Monday, January 16, 2012

Second Jam Session: Postmortem

What Went Right

First and foremost, the team successfully integrated David To into the programming unit and would like to extend a warm welcome to him. The team would also like to thank him for his superior work and dedication over his first jam session with us.

In lieu of a master schedule for the project, the team set a reasonable goal of expending effort during the session to complete the first act of the game. To complete this goal, the team focused extensively on developing all the of the system components (crew, crew management, robbing bandits, etc.) that are necessary for the act. Additionally, one team member on the programming team served primarily as the integrator and debugger of the master build - this greatly increased overall programming productivity. Modeling and level design continues to make solid progress and has been able to use the design document to focus their efforts. Communication between the team and amongst the programming and art units was very fluid, which can be attributed to the close proximity of the team in the work space. Finally, as our sessions are opt-in, team participation continues to remain high; jam sessions really seem to work for us.

What Went Wrong

The team struggles to define what went wrong: clarity of goals is going to become increasingly important as the recent session involved "completing act 1" and resulted in "completing the systems necessary for act 1 (and all subsequent acts)", which may have been a more reasonable goal for this particular session. Moving forward, clarity of goals in the long run is something the team needs to develop a bit more as we really have no project schedule, target completion date, or any real goals beyond "completing the game". Additionally, the user-interface and controller-interface is developing very organically with very little design backing up the decisions being made and the current implementation. Finally, there has been no progress in the "audio engineering" department for the game and effectively there has been no efforts expended to correct this.

What Can Be Improved

The narrative elements of the game need to start making a bigger appearance in the current prototype and more effort needs to be expended on dealing with the bugs that prevent integration between the the two working units (i.e. completing the spline code that the train uses across larger maps). Additionally, there is a lot of low hanging fruit on the issues list that could be resolved and more effort could expended on closing out these issues rather than adding more of them. There has been discussion on using some external software (XGUI, Bugzilla, Unity with Xbox Live, etc.) and more evaluation effort can be expended. Developing a production schedule could go a long way towards directing the efforts of the team. Finally, there is a lot of down time in between jam sessions that could be used in a more productive manner; however, it is hard because we do not have a great solution for integration between units and individuals despite using our SVN repository - it seems to introduce some errors that later have to be debugged on both ends.

What Is Next

We are currently planning our next jam session for February 10th or 24th, we're looking at potential funding options, and we're looking at game competitions like the 15th Annual Independent Games Festival (or similar opportunities) as a way to get Tumbleweed Express out the door, exposed, and in the hands of the players! Additionally, many of us are gearing up for Global Game Jam 2012 at George Mason University on January 27th where we will be networking and contributing to a few quick projects unrelated to our efforts with Tumbleweed Express.

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