Its been awhile since I've really even updated anyone with my whereabouts. Chalk it up to being busy and managing a social life.
Part 2 is simply continuing off of part 1. Of course some of this is opinionated and many teams have found better ways to do things than I have, but this is what I've personally found it as.
To explain things best, I'll leave right off where "Starting a project, and 'not' letting the project die" left off:
Our plans for Episode 1 were with good intentions. Much smaller and organized episodes that were easy to develop and create. We were still short an animator, but had several voice actors recruited and all set to read a script I wrote myself.
I visualized and story-boarded some of the action. We did have a slight problem though, there was no action. Episode-1 had no scenes of actual fighting or anything gun related. We figured the story alone would entice players.
After it was all said and done, we took a step back and said "What the hell is this?!" We created a single player storyline with no action as the first step for a multiplayer action project?
The idea was to get a story episode to get us back onto our feet and have some sort of release. This was waste of time and frankly we should have went straight to something playable. Or 'at least' sticking to the multiplayer game-play.
Lesson Learned: Try to stick to the original formula in some way. Not that its required, but its a good idea.
It was a great idea on paper, but who wanted to spend months of work on something like that.
So we gave up Episode-1's story and just went aimlessly. After our little team member incident mentioned in part 1, no one really wanted to start any big ideas. Not to mention we barely had the man-power to really accomplish anything.
This is what we called the 'quiet months'. Everyone assumed Crimson Crow was dying and had little to motivation to do much.
Our forum stats went from 200 posts a month to a whopping 5-6. Most of which was me asking what people were doing, and sometimes someone replying.
This is a clear sign that 'something' is wrong. We literally had no actual direction and motivation suffered for it. This was a poor example of what we could do, and it really was my fault.
I refused to call it quits so I kept managing and doing what I could. Even if it means doing it all myself!
I even begun simple reload animations, and I am definitely not an animator.
The problem was I was doing speed-modeling props, sound, coding, textures, and some mapping.
Adding another thing to the list is just a great way of slowing me down. Sure I will have learned a lot, but it really slows you down!
We managed to get an animator set up and ready to go. Right before I sent him the models that needed to be done, another developer started a conversation with me about an animator he just recruited. How weird! Almost the exact same time as well!
I asked about that, only to find it was the same person.
That, to me, was bad news. Either he was 'very bored' or was up to no good.
I concluded not to trust him, and after a few weeks he managed to disappear entirely.
Being in two projects is 'ok' and after-all, but we had an insane list of animations to tackle, and we needed someone a little more dedicated than that.
This is a great plus of knowing the community a bit. There is a lot of great developers with very similar interests right here at Moddb. More often than not to ask questions about general art styles or if a model looks good or not.
About this time a graduated college student decided to lend us a hand. His name being Vince, and he was a texture artist. Which was great since we had a model pile from the props modeler, and since no one really bothered to texture it, I quickly snatched him to be a part of the team.
Vince hopped onto the team with high expectations and was a little sad when he saw the team in action. He quickly went to what he called a 'kick in the pants'.
It was along the lines of our failing art pipeline and what we needed to do to fix it.
This also included making a new website that was entirely our own! He must have really trusted us to be spending his own hard-earned cash for our dying project.
Instead of working on models, we went to something way more fun: Lists! We listed down what was made, what needed to be made, and whatever systems we could stitch together.
The general idea was to list everything down so everyone knew exactly what needed to be done.
As it turns out, half the battle is knowing.
While stuff would get done, usually it went from people asking me what needs to be done to it actually being done.
The list cut out the middle-man, and now any member could log on, see the list, and finish something that wasn't marked 'finished'.
We also added every finished prop onto a list. I, alone, made around 28 props that were already exported in-game.
Vince looked at the new plans with a smile. He then asked where we were headed with gameplay and storyline.
Whoa. Wait a second. We just threw out the old Ep-1 stuff and don't 'actually' have a real game mode or storyline.
I wish I could see his face when I had to tell him that.
We sat back and talked about ideas and methods and more importantly how much we liked certain aspects about other games.
This was a big change since we always had this 'it needs to be original' thought process.
Now we were basing many sections of ideas off of other games, and this was a big change. Sure it was 'less original', but now we had a perfect idea on how it would work. We had no intentions of directly ripping ideas of course.
I can't say this is a lesson learned since we did base our original ideas off of others in some way.
Our 'it was to be original' thought process was a poor one. Things can be 'generic', and thats fine. When it comes to FPS projects, its quite difficult to have something new and different thats not bad for gameplay.
Other idea appeared over and over again: Co-op gameplay. At first we barely really considered it, but soon we eventually heavily weighed it into any idea.
Finally we stumbled upon a game mode idea that, on paper, sounds idiotic, but in practice worked like a charm. In fact, even right now it sounds idiotic!
I even wrote an article on the failed game modes we tried and why they failed!
I even began to crank some hard coded and desperately needed graphical effects and features in-game. In a few weeks we had SSAO (Screen Space Ambient Occlusion) and AI up and running.
These were some desperately needed effects which I did not even consider a few months ago.
Also right around this time I moved out of my house to head off to the fall semester of my college.
This was the 'death blow' everyone worried about, but what do you know, a few weeks later and here I am coding away!
I'm an exception though, as our prop modeler proved that his life was a little bit too busy, so he stepped out of development for some weeks to get back on his feet.
Its during this time I finalized some concepts. We planned on co-op game-play and a very 'different' game-mode.
Co-op with a new storyline of all things. The odd part was see, I wrote a book a few months ago to better explain some of the characters.
One thing led to another and we started to like the book, and then soon we realized the storyline we could use was right there, written in plain text!
Not everyone has a book laying about with a storyline idea in it, but it was right there all along. I guess we just overlooked it too many times, so that we had to find it eventually.
I turned it into some dialogue lines and wanted to get a few people to read it to get some character voices. Amazingly Vince stepped up to the plate and nailed the voice for a few characters.
Lesson Learned: Your team may have skills to do multiple things. If you know they have something they're good at, use it to your advantage!
I was ecstatic. A few months ago were we as good as dead, and now we had voices, a game-mode, and a story rolling for us! Vince also recruited some other members with some exceptional skill in modeling. Thanks to the new modeler, Adrian, we had a new character model and props rolling out.
We then turned to the few things we didn't have, animations and sounds.
After long hours (Around 30 minutes) of a conversation, we cemented plans for how to accomplish the things we could not get done right away.
With the animations in the previous design document, it called for about 210 hours of animation man-power.
We cut it down to around 30 hours of animation man-power, which is excessively cheap!
Lesson Learned (Again): Keep it simple!
Plans for sound were simple enough, and we did very much the same. We cut down un-needed stuff and thought of ways to do it ourselves, before trying to get anyone else to help yet.
As I wrote down what was needed, I ran into another problem.
Ok, animations and sound will eventually get done. What then?
It seemed a public release was on our doorstep. Animations have always been a damper to our project, but being 'this' close now. I was thrilled.
I suddenly felt like typing this all down. After a terrible part 1, we're finally getting somewhere with part 2.
I hope part 3 involves some sort of public release.
What I find very interesting is that when my project seems to go downhill, its usually outside help that proves most effective.
I really hope this helps someone! Thanks for reading,
- Dave (Ninjadave)