Gaming Your Way

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The last day...

So today is the last day I should be working on GMM. I've got a bit of a confession to make ( Well two actually ).

The first one is that today isn't actually the real deadline. I don't know when that is, I think 4 weeks or so away. That's when the client starts emailing a lot more and things start getting slightly strained. That's when clients are still firing off "It's perfect. Can we just alter...". That's when you're sick to death of it. The deadline is when you realise you've really under quoted on this job as you're still killing yourself trying to get it done on time. It's when you regret having those couple of lazy days and when you realise that the next job isn't already in the bag yet, so you've got both a game you're pretty jaded with to finish off, you've also got to whore yourself around to make sure the following months bills are paid.

Then why have I been counting today as the deadline ? Because you need to work to the budget and not the timeline ( Where possible ). You have your day rate and you divide the budget by that, that's how many days work it is.
When I started off trying to get into the industry and was just writing games to learn my art, I always did that even then ( Although my day rate was a lot less in those days. A couple of years experience and some shiny awards bumped that up ). It stops feature creep and ensures the game is done, not 95% done but good enough to release.

Now with GMM there was very little budget. No where near enough to do what was needed. Sometimes projects are like that, and sometimes you have to take a short term hit for a longer term gain. After seeing the assets and chatting to the client I knew I wanted to do this, so the hit in my pocket wasn't an issue ( Or rather not enough of an issue ).
So I did the above budget/dayRate=days formula, and then multiplied it by 2. I thought it would be possible to still make the game everything it should be in that timescale ( 10 working days ). In effect after day 5 I was making a "loss", and every day spent on it after today ( It's day 10 already ) I would be making a loss on my cheaper rate.

It's hardly the end of the world. I still think Flash developer wages are stupidly inflated compared to real life. A loss when earning good amounts is still better than a lot of people having to dig holes in the street or change patients bedding. It's all relative.
I speak to quite a few London based freelancers who charge a lot more per day than I do. That's great if you're working on some big ass media campaign where there is a silly budget involved. Rip the arse out of it, but personally I'd rather do the odd job that doesn't make as much rather than this rigid "£xxx" per day.
GMM is going to be a good little game, and if I'd stuck rigidly to my day rate then either I wouldn't have got the job or I would have had 5 days to do it, which would have resulted in a crap game ( 3 days to make it, a day to test and debug and a day for client amends. Hardly the most time in the world to make something shine ).

I think that's one of the key reasons why there are so many piss poor adver-games out there ( Don't believe me ? Check out thefwa. Filter it to show games, and have a play. They will look great, but tell me how many you'd play more than once. Or even how many you enjoyed playing. Or even how many you admire as examples of good gameplay ).
It's mainly due to the lack of good coders, never mind good game coders. This shortage means that either designers "Who can code a little" are making very pretty but very empty games, or agencies are getting freelance coders on board who know they can charge £xxx a day and sometimes it means there's not enough budget to make a good game, just enough to cover their costs and have something come out the other end ( There are of course other factors, clients with no concept of games, designers with no concept of games etc. ).

I don't think there's anyone to blame, and I don't mean it as a blankit critisim of freelancers ( Far far from it ) I'm just trying to put into lots of words that sometimes the art should come first.

Right I mentioned at the start that I had two confessions. The second is that the game isn't done yet. In fact the to do list has hardly been dented.

The "hidden baddies" proved to be a real bitch to get working, and as soon as I post this up ( And after a smoke, obviously ) I'm back onto the baddie bots ( Pac Man ghosts ) which I spent just under 4 hours on yesterday and need at least a couple more hours today to finish off.


Comments (5) -

  • random10122

    9/17/2008 12:38:51 PM |

    I completely understand the logic - but the idea of making a game in 10 days seems crazy short! I don't work full days like you but i could still imagine spending that amount of time just bug hunting, polishing and amending.. Even with a large library of classes and routines as i imagine you have it seems like you might have set yourself an impossible workload from the beginning ;-).

    I respect your attitude towards 'the art', its just unfortunate that it seems to be a lucky creative person that gets both the money and the great project - so often it's one or the other!

  • Squize

    9/17/2008 1:03:33 PM |

    Hi mate!

    10 days is a tight turnaround, but it's not an epic, just a cute little iso maze game, plus I got 95% of the assets up front which saves a hell of a lot of time ( Plus a well written GDD, so I've not had to have think about the game itself too much, just code it ).

    In saying that, I did most of the Spooks games in under 10 days, and quite a few of the Jamie Kane ones ( Thinking about it, the adidas games I did that no one played, I'm sure the core engine / first game was done in 10 days and I was given around 2/3 days per reskin for it ).

    It is do-able and without just throwing crap kludgy code in there, but it is tricky, and I'm out of practise at working to such a tight deadline ( It was one of the reasons I left preloaded, turning out high quality work in ever diminishing timescales just leaves you so jaded it's untrue ).

    "its just unfortunate that it seems to be a lucky creative person that gets both the money and the great project - so often it's one or the other!"

    Yeah totally. In terms of GYW we've been lucky ( In a way ) that we've had lots of great projects, but so far without the big budgets.
    I don't think ( Off the top of my head, there may be something ) that we've released anything that we regret. There's no "Just for the money" titles in our portfolio ( Although the Phantom Mansion games could have been a lot better in a lot of ways, but then they've done huge traffic so what do I know :) ).

    I think if we got a £50k+ budget we'd spend £100k because our own expectations would be crazy high ;)

  • John Cotterell

    9/17/2008 1:52:43 PM |

    Hey Squize,

    I've just finished a 10-day wonder myself. I ended up giving them an extra day for nothing because I got really proud of it and wanted to see it more polished and free of bugs.

    It really could have done with 15-20, and it would have been a masterpiece, but it's a 60-second top-down driving spree, nothing more.

    I'll hit you up with a link when it's live - I've also just managed to get sucked into blogworld so I'll send you the link to that when I've posted some of my rants.

    John (aka lesli_felix@flashkit)

  • Squize

    9/17/2008 2:20:10 PM |

    Hey John.

    Is that the as3 driving game we spoke about ? 10 days + as3 is really pushing it mate, wow.

    Yeah it's funny when you're actually loathe to finish a game 'cause you can see so much more potential in it. Day of the Warm Beer was one such game for me, I could easily have given that another week of sweet sweet love.

    Fire over the links when you can mate and we'll shove the blog one in the blog roll.

  • John Cotterell

    9/19/2008 6:56:09 PM |

    Yeah that's the one.

    Hopefully get my blog posts about it up over the weekend and I'm hoping that the game will be live on monday.

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