Developer Diary – 83 – Scope Fears

In this video, I talk candidly about my fears for Neverending Nightmares and the scope of the game. Now with a transcript!

I’d like to talk about my fears for the scope of the game and it’s sort of interesting – early on when I started doing my developer diary series, I talked a lot about my fears and my anxieties and about the game. I guess I haven’t really delved much into my fear and anxieties and things like that except maybe more within the inner circle. Well, I guess I’d like to give you an update. One of the things that I’m scared about is the scope of the game. It’s always a battle within every game you work on. You have these ideas for a million levels and a million features. Then over time, you have to sort of whittle it down.

One of the interesting more aspects of the game, at least to me, is the branching narrative. The problem is that the branching narrative is a huge increase in scope. When planning the game we figured, “We’ll have time. We’ll figure it out. We’ll make something work.” Now I’m almost sort of kicking myself. While I like the idea and I think we’re gonna do something along those lines, I’m kind of worried that it’s not really going to live up to the hype, which I guess to be fair, people are more excited about the game for the other features such as the mood and the connection to my mental illness, but I’m sure there are people who are excited to see what we’ll do with the branching narrative and that’s something I’m excited about as well, so we’re definitely still working towards it. It’s just that I’m not sure if it quite lives up to my dreams.

In my original design document I think I had like 15 endings – more like ideas for endings anyway and some were pretty terrible but I was thinking, “Oh we could whittle it down to about 8”. Back then interestingly the budget for Neverending Nightmares used to be more. We actually whittled it down a couple of times to the point that what we made on Kickstarter even with the “Free the Games” fund doesn’t really quite cover everything. So we’re doing some consulting and contracting things on the side to get more of a budget, which is always a challenge. I think to some extent we’re art limited which is new for me as on Retro/Grade we did everything the hard way and so everything took so much programming effort, but on this game we have a lot of good tools and a lot of the content will come down to the amount of art hours that are spent on the game. Hopefully the consulting will help us with some of the cost so that we can increase the art budget.

I mean I’m scared. I think the content that we’re getting in there is really great, and I’m really pleased with how that’s shaping up. My worry is that I’m afraid that people won’t be happy with the amount of content, which is always a struggle. On Retro/Grade, I think we went about it very poorly because we built out the challenge mode, and there are about a 130 challenges which are supposed to keep people entertained, but the campaign itself was only ten levels and ten songs, so we got a lot of flack for that which I wish we could have done something different in respect to that. Certainly, I have a lot of regrets with respect to Retro/Grade.

For me personally the quality of the experience is more important than the playtime and I think we’re going to have a very high quality experience. The initial playthrough should be about an hour or two (closer to two really), and we’ll have branches that’ll add about 2-3 hours of additional content to explore all the branches. If the player even decides to start from the beginning to find those branches then the playtime will be increased further from there. I’m not 100% happy with that, but to some extent I don’t want to end up in a similar situation to Retro/Grade where I just go over board and keep working on the game until there’s no way it could turn a profit, and again I think the content we’re making is really good. I think we’re on the right track, it’s just that I think the right track isn’t exactly the one I had planned for which always ends up being the case in games development but it’s hard for me to reconcile that.

I feel a little guilty as maybe I over promised things, which you know is always the trouble with Kickstarter or games development in general because you really don’t know in what direction development will take you. If people say, “This is what my game is going to be” before they’re finished or when they’re in the early stages they’re almost always going to be wrong because you have to figure out what’s good about your game and what’s not working, then roll with that. It’s tough because my dreams of the game are always much bigger than what we can accomplish, and with Kickstarter, people are buying into the dream which I really worry that maybe I’ve over-sold the branching aspect of the game. We’ll see. I think we’ll come up with something interesting, but it probably won’t be as significant as it was in my mind, and whether my visions of how big it would be were communicated or whether people will be happy with that. I mean in general, the game is going to be scary as all hell so I think that’s the main check mark, and maybe the branching narrative isn’t the most revolutionary thing in the world.

I mean in my mind, it’s like “We’re going to revolutionise games” etc. I mean it’ll be cool, but at least in my mind I really didn’t put two and two together to see how difficult it would be to deliver on that. At least in my mind, I was thinking a lot of the branching narratives would be remixes of existing content, and we’ve sort of experimented with that without a significant amount of new content, the levels aren’t overly interesting. I thought we’d have like building blocks and we could reassemble them in different ways which is sort of how we’re approaching the art but, I was thinking that without a lot of new input we could create something new and amazing, which when we have more content perhaps we can do.

I just think that it’s not going to be as easy as I planned, but that’s the way it goes and I think the final product is still gonna be really awesome, so fingers crossed certainly! And I’m nervous about it but I’m a pretty nervous person so that’s no surprise.