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Development Diary #24: A finish line…

It’s been a while since the last update but Reel was finished and released reasonably on time-ish! Thought I’d share a few quick thoughts on how it went, complete with charts and graphs…

 

  • 3rd Oct. – Project Start
  • 7th Oct. – Design Locked:  Story/Puzzle Dependency Chart finished
  • 7th Nov. – Environment Blocked:  Environment blocked in with temp. geometry, walkable areas defined and navigable with character stand­-in, cameras placed.
  • 21st Nov. – Character Locked:  Character design, modelling and walk animation finished, nav-­agent set up in environment.
  • 19th Dec. – Environment Locked:­  Environment geometry detailed and lit.
  • 9th Jan. – Audio Locked:  Spot FX and ambiance/music finished and implemented.
  • 20th Jan. – Game Locked:  UI and menus implemented, environmental interactions finalized.
  • 31st Jan. – Final Delivery:  Final testing, bug fixing and delivery.

 

The original delivery date for the eXP project was the 31st of January and I’d planned to release the game publicly at that stage as well; in the end, the public build didn’t go live until the 10th of February. There was a playable version ready to go on the 31st, but when it came to pressing the publish button I felt like it still needed a bit more work.

In terms of schedule, most milestones were hit successfully enough until about half-way through. I made a decision early on that instead of animating a single walk-cycle and using a nav-agent to move the main character around, I would have individual animation clips for each action. Although I still think this was the right choice, it did mean that work on animation couldn’t be finalized properly until everything else was completed, which resulted in the last few milestones all merging into one giant one.

Release itself went surprisingly smoothly; I’d been keeping a regularly updated, private build on itch.io from about halfway through development, so I’d tested out the process for pushing new builds, downloading updates/patches from within the itch app etc. a number of times and felt reasonably confident it was all going to work as expected. I’m not the most comfortable when it comes to command-line tools but I found butler really straightforward to use, coupled with Unity Cloud Build I could have multiple platforms all updated on the store in about twenty minutes, all from my main development machine. I needed to patch up a few issues post release, but nothing catastrophic! 

 

 

It’s difficult to know what I thought a “successful” launch would be beforehand, on the one hand I was genuinely happy to just get something finished and released, on the other, I would probably have been a little bit disappointed if nobody downloaded it. I made the basic first mistake of releasing on a Friday, generally a pretty quiet day on social media, so I didn’t get off to a flying start…

By far the most important source of traffic was itch.io itself, getting featured on the front page for several days after release drove more than half the overall traffic to the game and there was also plenty of people coming from other parts of the store via searches and tags.

The blue sections of the pie are my own social media accounts, at the time of launch I had around 900 Twitter followers, 1800 Tumblr followers and about 160 people who liked the Facebook page. I always expected Twitter to have the biggest impact because it’s the platform I’m most engaged with, but I was still pretty surprised/disappointed with the response from Tumblr given I had double the number of followers there. From my point of view Facebook isn’t really worth using at all, it’s awkward to update, nearly impossible to see how/if your posts are being seen by followers and constantly presses you to pay for advertising.  

Elsewhere, the game was featured on several websites over the course of the first few days, the largest two, Rock Paper Shotgun and PC Gamer accounting for about the same amount of traffic each as the smaller ones put together. 

It was also played through by a number of YouTubers and, while I’m not really sure this type of game is a great fit for Lets Plays and visits from YouTube were negligible, it was pretty useful to be able to watch different people play the game. 


A pretty standard split here I think? The 32-bit version was requested by someone on the forum but apart from that one download I’m not sure how many of those 167 people are running 32-bit or just clicked the first build they saw that said Windows. The number for Linux might look tiny but it took me less time to build and upload than it did to update the game’s Facebook page, and apparently resulted in at least double the number of downloads.

 

All in all I’m really pleased with how the whole project has gone and how the game was received, I also feel I’m much better prepared for the next one… 

 

If anybody has any questions, let me know in the comments here or over on Twitter or Tumblr.

 

Reel was developed with the support of Northern Ireland Screen as part of their eXP Project.

Nick

3D-artist and fledgling Unity Dev. Currently working on a wordless point-and-click adventure game...