Life’s Impetus is a strategic action game where your life is measured in seconds. You play as a Reaper, a being in charge of taking the souls of the dead to the “Fountain of Life”, the gateway to the other side. But, to do so, you will have the face both others who want these souls and those who seek to protect them, all while the counter above your head keeps counting down. Gameplay is constantly tense and rewards well-timed button presses and thinking ahead. Will you be able to face Death and survive?
Life's Impetus is now two years old. Time flies, doesn't it?
You may be wondering why I haven't posted anything in the last month. Thing is, I was on hiatus due to life obligations, but now I'm free! Before I return to a normal devblog schedule though, I'll be doing a postmortem. Just like last year, I'll be looking at what I did this year, what I got right, and what I got wrong. It's mostly an analysis of how I worked, so I won't be talking much about the game itself, just the work process. So, let's start!
Before I get into this year, I'll give a quick look at where I was at this time a year ago (if you want to know more though, check out last year's postmortem). I was still in preproduction, that is, the phase where I decide on the most important aspects of the game such as the mechanics, story, world, characters, etc. I had finished prototyping the gameplay, and had choosen an art style I was satisfied with, but not much else.
As you can guess, my first goal was to finish preproduction. And so, I did; I worked on character design, decided on the main story points, and got an idea of how the world would look like. With the preproduction done, I could finally move on to production. First things first, I decided which would be the game's "real" name (before it was called Life's Impetus, I referred to it as Fountain of Life). After that I created a personal site, the game's Facebook page, Twitter and this IndieDB page.
Beginning work on the actual game was lots of fun. I started by programming the game's two core elements, player movement and the battle system, and the time I had inbetween I did a lot of little stuff such as starting to animate the player. But then came the 2014 Indie Game Maker Contest... If you want a detailed look at what I did, check out this blog post or check out the game's presskit, but basically, I halted development on Life's Impetus to work on a game for the contest. Once that was done, I kept on working on LI. I programmed a cutscene/conversation system (which involved learning XML, so it took a while) and finally, I worked for a while on the Fountain of Life before it was time for the year's end hiatus.
One of the important things I did moving into LI's production phase was to start planning ahead. A problem I had with preproduction is that I had no true long term goals, and as a result, even if I was working and advancing, I wasn't really finishing anything. I did have short term deadlines, but without a clear idea of what I would do once I had met those deadlines, I sometimes just ended up trying to improve what I had already done instead of moving on to the next task. In fact, I originally wanted to finish the preproduction in the first year of development, a goal I missed by a huge mark.
This year, by having a schedule, I had an idea of where I wanted to be in terms of progress at any point of time, and I was able to focus on finishing and meeting deadlines instead of blindly working for as long as I felt like it. This not only helped me advance on the game much faster, but also taught me to work productively; to work while always making sure that what I'm doing is actually leading me nearer to the final goal. And, the other important thing to note is that I actually managed to make a realistic schedule for the year, which is special since it's the first time I do plan something long-term like this. I did have a rocky start and had to reschedule a bit, but for most part, I managed to stick to the schedule and met pretty much all the deadlines I made for myself.
(yes, that's all the good stuff...)
I'm still not entirely sure if making Sky's Isles was worth it. If anything, it's nice to have finished a game and to be able to show it to people, but I can't say worked out as I had hoped it to. In terms of LI's development though, it most definitely was something bad. First off, it obviously was a time loss. The month spent on Sky's Isles could have been spent working on LI. But, there were repercussions beyond that, too. First off, once Sky's Isles was done, I spent a bit less than a month marketing it, which was completely unnecessary (well, there was prize for the game with most "likes" but I never was trying to win that), but at least it was a useful experience (and some people made an article and a video!).
Finally, after finishing the whole marketing campaign, I started working on LI once again, but... it was slow. I mean, it clearly took me a while to remember what I was doing and to start advancing again, but the problem was bigger than that. I'll quote the Sky's Isles postmortem: "Before this, I was working on Life’s Impetus at a reasonable but strict pace, but for now, I think I’ll take things slower, [...]". Definitely, I was slightly burnt out after the stress of making a game in a month, and it showed. I worked on the game for a while without clear goals for a month and bit more, and as you may guess, it wasn't a very productive month. Eventually though, I slapped some sense into myself and got back on track. So, I lost about three months on something I originally only decided to do because I thought it'd just be a month...
While this is slightly unrelated to everything before, it's an important factor to consider. I've never been much of a social person. I mean, I do like hanging out and talking with people, but I'm fine without it and I'd rather dedicate my time to other stuff (like gamedev). And yet, I was pretty active this year in terms of social activity. The problem is that by "social activity" I don't just refer to going out with friend and stuff like that; I also participated in a lot of activities and even organized some of my own (for example, I organized a small Super Smash Bros. tournament). And yes, this did suck away a lot of time and energy too... It's not something I regret in most cases, but it's not something I want to keep on doing if I want to finish LI anytime soon.
One thing that I've always valued is marketing. If you have something good to show, it's always an good idea to start marketing early because it lets you get feedback, start building a fanbase, and ultimately make your game known, which is essential if you want people to actually care about it when it's released. And so, I've been "marketing" the game since basically the beginning of the process, but I began to take it pretty seriously when this year started.
And yet... I never really asked myself who I was marketing to. I simply never thought about who read the devblogs I wrote, the Facebook status updates I posted, and the tweets I tweeted. And the answer is, almost no one. I mean, I wonder who's reading this postmortem now? (by the way, thank you reader for making it this far). It's not as grim as I make it sound though. Posting here at IndieDB gives me a good deal of views, and I have a small amount of followers that give me a consistent amount of views at my site, but none of this seems to have converted into actual people interested in my game.
In the end, the problem is that I've been marketing to thin air all this time, just showing stuff without actually worrying if anyone was looking at them or not. The time spent writing weekly blog posts (which by no means was little) could have been better spent working on the game and helping it reach a prettier state (since we all know it's hard to get people interested in a game with only programmer art). I still value what I've done in terms of marketing for LI, but I can't say it has helped me much.
This wasn't much of a good year, huh? I improved in some important aspects, but I made some pretty big mistakes in other areas. This starts to be worrying when I consider that I want to finish Life's Impetus by late 2015/early 2016, and this upcoming year will probably be the toughest yet, both in terms of real life commitments and developing the game (will be working on the actual content such as levels, cutscenes, etc). Nothing else to do besides face it, though! I might fail, but that shouldn't stop me from doing my best.
Latest tweets from @lifesimpetus
While watercolors are really charming and not difficult to use, having to scan and clean them later to add transparency is a pain.
6hours 58mins ago
Trying out stuff for the Fountain of Life. The idea I was working on didn't work out though... will move onto something else for now.
Dec 16 2014, 9:38am
Dec 13 2014, 5:47pm
Dec 12 2014, 12:14pm
Messing around with still water animations. It's surprisingly hard to animate something that's supposed to be barely moving.
Dec 10 2014, 1:40pm
The postmortem on the 2nd year of development is out! T.co
Dec 9 2014, 10:19am
If all goes well, I should post the second year postmortem tomorrow. These things are surprisingly dense to write...
Dec 8 2014, 5:26pm
Time to start working on this year's postmortem! It's... not exactly going to be positive, but no point in avoiding it.
Dec 7 2014, 5:09pm
Working on the Fountain of Life! Hope to talk about it next devblog: T.co
Dec 4 2014, 9:45am
RT @Alce_X: I guess it mostly has to do with how the game's scope isn't that large, but the task that exist are complex.
Dec 3 2014, 6:09am