The Making Of...


Whew.

I just finished playing The Real Texas from start to finish for the first time.

Flood

About a week ago, I moved into my apartment which has new carpet. It has new carpet, because about a month ago during a -30'C cold snap, the pipes in the apartment two floors up burst and flooded us (and the units above and below us.)

So since I posted "DONE" on twitter I really have only had about a week of proper dev time with it, as I've been living out of a hotel. Adventures!! And a lesson in backups, if you don't make them (I do.)

Time Budget Saved My Life

About a year ago, I sat down and drafted a PLAN to FINISH THIS THING. I knew I needed to be done by October or I would absolutely lose my mind. It's April now but I came close enough to keep my sanity, anyhow.

The plan looked like a list of quests and other large chunky pieces that had to be completed. I plotted how many days of dev time I thought each would take, gave myself 3 days per week from that night until October 31, and then cut anything that didn't fit. I also inflated the days by about 1.5x my first intuition.

It was a hard dose of reality, because it helped me to see what I could reasonably expect to accomplish. Without it I really do believe I'd nowhere near finished, even today, which would make me want to die.

Oh right. This plan was drafted at like 3am in the middle of a panic attack(*), because I felt completely overwhelmed.

(*) I don't know if it was really a panic attack, but whatever!

Perspective!

Blah blah blah, post mortem, blah blah blah.

Pacing

It's really awesome! Maybe it's because I'm the creator, but there are lots of moments where the hair stands up on the back of my neck. This is accomplished (I hope) through a careful manipulation of time on the part of the game designer.

Pacing is everything-- just ask Beethoven.

Exploration

The other great thing is that it really rewards exploration and curiosity. A large chunk of the game is optional, and it's quite possible for instance to completely miss certain things that are going on in town.

If you play with a certain curiosity you should come to a better understanding of what's going on. At the same time, there is a "direct route" through most of the game; for required elements I would rather err on the side of being obvious rather than cryptic.

Connectedness

The world is structured not as a series of areas (an Odyssey-like structure, ala Final Fantasy) but as a tightly-woven mesh.

One thing that I always love to experience in real life is the sense of learning how places connect to each other. I like to ride my bike around neighborhoods and find all the nooks and crannies, or surprising "bridges" that link things up.

For me this is extremely satisfying and I've tried to capture this "aha!" feeling from real life, in-game. Lots of places are close together that don't seem like it, at first, but in the end you realize they have to be. Actually the underlying structure of the game engine prevents me from cheating very much in this respect.

What's Next?

I need to find a publisher. I'm just not strong enough to take this and put it out on my own if I want to do a good job of it. This is the most crucial thing, at this point.

I need to tie one more quest together a bit better, if possible.

I need to fix a few small bugs, and get the Mac version up and running (it's partly running on Mac-- I expect to simultaneous release on Windows, Mac and Linux.)

I need to fix a few small issues with pacing, as best as I can. In some cases this is as simple as adding a few seconds pause in a cutscene, or changing a music cue. Unfortunately this is more time consuming than it might sound like.

I need to do some beta testing. There won't be an open beta test, but instead I'm mainly going to be doing fairly controlled testing with people. Having played it through with a very critical eye, I don't anticipate huge problems in "getting stuck" for the testers (but we'll see.)

Once I've done this, I can abandon this thing at last (which means you can play it!)

Thank you!

Thank you for reading!! If you follow along, thank you for your encouragement, it really does make a huge difference to me. Strangely enough, I've got other (small) projects in the cooker that might come out sooner than Texas, so stay tuned.

I will keep you posted!

2011-04-05


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