Convention – Despite using Unity for our project
our artists used the Unreal Engine’s naming convention to organize the
art assets. This naming convention allowed us to keep track of who was
working on what, and what stage it was at.
* Division of Labor – Since our team was comprised of programming and
art specialists the programmers could focus on the scripts while the
artists could focus on the art.
* Food – Prior to the start of Ludum Dare the team acquired a large
quantity of sushi, sticky rice, tea, coffee, and chocolate covered
banana chips. We were able to graze off this bounty over the course of
the contest and only had to go out for food three times.

What went Wrong:
* Ambition – When we selected our initial concept we voted on the idea
that we felt would be the most fun game, not what we could complete in
the time limit. This concept involved a spooky ghost town, two
different vision modes, multiple attacks, power ups, inventory items
and a leveling system. In retrospect this was way too much for a Ludum
* Lack of Documentation – We kept verbal and mental track of what
features we wanted to implement and in what order. As development
progressed new features were added to the list, but there was no clear
indication as to which features were vital to the build and which were
nice add-ons.
* Tool Familiarization – Since this was our first collaborative
project the artists and programmers were not familiar with each
other’s tools. As such we spent valuable contest time figuring out how
to get art assets into the game. Also we could not utilize the
artist’s time to do level design due to their unfamiliarity with the
unity editor. These things should have been resolved prior to the
start of the event.
* Lack of Leadership – We did not have one person in over all control
of the project, and instead spent a lot of time debating amongst
ourselves over the proper course of action. Also we were unable to
incorporate some of the art assets since the programmers were too
focused on programming tasks.
* Lack of mile stones – We had an idea of what we wanted the end
result of our project to be and when it had to be done. We did not set
time limits on the intermediary steps to get to that final goal. There
were two attempts to have working builds by a certain hour, however we let
both those deadlines slip trying to get it to work perfectly instead of
Kludging together something so we could move on.
* Wasted time on Kitty – One of our team members (Wilson) was insistent on
getting kitty bonus points and wasted valuable time creating scripts
for an NPC cat that did not do much for the end game experience. This
feature was cut from the contest build and all that time was wasted.

Ludum Dare Game Jam was an incredibly fun learning experience. Working
as a team kept us incredibly motivated. Sadly we bit off more than we
could crew and the end result suffered for it. We now have a better
idea of each other’s capabilities and what can be accomplished in 72

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