Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Reflections: A Semester of Nuclear Armageddon

This has gone by way too fast.  It seems like just yesterday we were brainstorming dungeon crawlers and No More Heroes clones, and now we're making a strategy game about nuclear war with an expanded team.  Wow!  At this point, I'd like to reflect a bit on some of the successes and failures of the past few months.

A lot of things worked really well.  Our team communicated excellently.  While we might have our gripes on occasion, things resolved themselves quickly and didn't get in the way of our work.  We discussed the implications of our work among ourselves frequently, and our brainstorming meetings, particularly during the first half of the semester, were very productive.  Above all, there was a camaraderie, a sense of family, that made us stronger.  We talked frequently, hung out outside of capstone, were there to support each other when things didn't go right.  This, I think, was the strongest thing to come out of this semester, especially coming off of last semester's issues with my Production 2 team.  It'll be interesting to see how things change after the winter break as we bring our new members into the fold.

We were also good at iterating on our ideas.  As I mentioned earlier, we had productive brainstorming sessions, even when our latest idea had just been shot down and was bleeding copiously in front of us, as we witnessed with our weird, Mega-Man meets No More Heroes idea had.  Even when we were wearing down a bit from being unable to decide between our Death idea and Nuclear Armageddon, we always got something out of our discussions.  During the second half of the semester, once we started bringing the game in for QA testing, the designers were good at iterating on the design and balance of our various game elements, and I ended up iterating fairly well each week on things we wanted to fix or add.

Some things didn't go well during this process.  For example, a lot of the game came together within the last week, where we merged the UI and the gameplay into a single project.  That took a lot of programming and art effort within a very short period of time.  While it still turned out very well, that wasn't great planning on our part.  A lot of that comes down to my desire to get the new backend working in order to make our UI prettier and more scalable.  That came with a price.  Now that this is all set up, however, I don't need to rush over the winter break or at the beginning of next semester to get our development environment established from scratch again.

Another thing that didn't work well for Capstone, or perhaps just for this semester in general, is how I managed myself.  I didn't do a great job of keeping myself in great shape emotionally to work on this project; there were weeks where I just didn't contribute that much because I didn't have the energy to do much of anything anyways.  These were luckily countered by weeks where I had more motivation, but it would have been better had I been able to maintain that motivation throughout the semester.  I put a lot of pressure on myself to make something special, to create something fun and enjoyable and polished, to move on with the project and show that I'm a skilled programmer.  That backfired and often led to demotivating periods of stress and self-defeating ruminations, none of which existed in a vacuum and ended up affecting more than just my capstone work.  Our team moved on and we had a good demo, but I feel a bit guilty for letting these issues get in the way.

But this postmortem can't end on that kind of negative note.  Despite some of the issues I seemingly introduced, things went very well.  We had a close team, a focused idea, and a well-tested, well-loved game.  I'm thankful we've gotten the opportunity to move forward with production - I'm looking forward to bringing the new members into the NeverYear Games family and showing We Love Nuclear Armageddon to the world next semester.

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