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Feedback My first game, from stratch to Steam.

lilington

1283 views

Hi everyone,

I know there is a lot of blogs and advice about what to do and not do for a beginner in a game industry, I even read a lot myself to find inspiration and avoid common mistakes. Unfortunately, there is not so many talking about real experiences. I am here to tell the story behind "Soul of Mask", my first game and I hope not my last. I will avoid a long post, so it will be in different blog entries presented like this:

- Origins and first difficulties,

- Technical: Game engines, programing language, tools

- Marketing and conclusion.

In all point I'll talk from the beginning to the end of the project, there is no chronology so you are free to read what you want in the order you want. Let start then...

 

My name is Alain Perrin,  as you may have noticed, not a native English speaker. I am a system dev in a Chinese company based in China. So yes I live in China for quite many years. I always wanted to create a game but I always stop writing my game as soon as I was satisfied with the technical problem I solved. It was enough for me until my wife (fiance at that time) talked about people proud of themselves without any real achievement. Yes, she didn't realize it but it hit me right in the brain and let say ego as she was not talking about me. "Yes I think I can do a game but I never proved it". It is where I decide to start a game and finish it to prove to myself that I can really do it. This will explain a lot of choices I made for my tools such as Programming languages and game engines.

     Now we know I never planned to make a commercial game, it was just about to start something bigger than Tetris (I did finish it around 2003, a mixt of ASM and C with class dirty code). I decide Pacman with a lot of improvement in the ghosts. My major was AI and face recognition and I wanted to make Pacman with clever ghosts. But, with time I started to add more and more stuff and the game didn't look like Pacman at all, at least in the gameplay. It was still a mase game but a lot of things were too far from Pacman it is when I decide to stop and think about something else, a real game. I started to look for help; another developer and at least a drawer could be pixel artist or just 2D designer even a comics drawer. It is also when the first problems came.

     As a developer finding another developer was easy to keep him on the project was another challenge. So you guess, he left. And this brilliant guy leaving was a hard strike to my moral, it was so demoralizing. However, this guy was totally honest and told me: " I am leaving because I don't see where this will go". At first, I thought he was talking about money, he may think this project will not bring any money at all. If it was the case I had no way to convince him to stay. But he was talking about achievement. money is not so important when you do something you want to, money is a reward I would love to sell 1Million copy of "Soul of Mask " but it was not my priority and we shared the same thoughts. The problems were the fact that he didn't believe it will finish one day and didn't want to waste is time. Now another part of my personality took control of my mind over depression. The love of challenge. Now I have a new challenge, everything I need to go back to work. I restarted everything with a better design as now I knew I was not doing Pacman anymore. It is also at that moment I made my first big mistake. I read after that it is a common one " I do all the code and I will find soon or later a graphist". So one year passed when I started "Element mask" and I had this:blk1.thumb.png.baf3b4d604cf8a65e53c2115fe39b14f.png

 Element Mask

Element mask was supposed to be the full game. It was the story of a young man who has to collect all the masked stollen by demons. It was not so beautiful but I was sure that with a full gameplay and a story I will find someone to draw. I google images and made something different. all images in the following image are downloaded from google image:

blk2.png.467a0d910536c3232e2726975923cb7d.png

Here you can on the right bottom your different special power. So I spent almost another year trying to find someone to draw. I contacted my brother in law in  France who agreed to help. then I went there, meet him and he realised that is was not 3D game and he could not make  2D graphics assets. So 2 years passed, I have an almost ready gameplay but no graphics. My Brother in law and one of his friend remembered that they have a co-worker that may help. This happened in August 2016. They contact the guy who said OK to meet me the next day. My designer invited me to his place and I was already in love and impressed, this guy is a gamer. He had everything, a lot of games and objects from games of all time. Obviously, if I can convince him then that will be finished. And I did it, he was in.

I left France and move back to China, He sent me Emails to show his interest. I let him free to change what he wants in the game as long as I can program it. and he did bring the idea of half mechanic characters. here is his first sketch:

5a1bc3a10db9f_Screenshotfrom2017-11-2715-47-40.png.2d6e37644926704611e0dbffc247eb86.png

Hey guys, honestly it was promising, right? But if you bought "Soul of Mask" today you already guess that it didn't work. How? I don't know myself. This was his last email. After that he disappeared, no news, no answers nada, nothing, keine, rien. As if it was not enough I injured myself playing football (soccer for USA).

ACL was torn, for those who play sport they know it is a serious injury.

   Good can come from Bad.

Nine months without sport said the doctor, and at least 2 weeks without moving my right knew. So I had to stay at home and this was the good part. I use to play football 3 times per week plus 2 times of basketball. For almost a year I will have to do something else. Unfortunatly I still had no news from my designer. I decided to go again to France to visit my family and try to contact him again. I did and he said sorry but he didn't have time to work on Element mask.

 

Angry programmer.

That was too much. I was very pissed. I nicely said " ok I understand we all have our job and our life. No problem". But inside all was fire ready to burn everything around. August 2016 to February 2017 you cannot find 15 seconds to send me a WhatsApp to tell me you are out of the project? you are busy but me I can just wait and hope?  I realized that everything is really relative. I was convinced of total failure if I attempt to make Element Mask alone but I just have the proof of the opposite: I would have to work alone if I want it to finish one day. I just remember a funny fact, I can draw myself. I used to draw comics for my classmate when I was in middle school. I bought my watcom and started again. My level is far from what I could do but it was enough for buyer to accept it. actually no body said my game was ugly: 

5a1bcb7a2775e_Screenshotfrom2017-11-2509-33-32.thumb.png.3bb4f1331f1f4dd4c45a60dccbb14eb7.png

Rip Element mask

My problem now was different. I had nobody to wait but I was not fast to draw as I was before. Worse,  I cannot draw what my code is made fore. So gameplay changed a lot. Every time I failed to draw something,  the gameplay will change. This is for example how I moved from a character wearing a mask to bouncing masks. Soul of Mask was born. It was something I could finish before the end of 2017 and I did it. I learn a lot about people, life and myself in this adventure.

next blog entry will talk about the coding part.

thanks for reading.



11 Comments


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I had some time earlier this morning to read your article. In the 15+ years I've been working in games it's always been like this with small teams, especially if they're not being hired as employees. I had a project years ago I was working on, I coded the entire level editor to be drag and drop, and a scene editor as well. I did this because the artist and game designers at the time wanted to craft the game from a more visual stand point in real time, and they were complaining about having to wait for code changes to see their ideas in real-time. I linked the editor to the game engine I coded and they were able to generate levels on the fly. Yet, the amount of work that had to go into asset creation and design turned most people off, and one by one people left.

Thankfully if you have coding skills and you only need visual and audio assets, it's a lot cheaper to outsource these tasks, as opposed to hiring a game programmer to make your game while you either draw or engineer audio.

I was in this same battle fighting for artists, now I just hire people on contracts because trying to keep small teams together can really drain you, and in the end your project suffers greatly.

You did a great job turning the game from what we seen in the first few images, to what you have now on Steam. If you need help in the future let me know.

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Your first paragraph is depressing. I understand that is more difficult to find someone who wants both pleasure of making the game and money. Money here is an issue and a motivation. I understand all of them, we are not kids anymore and we cannot just enjoy programming, drawing,... But sometimes looks like people I meet have no passion in this industry and work with you only if you pay them or if they are 100% of a good revenue.

I don't know if it exists but it will be nice to have a platform to make people like developers and artists to meet. I am sure there is a lot of artist in this word ready to do the same I did but they cannot find developers who want to work with them.

If you want to help, you can already. the scenario of the next game is almost done and I already said I don't want to work alone again. Plus I received an email from Microsoft they like SoM but may not approve it on Xbox because it is already released on steam. I am tried to convince them to accept it anyway in exchange for more contents in Xbox version for a period of time, here also there is room for help. let MP if you are interested.

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What kind of game were you writing? I would like to see that level editor. do you have

Can you make a small video to show that editor?

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I would ignore the email, and just go to Xbox Live Creators Program site: https://www.xbox.com/en-US/developers/creators-program/ then submit your game. I cannot find anything in their policy that states you must have your game on their platform only. Either way, if your game generates enough revenue on steam, I'm sure they will approve it on Xbox.

I've made a lot of level editors and 2D engines. I worked on platformers, side-scrollers, and rpg games. I've made all these tools with C++, and C# when I had a few XNA projects to do.

The current projects I'm working on now I cannot display, but the prior ones were done with C++ and Allegro, and C# with XNA. I use C++ and SFML for 2D games now. They need to be ran with the engine, but consists of IP that I do not fully own, so I cannot share the tools. I have a collection of source code I keep for future editors and engines based on the prior projects that I have rights to.

The one editor and engine for the side scroller game I was working on with XNA wont load up on Windows 10 sadly, the exe crashes on load, this was made back in 2009. I do own the full IP on this, but I cannot figure out how to load it, and would need to port the source code to MonoGame to get it to run. This editor would let you make level lists, item lists within the level with attributes, enemies with stats, auto-scrolling scenes, and more. It had a quick launch feature to port into the engine right away for quick testing.

Are you looking at revamping your current editor? I'm not sure if you're using one you created, or a 3rd party tool.

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They don't ask me to be an Xbox exclusive, they ask to release at the same time on Steam and Xbox. but it is already released on Xbox. 

edit: I just realise the problem, I am in ID@Xbox program instead of Creators Program. so I could be able to release on Xbox with creators program. thanks

So you still work on games, the way to talked sounds like you were out now. It could be nice to have you on the next project then as it is a platformer one. For my current editor I use the one I created just a one-game purpose so it will go to trash can, it is full of bug, almost unusable and I didn't care much as I knew how to use and avoid all those bugs, I didn't correct them because I was the only one using it so no need to waste time doing something fancy or good when I can create a game with a trash editor and have the same result. It is coded in C / SDL2.

Edited by lilington

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Yes, I run a few companies in different fields, and I'm working on two game titles right now. I use C++ with SFML for 2D games, but I know C/C++/C#/BASIC/JAVA and scripting like PHP/Javascript, ect...

I personally avoid C and SDL by preference (Never tried SDL2, was using SDL 1 back in the day). Depending on what kind of assistance you need I might be able to help.

I'm looking at picking up Unreal soon for some 3D projects in future.

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Language is not a problem, just a tool. I will say you should have a look at SDL2 at least if you want your game to work on more platforms. There is a lot of differences with SDL1-2.

I am still in conception process, I still don't know what I may need or not. I will let you know.

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No problem, I'll look at SDL 2 some day. Right now SFML provides me with every platform I need, Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X. I've ported from C++ to JAVA for android very easily, as well as to SWIFT for iOS. A lot of my saved code and classes throughout the years are all in C++, C#, and JAVA. I'm not a fan of C to be honest. :D

Let me know when you're at that stage. Take care!

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9 hours ago, lilington said:

Roger that. But as I said C is just a language.

:) Yep, we all have personal preferences and reasons for using the languages that we do. I program in over 7, but mostly use 3. I've worked on other projects in which the second programmer didn't use C++, but only Visual Basic at the time, which was never a problem because the engine was done in C++, and all the 3rd party tools like map editors, and item editors were done with BASIC, which saved to a file, and loaded into the engine.

I'm not here to push dropping C or debate about C++ vs C, or anything like that. I really don't care what language people use because if your goal is to create a game, then it doesn't matter. In my above example, I just improvised and had the other party make 3rd party tools in BASIC, which was never an issue.

I wish you the best preparing your concepts for the new title.

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yes, Debate about languages is a real waste of time. ofcourse it doesn't really make sens to create a game engine for Playstation 4 with Visual basic.

Thank you for your wishes I will come to you soon.

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