I think I’m far away enough, now, and have gotten most of the changes to the game done, that I can talk just a bit about Why Am I Dead in a post-mortem kind of way.
To condense it all down to one sentence, I think my main takeaway from Why Am I Dead is that changing a game’s scope and time-line in mid-development can have some negative drawbacks in the long-term.
What do I mean by that? Well, let me start by saying this: Why Am I Dead was an idea that I came up with in order to motivate myself to get my feet wet in Actionscript 3. To repeat myself, and just to be really clear: this was a game that I meant to make as practice. I took a couple days to think up the idea, I figured I’d code an engine very quickly that demonstrated the idea, I’d put it online and then move on to my first ‘real’ Flash game.
Obviously it didn’t turn out that way. The game’s timeline went from one week to roughly three months. During that span I repeatedly made off-the-cuff decisions to spend more time on this thing or that thing, and then to try and actually market my game, and so on. Of course, had I not made those decisions, the game would be virtually unplayable in its final state; but it also created the sense in my mind that I was taking far too long with the game. I had not mentally prepared myself to be working on the project for that long, and so I started to feel serious burn-out, and as if my game would never be finished…even though over all I still didn’t end up taking that long developing it.
I know, I know. Burn out, on a three-month long project? What kind of sissy am I? But, again, because I started out thinking the game would take a week or, at worst, two weeks, it was hard to convince myself to keep going and see the project through to the end.
Here’s one particular manifestation of why this was a bad thing. Since I had intended mainly to make a game engine that demonstrated a neat idea I had, I considered things “finished” when I, well, completed the game engine. But then there were numerous times, usually due to scripted events for the story, that I had to add some functionality that I hadn’t anticipated. Since in my mind I was ‘done’, rather than take the time to implement it in a general/safe way, I threw on some duct-tape. With my limited play-testing, there was no way this wasn’t going to blow up in my face.
The result of this half-hearted approach was very apparent when it hit the major flash portals. I had raised the bar for the game in all aspects except for polish and QA, and so the release was quite rough, and unfortunately not the best display of my programming chops.
This wasn’t really a case of being unrealistic in regards to how long it would take to finish my game. This was a case of changing what game I wanted to make, halfway through making it. So, for my next project, I will have a particular goal for my game in regards to its functionality and overall polish, and I will do the best I can to stick to that goal.
Of course, overall, I’m ecstatic regarding the reception of Why Am I Dead, even though there’s plenty of room for progress. I never ever ever ever ever expected a Flash game that was this text-heavy to get so much attention, and I definitely did not anticipate people to interact with the story as much as they did.
So, what’s next? The idea of a sequel is extremely tempting, especially given how many people commented that the game mechanic would work better as a longer and deeper experience (which is exactly what I’d love to make!). So, while it’s still a bit too soon to say for sure, a “Why Am I Dead 2” is very plausible.