The Finish Line Approaches

I sit at my desk on a Friday, awake, for the first time in weeks.

I got some decent sleep last night. Yesterday I had a headache and some pain in my eyes when I moved them. The flu has been going around, so there was some worry. But, eh, sleep does the body good. 久しぶり to an 8 hour sleep.

On Wednesday night I finished uploading a test version of “Shichikashuku II” to mediafire. On Thursday morning I sent an email out to more than two dozen volunteers to help test the game. By the evening, I’d already received some feedback. I like the fact that I can step away from the game and work on it is getting done in some form.

But, I can’t stop. Last night was good. Hopefully tonight is too. Regardless, the 3rd year students will probably play the game this Monday. That’s only 2-3 days left of work before they get a copy.

One thing I can rest easy about: Even if they played the current version, it would probably take a week of classtime minimum to complete the game. My last runthrough of the game, without completing all the sidequests or getting all the characters, took about 5 hours.

One thing that nags at me: I still have 4 more students to implement, all 4 of them 3rd year students. It would be a shame if they played and couldn’t recruit themselves in the game. Therefore, my focus this weekend is on making them playable.

As for the rest of the students, they’ll probably be playing mid-March, which gives me a lot of time to perfect the content and make some good updates. Every day I work on the post-game content, bit-by-bit. I hope the game will be fully done around mid-March, but at this point, I’m going to take things a little more slowly.

The game is in a good state. But even more than that, it’s in the hands of other people. And hopefully, being enjoyed.

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The Small Things Add Up

Another week. Another post about how I’m working at a clip to get this game done.

This week I managed to crank out a lot of the changes I wanted to get done but didn’t feel like doing. Because I worked mostly at the junior high school this week, where my computer screen faces everyone, I’ve been focusing on what looks like boring work from afar. You know. Don’t want to arouse suspicion.

Originally, I had characters acquiring skills that went as high as level 125. But, as I play this short game, I realize that most players who play will only get to around level 30 or 40. It’s a result of low encounter rates and a focus on non-grinding, even in spite of the high EXP rates. My goal was that about every 3 battles or so, a character would level up. Given the short length of the game, this feels about right.

I found this level stuff out about a month ago, and while I know that I like high numbers and skills that most people will never see, I decided to bring down my numbers. Now, characters gain their final skills between level 50 and level 70. While it’s much lower, it still leaves some mystery for those wanting to really grind and level up, and for those attempting to tackle the unbalanced bonus content. Most people who play will probably never see these skills either, but it gives people who are level 30 or 40 more skills to exploy (each character still has the same number of skills, but instead of getting them at 55, 65, 75, 85, 90, it’s at 35, 38, 42, 45, 48, for example). Hopefully the high number and high acquisition rate isn’t too overwhelming. I fear it might be.

Anywho, as I sit at my desk waiting for the next class, I’m either writing more item/weapon/ability descriptions, changing ability levels, or making minor tweaks to something here or there. This is the kind of rote work that just needs to be done. Yes, I’ll probably mess up the balance a bit with the ability changes, but I’ll go and deal with that this weekend. In fact, the goal this weekend is a few playtests from start to finish, balancing random encounters and bosses. Having the ability levels changed is paramount for a successful test. Balancing before the abilities have been changed would likely make most of the balancing worthless and in need of a re-do.

After the game is relatively balanced, I’ll throw in a bunch of the “English Gate” challenges, which are like mini-translation-quizzes for players. Something to satisfy my English teacher as he watches a bunch of students run around weird places and fight random encounters. Putting in the English Gates right now wouldn’t be a problem, but they would slow down the balancing.

The game is now essentially complete in it’s basic form. Yes, it’s not balanced. Yes, there are still a bunch of side areas that aren’t yet implemented and quests that are incomplete. But, the game is playable from start-to-finish. From “New Game” to the credits.

That’s a nice feeling.

On Schedule

Phew. Even in spite of my shorter deadlines, and that 5 day break, I’m all caught up and on schedule. With the game I mean. Not the blog. Sorry about that. ><;

I’m working on the final section of the main game this week. Then there’s a wedding on the 20th. Then, if all goes according to plan, the game will be 90% done by the 25th, with most / all of the characters in the game. Also by this time, all the battles and “English Gates” will be in the main game and, to some degree (on the side of the game being easy), balanced.

With my own preliminary balancing done, I’ll send the game to friends and get their feedback / basic bug testing. During this time, I’ll be adding more to the post-game content, worrying less about the balance here. This content is likely to be the most buggy and unbalanced, perhaps, but it will be in the game, and that’s what matters. Not intentionally buggy of course, but with fewer eyes on it, it’ll be a little harder to get data.

It’s getting towards the home stretch. I’m looking forward to what the game is shaping up to be.

Working on Vacation

I have a trip scheduled with some friends to go to the Yuki Matsuri in Hokkaido this week. It’s a yearly trip and I’ve never backed down. The trip runs from today until next Wednesday the 10th. I’m excited to go, but, with the game deadline approaching, a little nervous.

After all, 5 days away from the game, while potentially meditative, is a huge chunk of time to not be doing anything with. But should I bring my computer with me?

When I was young, my father would often come with his computer on vacations. I guess he does it even now. There was always a little dismay in the family at the fact that he was working instead of “spending time with the family”. I don’t really care now, but those thoughts have infiltrated my brain.

“Working while on vacation is bad,” they say. “Don’t waste your vacation time!” “Spend time with the people around you while you have the chance.” “Make memories.” “Live a little.”

And I don’t plan to use my computer much. But, if I have 5 minutes to spare, and I could be using it to make something, shouldn’t I? Especially with less than a month left to make things.

After all, this is my 3rd Yuki Matsuri. It’s not like I haven’t seen it all before.

I’ve been working at a breakneck speed recently, finally catching up to my schedule and attempting to surpass it. But 5 days off is a near death sentence. Steady wins the race. Thankfully, next Thursday is a holiday, so I’ll have that whole day. And yet, it’s little compensation.

I’m getting close to the end. But with each day comes a little more stress. Internal talks about what is important.

Monday night was a big milestone. Half of the students are in the game. 18 more to go. I mean, now, on Friday, only 13 left. Next milestone: Current section of the game complete. I set the finish date for the 10th, but it’s looking tough. Possible though. Then, main story complete by the 20th. Then, all the students in the game by the 25th. That will be enough to let friends test it. Then, all the side areas and bug testing done by the 1st. Then…

All I can think about is this game. Is it even possible to go to the Yuki Matsuri without thinking about the game?

I guess I’ll bring it. If only for the peace of mind. Work for 10 minutes will let me enjoy the rest of the day. Steady. Bit-by-bit.

 

And hey, having a whole group of potential testers to rope in isn’t a bad idea. I always learn a crazy amount watching someone play.