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  • Postmortem: Das Geisterschiff

    [05.21.19]
    - Romanus Surt

  • 3. Ideas Kept Pouring In

    Even though Das Geisterschiff had a tight focus due to a very limited budget and time constraints, there was always room for extra spice. Crippling, stat modifiers based on terrain, carnage feature that connected missed shots with the rest of the environment were added during the testing stages when we felt there should be more to it than what's already there.

    There was no shortage of ideas and every minor and major addition shaped the game into a better, deeper and nuanced product.

    4. Tight Schedule

    After a few false starts, the final iteration of the game was released after exactly 12 months in development. Building (or rebuilding) a game from scratch in a short amount of time is something that even bigger teams struggle with, and with our tiny team this problem was multiplied.

    On the bright side, this left no time to waste on fluff. Things that didn't add much to the game were cut at the design stage, which saved us time to focus on important aspects.

    5. Well-Documented Engine

    Unity, despite some notoriety amond developers and gamers alike, proved to be an ideal solution for this project, and some prior experience with it helped. Despite being a modern engine, the base editor is pretty lightweight and C# ended up being a pretty easy language to start with.

    Since the game was designed on and for low-end hardware, choosing a different engine could cause more issues down the road than it would be possible to handle.

    What Went Wrong

    1. Poor Level Design Process

    Due to the way the graphics style is implemented, the level design process took a lot of time and felt like designing two similar levels at once. Eventually, due to limitations of development hardware (a cheap laptop from 2010), the levels had to be cut down into smaller pieces, which eventually worked to our advantage, as it allowed designing multi-layered dungeons from tiny segments.

    Even with that in mind, it wasn't as quick and enjoyable as putting together a Doom or even a Quake level, and that's something that we must address in our next game.

    2. Shifts in Design and Content

    The game used to shift a lot during the development due to various roadblocks along the way as it became apparent that some content and features required more time or resources than we could allocate. The project had to be refocused too many times to fit into the design and resource limits, and because of that the story had to be simplified until it became just a background and glue for the gameplay and levels, which, on the bright side, forced us to make them work better on their own.

    3. Part-Time Work on the Project

    Most of the time DG was a part-time project, and working on it full-time would give more time to develop better solutions instead of relying on 'fastest' in terms of development time, which worked, but hurt our workflow in one way or another.

    4. Marketing

    Due to its unique nature, DG proved to be harder to market than we expected. The majority of similar games were too old to be referenced and too obscure to catch even the 'old school' players. How many of you have heard of Carmine, the spiritual predecessor of DG? Yeah, right.

    There were other hurdles, as we could not decide the right date for the Steam release due to lack of familiarity with its inner workings. In the end, DG launched on November 24 on Steam -- even though we expected it to launch there about a month later.

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