Production Lag Bad for Business

After filing my taxes and learning that my business operated at a loss last year, I realized that I needed to focus on results a lot more than I have been. I can’t sell anything unless I have something to sell, and I haven’t been doing a good job of creating that something. It is already March, and so the first quarter of the year is finished. I thought about the progress I have made for the year, and I am not pleased with it.

Before January, my Space Invaders clone was playable yet unpolished. I’ve since improved how playable it was, fixing the code that handles frame-rate independent movement and tweaking how the aliens move. I have added a simple text-based HUD and most recently played around with a decent font to use.

It shouldn’t have taken me three months to get to this point, and I still need to add quite a bit if I want non-technical players to be able to pick it up and play. I have already decided that I need to release a standard clone as v1.0 before I bother trying to create something innovative. Taking more time to release something just means that I will take just as much time to start work on something new.

My business and I have been coasting along on only a few hours a week. It is a common problem I seem to be having, and maybe these days I’ve added a few hours to my weeks, but I need to consistently put in at least 10 hours a week if I want to get significantly more completed. 10 hours a week is two hours a day, five days a week, so it shouldn’t be too hard to do at all, especially since I tend to work on weekends.

So, what’s left? As far as code is concerned, the major thing I need to implement is a simple menu system. It’s simple in that all the options I need to provide the player is to start a new game, view the credits, and exit. When the player pauses the game, it should ask if he/she wants to quit. There are still a few more code-related things, but they are related to my content needs.

Since silent video games have been out of style since the 1920s, I will need to add sound effects at a minimum, but I may have to skip adding music if I want to release something sooner rather than later.

As for graphical content, programmer art, as sexy as it may be, needs to get replaced. I think I am pleased with the fonts I have chosen. I’ve spent a few sessions of development just looking at them in the context of the game, and I am ready to move on to something else. The various entities in the game need an overhaul. The player’s ship doesn’t even look like a ship, and I don’t like the idea of a ship hovering back and forth on the ground anyway. I would prefer that it look like a tank, with a turret that faces up. Actually, there are plenty of theme changes I could make, each of which requiring different graphics needs, but I can concentrate on choosing among them after v1.0 is released. The same goes for replacing the static alien and missile sprites and the boring explosion effects.

I want to add a menu system sooner rather than later. Other than sound, the menu is the only part that is missing, and it will be easier to code up a menu system than to create or find decent sound effects.

Will this game improve the bottom line for my business? Probably not by itself, but the sooner I finish it, the sooner I can work on something that people may be willing to pay to play, and the sooner I can join the ranks of those people who claim to have truly finished a game. Taking a longer time to finish this game than necessary is a huge liability for my business.

5 comments to Production Lag Bad for Business

  • Bleh

    I’d try to code for a certain ammount of time every day(ex. 2 hours)

    Keep a record of it and break it up into chunks(40-minute or hour long ones work well with 2 hours for me).

    If you’re behind, code for an extra ammount of time until you catch up(30 minutes; ex. you skip three hours and you code 30 minutes extra for 6 days to get caught up).

    If you code extra when you don’t need to, you could take a break someday…

  • Ken

    Adding “programmer audio” is pretty easy. Get a cheap microphone and make weird noises. Record your pets. I once made a collision sound by hitting myself in the chest with the microphone. A little audio processing and you’re done! It won’t be “retail quality”, but it doesn’t need to be. Just don’t lose too much time on this, you just need a few sounds so you know what it takes to workable finished.

    I think doing your menu can be a good use of your time. It’s something you’ll need in later projects anyway so you’ll learn something doing it. As far as your graphics go though, I’d pull back.

    Essentially this is a throw away project designed to teach you the things you need to do better projects. Polishing the graphics on it really does nothing in terms of accomplishing that goal and it could be very easy to lose a LOT of time on it.

    It’s always hard to stop polishing a project, but learning when to let go is critical to finishing projects.

    IHMO, of course. 🙂

  • Bleh: I’m hoping that I can put myself into a sort of part-time crunch mode. I haven’t been waking up as early as I used to, so if I can start doing so again I basically gain an extra hour or two that I can put towards game development.

    Ken: I was planning on just creating and modifying WAV files in Audacity. When I wrote my Pong clone, I took a WAV file of Pee-Wee Herman’s laugh, lopped off large sections of it, and it made a nice beep sound. B-) I think the menu system will turn out fine so long as I put the time in for it. I have already worked a few hours on it, and it will get finished if I can continue to work on it.

  • Personally I think you should have waited to start your “company” until you had something to sell. This is not really a thing about failure or success it’s more about how much time and money you spend verses what you get out of it. Those that start businesses do them to make money, if you’re not making money then you’re just spending it (forms or whatever, not that it’s that expensive or anything), also you’re spending time on filing paperwork that could be put to better use. Maybe it’s one of those things that you gotta have a few failed businesses under your belt or something.

    Don’t worry that your game took so long, this is the first game, this game takes the longest. Now I did my tetris clone, took about 8 months, the other game took about 4 months, and my little old school style shooter was probably 8 months or more. But the difference between the complexity of the two is by 10’s . Which means as you progress soon you’d be able to make the same space invaders clone, maybe even better in the same or less time than it took for this one.

    Like Ken said this is a throwaway project designed to teach you the things you need to know to complete a game. In my mind you’ve already done that. However if you want to feel more complete, yeah a small menu, and a few sound effects wouldn’t hurt. But don’t spend more time on it than that, before switching to your next project.

    That is unless this is going to be some super space invaders awesome epic game, that takes you years to iterate through until it becomes a behemoth of awesomeness.

  • Bleh

    I’m writing a space invaders clone too and wrote some sound programs…

    One will let you make sound waves with your cursor and the other will let you compose with them(make a set of beeps with different freqences).

    But the first exports to a custom format(which would be easy to convert to wav) and the second doesn’t export yet.

    You’d be able to use them to make sounds if I wrote some more exporting code..