No game yet, but we have a T-Shirt

Marcus, who is working with me on the game, is attending a Vintage Computer fair on the east coast this weekend. He quickly had some T-Shirts printed to show off our new logo and to use as hand-outs at the show. I like them! 

Meanwhile .. we hit a big milestone this week. Or, at least we got close enough to it that we’re claiming we hit it. 

I consider the overall project to be split into three phases.

Phase 1 was where I coded almost all of the game and had it running with scratch art and “made up” text (no speech, music or sound effects). It was really just an exercise in getting familiar with the whole game and trying to bring back my extremely rusty game programming skills.

Phase 2 was for trying to polish up the first 10% of the game. Instead of “programmer art” (meaning in some cases a simple cube to represent a character) we did the real graphics for the game, worked out the user interface, put in sound and music and made it look like a real game.

Phase 3 is to “Do what we did in Phase 2, but do it for the other 95% of the game.” 

Phase 1 was done months ago. And, Phase 2 just wrapped up (kind of .. we’re still working on some things). Phase 2 turned out to be a bigger deal than we thought. We hit lots of issues with trying to support VR. I just spent a whole week sidetracked trying to figure out how to get some stuff working. We also discovered that to get the VR framerates we need we had to do an alternate set of art for VR. And we had to work out lots of issues on both the computer and VR versions associated with lighting. 

Theoretically, once we completely wrap up Phase 2 we can get into what I call “Production mode” where the focus shifts from “How do we do it” to “Let’s get it done”. We know what the game is. We know how to build it. We think we understand and have solved all the technical issues. So …. now, we just buckle down and start cranking out code and art. 

There’s actually a Phase 4. Roberta knows about Phase 4 and I’m not sure the team fully groks (understands) it yet. Once we think we have a game, then we will want to do some play testing and beta testing. We’ll hit all kinds of crazy issues at that point. Puzzles that we thought were no brainers will suddenly turn out to be way too hard. We’ll hit graphics cards that should work and don’t. We’ll need to rip things apart and put them back together. We’ll think we’re a week from shipping week after week after week, perhaps for months. I’ve been down this road many times and know that sometimes the last 5% of the project takes 95% of the time. I have lots of plans for why that won’t happen on this project. But, it will. It always does.

But.. I’ll take that road when I get to it. For now, I just want to celebrate finishing Phase 2…

-Ken W

6 Responses

  1. “We’ll hit graphics cards that should work and don’t. ”
    Its a PC VR game ? I thought you’d build for OQ2 (Oculus Quest 2) .

    This developer talk might be of interest.

    Some of these articles are old but still outline the journey of studios getting into VR development when the DK2 emerged.

    John carmacks tips may still be relevant


    1. Thank you for the links. I’ll check them out.

      We’re planning on releasing a PC, Mac and Quest 2 version initially. What happens after release will somewhat depend on how people like the game. Because we built the game using Unity, it should be relatively easy to port to other mobile, videogame and VR platforms.

      My comment about graphic cards was related to the PC version. There are a variety of graphic cards out there and I suspect we’ll hit a few that won’t run the game or will have frame-rate issues. Hopefully not, but I really have no idea what we’ll find when we start expanding the universe of people playing the game beyond our team. There can be all kinds of surprises.

      Actually, VR should have fewer surprises than the PC world. PCs are a little bit “the Wild West”. They are sold in a variety of hardware configurations by a variety of different hardware companies. Whereas, with something like the Quest 2 the hardware is standard across the line. I may get surprises, but my expectation is that if we run on my Quest 2 we’ll run on all Quest 2s. And, with something like the Quest 2 we will need to go through some level of testing by Oculus before we’ll find our way into their store. If we’ve done something wrong that stops the game from running on some percentage of the devices, the odds are it will be found as soon as we submit it to Oculus for approval.

      And, all of that said, at this point I am focused on developing the game based narrowly on what I think of us two versions: the computer version and the VR version. We are building the game using Unity technology and they have teams of people who go to work each day focused on ensuring that games built in the Unity system are shielded from the outside world. This allows us to focus on the game and not worry so much about the machine it will be run on. Unity is like a modern version of what Sierra used to have, that we called SCI.

      At this point in time I really don’t want to think beyond just getting the game running on my computer and on my Quest 2. Once we get to having lots of beta testers we’ll see what kinds of surprises the world wants to throw at us.

      1. Hey Ken,

        As an avid gamer, I highly suggest (in terms of sales) that you focus the game on the three following markets:
        -Steam (for PC version)

        By sheer numbers, the console market is the biggest market that there is. I know you’re looking at this as an indie sort of game – a lowkey release – but then again Mystery House was an indie game…until it wasn’t!

        I know consoles was never really your milieu, but I do think it’s an area you should perhaps invest more into, as its the largest sector of the gaming industry overall. Oculus is for more hardcore gamers rather than the mass market consumer and from what I’ve seen, you seem to have always been more into the mass market consumer rather than the niche player (IE TSN being an experience – not a game – a computer illiterate grandmother could indulge in)

        I hope you do not take umbrage at any of these, they are just suggestions from a long-time fan who wants to see you, Roberta, and this new endeavor succeed.


  2. I just want one thing and I hope it’s in the game, and it’s a thing called “humor”. I’m tired of nowadays graphic adventures where everything is dark, it is serious, a murder and a detective. I want fun, I want to shoot the bartender just because I can, I want to enter on a room naked, I want to have a discussion about the size of the universe with a vending machine… those kind of things.
    So, my main question for Ken would be, would it be funny?

  3. Ken, I read an article recently where it said the Colossal Cave game was sparked by you talking about a game to teach programming. An interesting idea, and I had a Ph.D. student who did his thesis on a draft, finishing in 2000: “A Methodology for the Design of Educational Computer Adventure Games”, Rob Moser, UNSW. Premise: learning to cast magic spells = programming. I’ve played the original Colossal Cave, designed and programmed (learning) games (commercial ones include FaceMaker & Spellicopter, research ones include Voodoo Adventure and Quest, a game for kids to learn how to survive on the streets after they ‘graduate’ from Care, you can still play at, played computer games including adventure games, and written a book on how to design learning games (Engaging Learning, Pfeiffer, 2005: Any time you’d like to talk about pursuing such an idea, or just talk learning games (you and/or Roberta), I’d welcome the opportunity.

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