Plunder Pups ver. 1.0.0 just came out!
I just released ver. 1.0.0 of Plunder Pups! It's been a long, long time coming but I'm relieved and satisfied to finally have put the game out into the world in some finished state. While the game is by no means perfect, it's still a game that I've managed to design, program and release by myself all the way through to the end, and as far as I'm concerned, that's nothing to really sneeze at! This devlog is sort of going to be a bit like a post-mortem, but not quite to the extent of which other professional developers actually tend to write up. Instead, it'll probably focus more on myself, my learning and my process. So... Here we go!
Developed alone through to completion: First and foremost, this is an achievement in itself. From what I know of the industry, one of the best ways to advance an amateur game dev career to simply finish games. Too many developers in my position tend to start projects and then over time, due to a multitude of different reasons, they'll drop the project. Over the development of Plunder Pups, I was always focused on getting to the end of the project, though my time management wasn't the greatest, which leads me to...
Time Management: I never expected the game to take as long as it did. I've documented it thoroughly on my devlog, but different little hiccups in other parts of my life prevented development time at various points throughout the year, so it took me a few months longer than I would've hoped. According to my version control, my initial commit was made on February 28th, so the overall development time works out to approximately six months, plus some additional time spent writing up the design document. In future, I'll be looking to make smaller games in smaller time frames.
Greatly improved my programming skill: Throughout my university career, I was never a programmer. I didn't study the software technology major (which I now regret to some degree) and I didn't really learn much on the side. That was until the end-of-year break in 2016, where I decided that if I really wanted to be an asset to my team, I would need to pick up some skills in a game engine. I knew there was a good chance that we would be using Unity, so I picked that, and went through some of Ben Tristem's Udemy tutorials, which were extremely beneficial for me, and led me to picking up C#. My capstone project team then found that we needed programmers, so I put my hand up to help out. With a great teacher (Rory Dungan), I found myself loving programming. With Plunder Pups, the project really extended my knowledge and saw me taking on issues that Rory would have solved during Bees Won't Exist, while I took care of other features. I feel really confident in my programming of the lower level elements of games now, but still definitely have room for improvement, especially in games physics.
Didn't Experiment Much: I've always said that Plunder Pups was a project I undertook to teach myself more programming, gain more game development experience, and contribute to my portfolio so that in future, I can apply to game industry jobs with actual games under my belt. While I just said that Plunder Pups improved my programming skills, I didn't take the time to learn new things things such as shaders and particle effects. The quality of the game definitely suffered as a result, but in hindsight, perhaps the addition of these features would have increased the production time on an already long and financially non-viable game. I would love to use Plunder Pups as a base to learn these skills in future.
Asset Store Use: As I'm not an artist, I knew that I had to outsource the 3D art for the game. While I was going to ask a few peers if they were interested in making some assets, I found myself perusing the Unity Asset Store one day and found assets available that worked perfectly for Plunder Pups. This saved a lot of time and effort, and while I have heard that using things off the Asset Store can be quite hit or miss for a lot of developers, I was able to really gain an advantage through using it.
Not Testing: During Plunder Pups, I was pretty reluctant to show off the game to people. In fact, during the whole development cycle, I only ran one test session with another player, who wasn't naive to the project. Most of the time I would justify this to myself by saying "well, it's a project set up to teach myself programming," but really, a lot of it came down to not thinking the game was very presentable (which should never be an issue as games never are as presentable as they could be during the testing stages), as well as not being confident in the project as a whole. Not only this, but testing the game was pretty hard because it would require setting up proper settings due to the game being multiplayer... But quite frankly, not ever seeing the game being played by 4 players is preeeeetty silly for this kind of game.
(Also, as a sidenote, don't make a 4 player game when you don't physically have 4 input schemes... Don't know what I was thinking there)
Sound!: While sound for Plunder Pups was not particularly difficult, I'm glad I managed to bang it out so quickly, especially in middleware that I was not very experienced with. I really wanted to try learning FMOD during this project, so getting a little bit hands on with it was great. Overall however, I think the sound could have been better, especially as I'm an aspiring sound designer. Which brings me to my next point...
Sound...: The overall suite of sounds is pretty lacking. I wanted to include sounds like dog whines (for when a dog is headbutted), button click sounds and, well... A lot more. I chalk this up to running out of time, and really I broke my cardinal rule of not leaving sound until the last second, so there's nothing to particularly blame but my own time management and issue prioritization. I suppose because I was very focused on programming, sound slipped into the back of my mind. In fact, not even the music is unique to the game, it was lifted from the Bees Won't Exist soundtrack. I think in future I will definitely come back to work on Plunder Pups' sound as an exercise, especially to learn a bit more about FMOD.
I'm sure in the coming weeks and months, especially as I dive into new projects, I'll probably realize and discover a few more things and take note, but off the top of my head those are my main takeaways from Plunder Pups. I've been taking a bit of a week off to sort of destress from the project - not that I was ever really that stressed about getting Plunder Pups out - and to sort of plan out my next moves. I've already got a few things on my mind of where to go next, and I've cooked up a couple of new game ideas, so I'll probably write up a new post on Sunday.
Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoy playing Plunder Pups, and don't be afraid to give me some critique on the game.
- Harrison Short