Simoebic Dysentery Postmortem
May 20, 2009—
Dysentery Over a Cup of Coffee
Overall, I am quite happy with the quality of the game I produced for the uDevGames 2008 Contest, despite the emergence of some unfixed bugs and a game not as feature — complete as I would have preferred. I entered the contest rather late compared to almost everyone else, and without pre-existing code or a clear idea of what kind of game I was going to make. My co-conspirator and I essentially threw together the idea and basic logic for Simoebic Dysentery over a cup of coffee at the beginning of January, finished asset development by the beginning of February, and I had a working beta built by the end of the contest by the beginning of March. Built essentially in my free time, I feel that the game would have been coded better and had more features had I been able to devote more time to its development.
The idea for the game actually developed out of an earlier idea I had for a two-player competitive virus-programming game that proved too byzantine to actually be playable. During the brainstorming session for the uDevGames Contest, it was suggested that I make a “Dig-Dug meets Frogger” game — an idea that was immediately welded in an unnatural fashion to my earlier scheme to become the kernel for Simoebic Dysentery. We initially came up with a flood of concepts about the game which, in hindsight, would be impossible to implement in the short couple of months I had to actually develop the game, but which I plan to work into the final (non-contest) build; mutation vectors, multiple goals that lead you in different directions to different puzzles, a voice-acted back story… All great proposals but, alas, neither great enough nor easy enough to finish in the short development window before the end of the contest. In fact, my number-one arch nemesis of the entire process was time: I would find myself thinking, “If I only had a team of programmers…” while banging out code in the wee hours of the morning, frustrated when something wasn’t working as planned, then realizing that in my tired state I had forgotten to ever reference the function I had just built.
A REAL Basic Tool
Thankfully, this was tempered somewhat by my use of REALBasic as my primary development environment. REALBasic allowed me to focus on the logic and inner workings of my game and not necessarily on making a picture-perfect application from the ground up.
A majority of the graphics were built using REALBasic’s built-in graphics functions and are for the most part just a complex amalgamation of simple geometric shapes. The remaining non-generated graphics were drawn using Adobe Illustrator, with some light editing using Pixelmator. Sound effects were drawn from Soundsnap.com, and are all open-sourced and royalty-free. The soundtrack was composed by my teammate and frequent collaborator Thorin, and released under the guise of his Republic of Thoronia project.
What Went Right
The game itself came out quite amazing, at least in my opinion — the puzzles are hard, but not impossible; the graphics are interesting, but not distracting; the sound fits right in and doesn’t overwhelm the game. I feel that the basic logical idea of the game, wherein you have a limited amount of lyses and must get from point A to point B, is solid, and in fact harkens back to the simple, easy to understand arcade games of the past. I also think that by trying to visually tie the game to an iconic work (Gray’s Anatomy) and by grounding the concept at least a little bit in science, it strengthens the player’s concept of the game: it is easily identified visually or by description and not confused with games of similar concept, look or feel. In this sense the game is a major accomplishment.
What Went Wrong
Obviously, time was not on my side. What I released for the contest was essentially a playable beta, not an actual finished program. Instead of a normal beta-testing program, usually accomplished in-house amongst a group of my friends, I let Simoebic Dysentery go into the wild with a little less than four hours of total playtime on my part. There was no way I could have possibly caught every bug, memory leak, or crash in this limited time, but because I was racing to finish a working game before the end of the project, I had to let the game go as coded… Additionally, the time crunch prevented me from fully implementing all of the great ideas, concepts, and assets that would have made the game great. Thorin wrote a script for the game, to implement as voiced-over dialog at the beginning of levels, but unfortunately, because of time constraints, we were never able to assemble all the necessary people and record these great interludes, nor a handful of other great concepts that would have really set the game apart from its peers.
I learned a lot from this experience, mostly related to the time cost of a game, something that I have not worried about in the past. Being an indie developer usually means not having to worry about imposed deadlines — I usually set my own. However, I am quite happy that I could produce a fully working beta in less than two months of part time work, proving that I could probably do the same thing in less than two weeks of full eight hour days. In general, I was pleased with the final product and ecstatic about the uniqueness of the game and the community’s reception thus far. As far as my plans for the future of Simoebic Dysentery go, I would like to continue development of the game, including all of the planned features and assets, and release an actual (non-buggy) version within the second quarter of 2009.