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  • Postmortem: Neon Climber

    [10.06.20]
    - Nikita Pavlov

  • THE MANAGEMENT

    Every enthusiasm has one, sad feature - sooner or later it's running out. In Dividebyzer0 it takes 2-3 months to consume all power-ups from a «fresh start» effect and, after this, a long hard road of overcoming drill and boring and laziness starting up. We found two things that help us to deal with this problem:

    • Organizing all tasks as week-long sprints. In Trello, for example.
    • Gathering up offline to work together. It doesn't really matter what it will be - a cafe, a friend's flat, or public coworking - anything will work.


    Neon Climber's Trello board. Don't get too excited - such productive sprints are rare birds for us.


    Hanging in coworking. Nothing can replace real-life communication!

    Sure thing, if your team is more than 2 people, you have to be ready to face some management issues. From our experience, I can outline these tips:

    • Assigning roles. In a "no budget" project you need to take into account not only the skills of a particular teammate but his/her desirable field as well. For example, our coder is a Blender enthusiast, so he asked for and did some tasks in 3D.
       
    • Tasks priorities. It's deadly important to not let bottlenecks appear. Try to shape your game's pipeline in a way that won't have situations, in which one teammate's tasks hold back the rest of the crew. 

    Of course, not everything went smoothly. Heavy yet unused features (like the ability to download new levels on device without reinstalling the app), various minor inconsistencies, and lots of problems with commits - we killed a good amount of time just on resolving conflicts after pulls on a "dirty" repository.

    And if the guy in charge of "no-budget project" happens to be you... well, I can't say I envy your shoes. I am far from management genius, but there is one thing that I learned and want to share with you above anything else - every soldier needs an individual approach. It may be the truth as well even for projects with payrolls, even though money itself is a good stimulant for most of us. As for our case... get ready to find a key to each of your teammates, to find out what lights them up and try to keep this fire on.

    Tip # 5

    The smaller the team, the faster and better development will go. Especially, zero-budget development.

    THE OPTIMIZATION

    Another unpleasant yet expected surprise waited for us right before the finish line. It's been quite a long time since we tested Climber on real devices. And of course, when we finally did that, the build ran at low FPS even on medium-tier phones.

    Thank heavens, we quickly found out the root of all evil - it was the blur effect from Unity's Post-Processing Stack, which we used to simulate the glow effect on meshes. Tried countless plugins from the Unity Store, and even tried to switch from 2018.4 to 2019.3 version of Unity for trendy Lightweight Render Pipeline - no luck. We also tried to teach the game to calculate the performance on a particular device and change graphic settings accordingly, but we didn't find an easy and fast solution.

    In the end, we came across MK Glow plugin and finally got the acceptable fps out-of-the-box. 

    Tip # 6

    The less you build & test your game on the device, the more problem it may spawn in the future. Try to run the game on the device at least after every major commit.

    THE CONCLUSION

    Game development of any kind is a risky way, especially if you aim for commercial success (and even riskier if you don't but still hoping for commercial success). And though our Neon Climber didn't reach the summit of app stores, we are proud of the game itself. It was a priceless experience, though sometimes exhausting. 

    We aren't dropping the spirit and already sorting out ideas for the next game - and that's what we want to wish for everyone, whose games didn't hit the top.


    You can try Neon Climber here:

    iOS
    Android

    Our games: https://dividebyzer0.itch.io/
    Twitter: https://twitter.com/dbzteam
    Mail author: https://www.facebook.com/xxdnkxx

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