I’ve spent the last two weeks crunching on a vertical slice milestone, and it’s getting close to being finished. My deadline is Wednesday; Thursday we’ll be headed down to San Antonio for PAX South, and I’ll try to have a playable build ready in time for next week’s update.
The goal of this milestone (besides having a nice build that I can point to and go, “See that? That’s the game I’m making!”) has been to prove that my schedule is viable. I’m aiming for a June release, and in order to complete the game by that time, I’ll need to produce content at this same rate for the next four or five months. Maybe.
I haven’t met all my goals for this milestone, and it’s unlikely I will. I’m happy with how the vertical slice level looks, but I had intended to do more — much more — with environment art and decorations. And I just haven’t had the time to complete everything.
I knew when I was scheduling tasks that there would be a lot of work I hadn’t accounted for. In fact, I’d estimate about half my time these last couple of weeks has been spent on these unscheduled tasks. These included getting saved games working, handling death and game over states, wrangling random number generators to behave correctly in all cases, and various tweaks, polish, and bug fixes too minor and numerous to mention here.
Some of those tasks were one-time-only. Most of them, probably. Saved games work, for example. Barring minor polish or bug fixes, that’s not something I’ll have to touch again before shipping. But I know between now and June, there will be other tasks I haven’t allotted time for, and I can’t guarantee I’ll have any more of an opportunity to work on things like environment art than I’ve had this milestone.
So, considering the triangle of resources, scope, and schedule, what are my options? My resources are fixed. My schedule is pretty much fixed; there might be a little wiggle room in when exactly I launch, but for now, I’m disregarding that. So, scope. Cut scope. Obviously.
Maybe I don’t need as much decorative environment art as I thought. This level is already looking good (and comparatively miles ahead of where Super Win was at any point in its development). So maybe that’s good enough. Another possibility is that I lean harder on content reuse. I’ve been scheduling time for drawing a completely unique tileset for each level, and that might not be necessary. For one thing, I already have a number of tilesets in progress, dating back to nearly a full year ago, when I replaced tiles stolen from Faxanadu with an original set. For another, I suspect I’ll be able to get a lot of mileage out of swapping the palettes of my existing sets. It’s possible that a core set of tiles consisting of common elements like bricks, drawn in a variety of colors and accented with level-specific decorations, might be enough.
I’ll be figuring all this scheduling stuff out as I wrap this vertical slice milestone and move on to the remainder of production. I don’t expect things will slow down at all; I said a couple weeks ago it would be a mad dash to the finish line, and it feels like that’s still going to be the case, but I have some great forward momentum. It’s exciting seeing all the bits and pieces I’ve been working on in isolation for so long finally coalesce into something resembling an actual game.