While most of the time Josh toils by his lonesome in his “sad cave” in Maryland, every so often he is able to join us in the great state of Texas for intense bouts of working, sleeping, and habenero-infused, tobasco-laden pizza. This is the story of his visit.
Don’t get me wrong: while we love Skype ads, lagging video chat and the thousands of miles of separation, nothing beats three men together in a small boat, swapping war stories (sometimes literally) as a twenty foot great white lazily follows in circles of ever-decreasing radii…
Megadeth frontman Dave Mustaine once said being in a band is the closest thing to sex a group of people can do without actually having sex. He may have phrased it more eloquently, but his point stands. Creative endeavors are emotional endeavors, and time and space can cause miscommunication, simmering ‘bad feels’ and, if not careful, a group lost in the weeds, ripe for being picked off by sharks, ligers, and other common obstacles.
Josh is our fearless leader, and when he’s away it can feel weird for Jeff and I to be in the same room while his head beams in, as if from a bad sci-fi movie, to join us for discussion. We try to ignore the Skype barrier but, like a band, we thrive in person, so we periodically gather to recharge the team’s batteries and to feast on flesh.
Our main task was to catalog everything we’ve done (such as levels, enemies, environments, UI, music) and, squaring that with our design document, planning the rest of production so that work can progress in a way that reduces bottlenecks and gives us flexibility to re-evaluate gameplay as needed. We did this by using physical notecards to cover Jeff’s carpet with an explosion of what at first glance looks like white trash. Physical stuff can’t be beat for getting a real and immediate visual sense of scope, and a sense of what enemy groups are numerically unbalanced. It also allows re-organization and discussion to happen simultaneously, which energizes discussion. The downside is that it has to be cleaned up and transferred to a trackable format in the end….in fact, after going our merry ways, and as you read this, there’s a good chance Jeff is still in a whirlwind of notecards, fruitlessly grasping at the confetti as it swirls and flickers around him, mocking and taunting, piles and piles, mocking, relentless and taunting … the paper ….
Finally, we got to design and implement part of a forestry level while all together, which was a blast. Using Josh’s in-progress sketching, I was able to iterate on the design in our level editor while Jeff worked at the in-game map for it (which doubles as our ‘official’ design map).
Good Times! We look forward to getting together again soon.