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  • Postmortem: Project Lake Ridden

    [10.25.18]
    - Sara Casen

  • What Went Well

    1. Excellent User Ratings.

    The game had an amazing 96% positive rating one month past release and still has the excellent Steam rating "Very Positive". The game resonates really, really well with its target audience. Making a game is insanely hard. To push a game out into the wild is an amazing achievement alone, doing so and scoring such an awesome reception is absolutely fantastic! Even harder when it's the first game by a new team. What makes this even more remarkable is that we chose to pivot the game from horror to puzzle-mystery one year into development. It's extremely rare that a game that changes genre ever gets released. Of course, the game is not perfect by any means, but people rarely believe it's made by just four developers in two years.


    Lake
     Ridden sits on the Steam rating; Very Postive, with a 90% positive user score!

    2. High Level of Craftsmanship.

    The game has very solid puzzle design that challenges the player to really think outside of the box. Reading the user reviews on Steam makes it very clear that a lot of players enjoy the puzzles, the music, the art, and the story. We implemented a lot of interesting design choices in the game like a sophisticated hint-system and a chapter system for saving. The art style of the game has proven to be highly marketable and each area of the game really has it's own distinct feel to it. The voice actors did an amazing job, as well as the composers. Of course, there are some Steam reviews that rightfully point out things we could have done better (always happy to get feedback!). But all in all, it's an extremely solid first game for a studio.


    In
     the game the player solves puzzles, riddles, and mysteries, trying to find her lost sister. It was made to appeal to the same audience that liked Myst, Ether One and Firewatch.

    3. Creating Inclusive Studio Culture.

    This one is not only tied to the project of Lake Ridden but since the development of our first game naturally shaped how we worked together, how we solved problems, had discussions and interacted on a daily basis in the team, we choose to list it in this post-mortem. We worked very hard on creating a studio culture that should feel inclusive and respectful for all. We want to build an alternative to crunch, elitism and office politics. Here are some examples of what we accomplished:

    • An environment where it's OK to be wrong. If you have good intentions anything can be talked about and solved.
       
    • Everyone stated their levels of stress each week, so we could keep track of both the individuals and the team's stress levels. When any team is put under pressure it has a way of ripping the team apart, but we managed to grow even closer during hectic periods since we could lean on each other for help and support.
       
    • 35h work week. We measured the SCRUM points completed and was able to get the same amount of things done in 35h instead of the usual 40h. All while the stress number was staying the same or dropping. Everybody was actively encouraged to use this extra free time to see family or do exercise.
       
    • We deliberately hired people who were very different but shared core values. We wanted to have many different perspectives represented in the team, to better understand our players and complement and challenge each other. This tremendously helped us solve problems and see different perspectives.
       
    • We played and analyzed games together each Friday to help give the team a common vocabulary for speaking about games and game design. This greatly improved the understanding between disciplines and gave us the same references to use when talking about games (i.e "Let's do the shadows the same way we saw they did in Alien: Isolation").
       
    • Feedback was encouraged and expected. We put great focus on the separation between whatever feature was critiqued and the person that made it. If you can separate the thing from its maker it's much easier for everyone to learn and move the game forward.


    One
     of the goals of founding the studio has been to create an environment where people can respect each other, don't work overtime and help each other.

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