Flying Sweden Postmortem

Will MillerOct 19, 2011

uDevGames 2011 Entry

  • Best Graphics
  • Most Original
  • 2nd place Best Presentation
  • 3rd place Best Audio

About the Team

Hello. I’m Will Miller, long-time fan of uDevGames, and one of the designers of Flying Sweden. Our team consisted of myself, Thomas Karlsson, and David McDonough. David and I have been making games together for almost six years, and have done so professionally for four. Together, we have shipped several AAA games, including Civilization IV, Civilization Revolution, and soon to be released Kingdoms of Amalure: Reckoning. We’ve done several game jams together, but this is our first time participating in uDevGames. Thomas and I have been working on side projects together for a little over a year. He lives in Sweden, and when he’s not drinking beer or playing League of Legends, he’s drawing pictures and animating.

About Flying Sweden

Thomas pitched the idea for Flying Sweden to me about a year ago. His original idea was a much different game than what we would eventually arrive at, but I immediately liked it. The concept was hyperbolic, which is more or less a requirement for me when it comes to side projects, and it presented some really interesting design challenges. At the time, we were working on another project, and had to shelve the idea.

uDevGames rolled around, and the three of us knew we wanted to participate. Initially, we threw around some ideas for action games and platformers – something we were pretty comfortable with from previous games we had done together. We even had tech built to create games like this. Given the three month time frame of the contest, though, we eventually decided to take some creative risks. Flying Sweden seemed like the perfect game to try.

Getting Started

When Thomas originally came up with the idea for Flying Sweden, he wrote a short design document, and drew several concept illustrations. These were a great help when we were getting the project off the ground, but the game he had designed was much different than the game I found myself making.

Flying Sweden was Thomas’s baby, and he initially resisted changes to the original design. Through prototyping and conversation, Thomas and I began to trust each other, and with some give and take, we arrived at a design we were both very happy with. After that, it was off to the races.

Development

One of the big risks we took when making Flying Sweden was to use the Unity engine. David and I had already developed a solid C-based toolset for making 2D games, and we were very comfortable using it. We knew, however, that Flying Sweden would require a more sophisticated UI, which we would have to build support for. The asset pipeline for our engine was also not the best, and getting art into the game quickly was going to be critical to its success. Eventually we decided to go with the Unity engine.

We had experience using Unity, but neither of us had attempted to make a 2D game with it. Fortunately, there are several 3rd party extensions to Unity that make 2D game development much easier. After evaluating several of them, we settled on Unikron Software’s 2D Toolkit, which you can purchase from the Unity Asset Store. 2D Toolkit simplified many of the common problems one faces when making a 2D game. It easily handled sprite atlasing and batching, animation authoring, and even bitmap fonts. If you’re making a 2D game in Unity, this is a must have.

Unity proved to be an invaluable tool. I’m not one to “drink the Kool-Aid” for a particular engine or development approach, but my experience making Flying Sweden with Unity has really sold me on the technology. It really made things easy. The engine got out of the way, and let me work on the game.

What Went Right

Community

The iDevGames community is one of the most supportive game development communities I’ve ever seen. I kept a development thread on the iDevGames forum, and always got supportive and encouraging feedback. The camaraderie I found in this community really made uDevGames the best game development contest I have ever participated in. uDevGames is a proud mac gaming institution, and I was very happy to be a part of it.

Unity

Unity was really a huge win. Without it, we would have focused way to much of our time developing technologies and infrastructure that Unity provided for us out of the box. Whenever we ran into a situation that Unity didn’t handle particularly well, or a workflow that was cumbersome, it was a simple task to extend the engine to make it do what we wanted. Unity was a pleasure to use, and if you haven’t tried it yet, you really should.

Art

Thomas really came through for us when making the art for Flying Sweden. Early in development, we made several spreadsheets with all of the buildings and enemies we wanted in the game. He marched down the list, and consistently delivered quality assets which I was able to get into the game quickly. The “graybox” prototype I was making began to transform into an actual game as his work came in. Because of Unity’s awesome asset pipeline, sometimes new revisions of the assets he was working on would literally pop into the game as I was playing. As always, Thomas lent his own unique style to the game, and gave it a distinct personality.

Bosses

While I was working on the building portion of the game, and Thomas was creating the art, David created most of the game’s enemies and all of bosses. The bosses came very late in development, but David really knocked them out of the park. Every time I integrated a changelist from him and would see a new boss, I had to stop working because I was laughing so hard. The art Thomas made for the bosses was spectacular.

Press

After we had wrapped development on Flying Sweden, the game was picked up by IndieGames.com. IndieGames is one of the largest independent game development blogs on the Internet, and a site I visit at least five times a day. This was huge for us, and came as quite a surprise. Not only did our game get great press, but the uDevGames contest got some excellent exposure as well.

What Went Wrong

Time

Generally, we managed our time well. During the two years David and I worked together at Firaxis Games, he was a producer. As always, he did a good job of keeping us on track. Unfortunately, the three months of uDevGames happened to fall on the three months leading up to a massive milestone on the game David and I were working on at our real jobs at Big Huge Games. We knew we would be crunching at work right as things started to heat up in the contest. As it turned out, the majority of the game was created in only about two and a half weeks, working in the morning and late at night after work. We all were extremely pleased with what we were able to make in that time, but knew that if we had been able to devote the entire three months to the project, we could have made a much better game.

No Public Builds

I tried as best I could to keep a development blog on the iDevGames forums, but we never released public builds of the game until the contest was over. Flying Sweden’s “build” and “battle” modes didn’t come together until the very end of development, and I wasn’t comfortable releasing builds of the game before it was playable. One of the things I really appreciate about uDevGames is how transparently each team approaches the contest. Teams post builds all the time, and get great feedback. I feel like we missed out on this, and it’s something we’ll keep in mind next year.

Balance

As a side effect of not releasing public builds and the time pressure we were under, the game didn’t get much time devoted to balance. This is a shame for David and I, as we are both professional Systems Designers. So much effort was devoted to getting the content in the game, and getting the game’s systems functioning that we ran out of time to polish the game’s pace and difficulty.

Conclusion

uDevGames was a really great experience for all of us. It was truly an honor to compete with such talented and motivated people. We hope you enjoyed the game, and we look forward to next year!


Developer Lava Factory Games
Release Date October 3, 2011
Platforms Mac, PC
Team Size 3
Length of Development 3 months
Key Development Tools Unity Pro, Adobe Photoshop, Pixelmator

uDevGames 2011

Convergence — Best Gameplay
Kung Fu Killforce — Best Overall Game, Best Audio, Best Presentation
Flying Sweeden — Best Graphics, Most Original
Time Goat — Best Story