17 November PostMortem

It pains me how bad I am at updating my website. It’s been so long since I completed the project and I need to write it down before I forget everything.

I had just turned in my Gameboy GameJam Game and shared it with the internet when I get a message on Facebook.

The message was from the musician Emmsjé Gauti.

Him: Did you make the game?
Me: Yes.
Him: DUDE, phone number?

He called me a few seconds later and told me that he was working on his next album and that the marketing around it was influenced by the 80s. He was getting a He-Man inspired action figured of himself made so that a pixel art game would be a perfect addition to the campaign.

I was very excited about this opportunity; it was the first time anyone wanted to collab on a game together.

There was only one thing that I wasn’t excited about. And that was the fact that it had to be up and running in a very short time. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to finish, so I mentioned this and told Gauti that it would be perfect if he could get someone else to draw the graphics for the game. He replied that it would be no problem, which was a relief.

But it didn’t quite turn out that way, and I ended up drawing everything for the game except the cut-scenes.

The Process

We had our first “team” meeting later that night. We talked about how we wanted the game to be, and I got informed that Ingi Már Úlfarsson was going to take care of the audio in the game. But then things started to head in a direction that I wasn’t very excited about. Gauti and Ingi told me that they couldn’t find a pixel artist with such short notice, so they would just take care of drawing the art.

That’s cool I said. But then Gauti and Ingi started showing me some stuff they drew up before I arrived.

That’s awesome I said. Feeling a little bit stressed out. It wasn’t exactly how I envisioned. It wasn’t even close to what I had envisioned.

I didn’t mention anything, but I started to think about what I could do to get this on the right track.

After a couple of hours, I went home and started working. I figured that I would draw up a couple of character concepts. Send it to them and ask if it was okay if I just did the pixel art.

They accepted my offer without any arguments. And I don’t think they regret that decision.

Now with a lot to do in a short time, I started working. I used GameMaker: Studio as a game engine because I had some experience with it and it’s a great engine for 2D stuff.

I felt that one of the most important things with this game was the main character. And that I had to make him “perfect”. Making him recognisable as Emmsjé Gauti.

So I started drawing the main character and animating everything we needed and more. Some animations didn’t even end up in the game. Which is a shame, but it was great practice. And when I had all of that ready I started working on his movement, and the play feel of him.

While I was working on the play feel, I had him running around in an empty box. And when his movement felt nice to me, I started adding pick-ups and enemies.

For the most part of the development of the game, there were no levels. Just a box.

When things were starting to feel right, we starting blocking out the levels. Just some basic stuff, no hazards or enemies lurking around. The story was written at that point so we knew was going to be there. And it was it that point where I faced one of the biggest challenges for me.

So the game takes place in downtown Reykjavík, at some well-known places to Icelandic people. And because of this, I couldn’t just draw some houses and slap a sign that displayed the name of each place. I’m not entirely sure how I should phrase this, but I had to capture the essence of the buildings. So that the player would recognise it the moment he saw it. And I’m no artist. So this was some hard work. I spent a lot of hours on getting this right.

The first Place I drew was B5. The so called bad place in the game.

And then it was Prikið. The good place where Gauti could finally rest and get away from the enemies of the game.

I’d like to say that I could have done better, but I doubt that’s true. This was the best I could do, and I’m happy with the outcome.

After I had done my part we added the music and sfx. The process was fairly simple. Ingi sent me the audio files and told me when they should be played. That was all there is to it.

The absolutely final thing we did was adding the ninja gaiden like cut-scenes. Which tied the levels together nicely. They were done by the artist Arna Beth.

The game was done now, all we had to do was release it.

The night before we released the game I had a hard time falling a sleep. I felt as this game was my little baby and I had no idea how people were going to feel about it.

What Went Right

I feel like so many things went right for this game. Everyone in the team worked really well together. Things just got done.

I didn’t expect the game to become as popular as it did, but it was a pleasant surprise. In the first 12 hours, the game had reached 13 thousand individual players, and by the second day, it was over 22 thousand. Which is not bad, considering that it was just for an Icelandic market and our population is only 320 thousand. The game was originally launched online, but because of it’s success we got to make a second version for the local arcade, where fans of Gauti could come and play the game. The arcade version included a high score table and Gauti used to promote and upcomming concert where the top player would get a free ticket.

What Went Wrong

Not many things went wrong with this one. At least not from my perspective. And the only thing I can think about right now is the lack of time. I would have liked a few more weeks to work on the game, just to polish a few more things. But since the game turned out fine, I’m cool with it.

Lessons Learned

One thing I learned from all this, is that small games like this can be very good for marketing. It managed to create a lot of excitement around the album release.

But the biggest lesson I’m taking from this experience is that even though I didn’t get offered any money for this project. I took it anyway. Because I saw an opportunity to gain other things, like get my name out there, which might lead to other projects in the future. And because I’m writing this so late. I can let you know that doing this project for free definetaly paid of for me in the long run.

Some Cool Things

This game got a lot of attention in Iceland, and it got some press coverage. Here are some places it got featured.

Vikan með Gísla Marteini – TV

Rás 2 – Radio

Harmageddon – Radio

Vísir og Fréttablaðið – Article

Vísir og Fréttablaðið – Article

Pressan – Article

Ske.is – Article

Nútíminn – Article

Menn.is – Article