In conclusion, the project has become and continues to be a great success. With graduation fast approaching, I have been able to keep my cool and focus down on the goal. Watching the game evolve over time has been incredible, as I am entirely in control of what I have been creating, yet have seen major shifts in the composition of what I have been striving towards. As all game makers should, I have pursued every avenue that I could in order to focus in on the fun of the project.
In my Traditional Game Development class, I first learned the basics of game design, as well as the structure and nuance of the Unity game engine. It was in this class that I first pondered the way that I could make an enjoyable two-dimensional experience, and is the first time I was able to experience the production pipeline, from beginning to end. Working with a singular artist, we each spent hundreds of hours to complete the simplistic package, riddled with bugs, bad coding practices, and rowdy keyboard wrestling action. It was in this pipeline that I learned the most I have all throughout college, having spent countless hours grinding away just to make the game somewhat functional, but I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything else.
Algorithms class was an entirely different, albeit equally as challenging beast. From day one, I scraped, scrapped, and struggled to complete the increasingly challenging assignments. Learning about the complexity of operations was my most valuable lesson, and finding ways to overcome some of the problems our computing forefathers faced was incredibly enlightening. Although the class was tough, I ended up besting it, and even found myself appear on the class leader board for one assignment. By utilizing the same language that is native to the Unity engine, I learned how to manipulate the compiler to giving the best results. This class truly helped me to become a skilled syntactic typist (programmer).
For my proof of concept game, I finally joint together with a full team, including another programmer. Although getting together outside of class was tough due to scheduling difficulties, the team was able to complete quite a lot, and although the game was still filled with bugs and problems, it was definitely not deprived of content. While it was not initially planned, adding in split screen was a huge boost for the game, making it much more enjoyable. Although the purpose of the game was supposedly a serious one, the tone was very light and funny, meaning the game came across as hammy and enjoyable. In the final product there was certainly a lack in user interface functionality and usability, but the game turned out to be a riotous adventure, including up to three of your closest friends.
Coding the back end of Saltworld has been a lot of fun, while simultaneously a frustrating mess. Beginning almost a year and a half ago, I have restarted the process many times, each time getting closer and closer to what I had envisioned. While the Unity engine was initially difficult to work within, tonnes of hours working within it has made it much easier to navigate. The design of the back end has morphed into an easy customization process which I have suited to the specifics of my game. Upon first creation, I had not a single idea of how to get anything done, but now can pop assets in using my simple interface.
Creating the art for Saltworld was a challenge. Having only garnered experience in coding, I started off relatively clueless when it came to producing convincing art assets. Utilizing the free online software Piskel, I was able to eventually make a formula of sorts that could be applied to any asset I planned to produce. The feature rich, portable, but simplistic software was extremely useful and solved any issues that I faced with the way I wanted to build the world.
Creating a feature complete game has been even more of a challenging and time consuming task than I could have predicted. Hours upon hours have been spent to tweak even the smallest of aspects, and great care has been taken to advance towards set goals. The idea of setting smaller milestones was one I picked up from my previous experiences gained from my labors. Making games is a challenging feat, but breaking the requirements into bite-sized chunks has expedited the process greatly.
Finding a team was tantamount to reaching the stage that the game is currently in. Not only did those who I conscripted contribute to the art style, but also gave me a better understanding of what direction I should take the game in. While I did certainly build up a robust set of skills both in my classes and in my engagements, I often relied on my team to help with completing and polishing facets that I did not already gain or possess. Music was one part that has certainly advanced only with help from the team. Without having found a well versed musician, I would never have gotten anywhere, leaving the game a very plain and forgettable experience.
As I learned, game testing is an effective way to learn about player engagement and reaction to different mechanics. Through the process of testing pre-alpha builds on my co-workers, I was able to refine certain aspects that would increase player enjoyment. Not only was any feedback given very useful to gauging any sort of mental model that players might have of the game, but it also revealed certain expectations that players might have for the established genre. Furthermore, testing on players who had no experience producing video games was the best decision I could have made, as those who think about what they would like to experience rather than from an insider’s viewpoint was insightful into the average player’s experience.