Anima Aeterna : Retrospective

Well, the game is finally “finished”; finished in the sense that it must be handed in for assessment purposes, not finished in the sense that I could spend much more time making it better. Here is it’s trailer:

You may notice that it looks different to the previous videos; unfortunately Natalie is completing her own game and you can follow her work at her blog, Fairy Landing. The inferior (if, serviceable) art in the trailer is my own.

So, now that it’s ‘over’, it’s time to contemplate. So, in no particular order:

Things I have Learned

  1. Figure out exactly what you want to say and keep it simple. I think the game suffered because I tried to fit too many ideas into it: it would have been more effective if I had just stuck to one.
  2. Design documents are a must, no matter how simple the game. Not only do they help smooth out communication problems between team mates, they can force you to address problems much earlier in development, which saves everyone time. I didn’t do this and really wish I had.
  3. Dodgy code can be a good thing. After the last two years of spending too much time making my code ‘correct’ and ‘best practice’, to the detriment of learning other skills, I promised myself that this year that if something worked, I wouldn’t spend any time making better. And while I inwardly cringe and shudder at Anima’s code, I am very happy that I did this, as I gave me some time to pursue learning other skills.
  4. If you’re going to specialise, make sure you’re specialising in the area that you want to be working in. While I got try out a few other things, I did feel that I spent more time than I would have liked, just coding the game and wished I had taken the opportunity to practise my design skills.
  5. Just like coding, modelling, drawing, etc. making games are a skill unto themselves and need to be practised in the same way you would learn an instrument or a language.
  6. Establish at the beginning whether your teammates wants to have a contractee relationshiop or a collaborator relationship – they are very different things!
  7. Don’t be afraid to keep asking for help! I got turned down twice by music students before I got lucky. Mitchell Poloni has created beautiful music for Anima and I am very happy that I persisted in looking for someone.
  8. Make sure to leave some time for testing – Anima has only been limitedly playtested and I wished I could have tested it more before finishing.
  9. Have realistic expectations of the outcome of the game. If gamemaking is a skill to be practiced, don’t expect your student game to compare to someone’s who has been making games for twenty years, while you’ve only been practising for three.

With considering that last point, I think everyone in the class can be very proud of what they have achieved.

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