Nice to Haves, the Final Polish

October 21, 2016

It’s just over a week until the release of the Sleuthhounds – The Halloween Deception computer adventure game and the end is in sight on the list of outstanding issues. As of the time of writing, there are only four issues left on the list that must be completed in order for the game to be released and those should be dealt with before the end of the weekend. This puts the game in really good shape as it means there’s time for an entire week of additional testing and for adding on a final coat of polish.

Early in the development of a game, I favour the approach of working on the most interesting aspects first. I believe that if you do something that you’re really interested in, you’ll do it faster and better than the pieces you’re not interested in, which of course is good from a scheduling standpoint (more done in less time, bonus!). There’s also the satisfaction of seeing those pieces come together early on, which helps to give the project momentum. That’s one of the challenges with any long-term creative project: keeping the momentum going.

The difficulty with doing all the interesting stuff first is that you keep pushing off the uninteresting stuff until the end of production. Eventually, you get close enough to the end of production that it’s useful to itemize all the outstanding things in a list. This is where it’s good to have built up momentum earlier in the project. When you’re faced with the harsh reality of all the outstanding items, it’s good to know you’ve got the bulk of development already behind you. It gives you that extra incentive to push through the list and see the project to completion.

From personal experience, a lot of the items that get pushed off to the final list are things that generally don’t take a long time to do but aren’t trivial items either. They tend to be on that cusp of being too small to be an interesting piece of work in and of themselves and too big to knock off in five minutes. Or they’re just fiddly bugs that require a lot of testing and hunting through code to exterminate. For the most part, those have been the items I’ve been dealing with over the past two weeks.

However, there is another category of items on the issue list that is a little more fun to deal with. Those are the nice to haves.

Developing a game is a creative process. And creative ideas beget other creative ideas. I’ll often have ideas during the project that I would like to get in but that aren’t, strictly speaking, necessary to completing the game. While it would be great to get these ideas in, the fact is, you could keep tweaking and improving and adding stuff indefinitely and never release. These nice to have items need to be prioritized to come after the must have items in production. Usually this means anything marked as nice to have ends up getting cut from the game, especially when you have a hard deadline to work to (Sleuthhounds – The Halloween Deception out October 31st).

However, as I mentioned above, the must have items should be complete by the end of the weekend. From there, it’s a whole week of production time to slip in at least some of the nice to haves. Who knows? Maybe I’ll even have time to make a trailer video for this game (something I’ve wanted to do for the previous games but that has never quite made the list).

It’s an exciting time coming into the final stretch of a game’s development. After all the long hours and all the time spent with various parts of the game broken or missing, it’s so rewarding to be able to see the finished piece. I really enjoy the game at this point and I hope you’ll enjoy it too!