Gaming Your Way

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cronusX: Post Mortem

A post mortem on cronusX is well over due. Even though the files aren't online right now ( The webhost the files were on got hacked, and it turns out their talk of backups was a big fat lie, so they just closed rather than restoring things. Nice one ) we did document every day of it's development.

cronusx.jpg

I will re-upload all the files when I get chance.

What went right:

The development diary, which I've already mentioned. It's something we're definitely going to be doing again on the right project ( So many are covered by NDA's, others are quite risky and there's no need to fail in public ).
It really gave us focus and allowed for really quick and great feedback from you dear reader.

The look & feel. I'm really pleased with how the game looks. The screen shake when the asteroid hits the screen during the attract mode is pretty sweet ( And if you've got a 360 joypad plugged in you get a cheeky rubble ), the rgb split transition works nicely ( There were some comments that it took a little long, some comments I just choose to ignore ), the between level tips are a nice touch too, even though one was broken that no one noticed which got hidden with a nasty 11th hour kludge.
Olli did great work with the players ship, the asteroids and the title screen animation. Funnily enough it's the closest we've worked together on a game, and it was really smooth ( I'm sure I'm looking at that with rose tinted spectacles though, I'm pretty positive I pissed Olli off untold times ).
The curved text was a pain though, as I didn't use code to curve it, so it meant using the art package for every text amend. Painful.

Code. It's a really solid game code wise, it uses our distance based broadphase collision routine which worked perfectly for this game. Also procedurally generating the background was really cool, something I'm proud of. The data mining in there is pretty good too, with Olli doing the clever server side stuff.

The game itself. I really enjoy playing it, it's a good game, and that's the best I can ever hope for.


What went wrong:

We had this really good data mining system, and just failed to use it. I did code up some widgets but they never went anywhere.

widget_rock.png

A real waste, but there comes a point of diminishing returns.

The sponsor requirements meant that we had to rename it, which I wasn't over the moon about, and actually remove some features. This meant that the version on Candystand isn't as good as it should be, which is a real pity.
( Just for the record, Dave @CS was a joy to work with, I'm really not criticising Candystand in any way, it's just frustrating removing working features ).

We experimented adding twitter support, being all web 2.0. Total waste of time, it was badly implemented, took far too long to add and no one used it. Lesson learned there.

x_grab.jpg
Old wip grab

Survival mode. Another important learning point. I thought adding a half arsed feature to increase the "value" of the game was a good idea. It turns out that players expect things to be good, rather than just tacked on, crazy talk I know. The perception isn't that it's a bit more to the game, which is how I saw it, it was treated as integral part, and seeing how it was weak we suffered because of that.
Fair enough, it's not something I can argue against.

No one liked it. Ok, a little bit exaggerated for dramatic effect, but it did fall between two stools. Old gamers were expecting Asteroids controls, and were disappointed that we'd gone "Dual stick" with it. New gamers who didn't grow up with Asteroids felt it was lacking in other ways, such as a lack of bosses ( Amongst many other things ).
Basically we hit the middle ground perfectly, which pissed off both sides ( Spoiler alert. The Ionic post mortem is going to end the same way ).

It got an ok-ish 3.80 on Newgrounds, died it's death on Kongregate ( Naturally ). I honestly don't know what it's done traffic wise, we weren't allowed our own tracking in there, the moch-ad figures say just over 385,000 impressions, so add in the skips and the site lock plays and we're looking at a piss poor million or so hits. Nothing really.
This is why the widgets never saw the light of day, there's only so much time you can throw at a project that's not going anywhere.

Before this gets too pessimistic and ends on a low, it's a game we're proud of and it's still fun to play even now. I'm more than happy to have it as part of the GYW back catalogue, it represents us well ( A technically good, pretty game that no one likes aside from us ).
If this was the last game I'd ever written I wouldn't be upset.

Squize.

Comments (5) -

  • Scarybug

    7/22/2010 9:28:49 PM |

    Well I enjoyed it.

  • Matthew

    7/22/2010 10:02:37 PM |

    Dosn't this also set you up for a CronusX2 with all your post-mortem findings taken into account? Dev time should be much shorter this time round as it's really just an update.

  • ickydime

    7/22/2010 10:11:43 PM |

    Thought it was very well done.  Especially on the visual/effects side.  Maybe just not a high market for an asteroids game... no matter how professionally it was done?

  • bas_alicante

    7/23/2010 7:19:55 AM |

    Wow there mate, I think you left out the most important "what went right" aspect of this game. It was clear from the beginning that you absolutely loved this game to pieces even before it was born. I bet you lost hours just putting in little sparks 'n particles that 9 out of 10 kids wouldn't even notice sticking their nose to the screen.

    Building one of these games from time to time is so incredibly satisfying. You just take yourself as the target audience and forget about what the kids or agencies want. Spending a day and a half to get that little glowy effect just right... ahhh the joy.*

    My personal baby "Space Chaos" was build with that philosophy in mind. Absolute disregard for time-ROI ratio, CPU specs, control preferences, etc. When releasing the game the financial and popular failure was inevitable. But screw that! I'm convinced that whoever "got" the game, loved it to bits. It was a lot of fun to build and I still play it from time to time myself.

    We should make more games like these!


    *yes, I'm neck-deep into advergames again. Did you notice? :-)

  • Squize

    7/23/2010 9:57:06 AM |

    Cheers Scarybug :)

    Matthew it's already a "reboot" of my second ever game,X. Actually it's the 2nd time I've gone back to it, X+ never saw the light of day as that was in the days before sponsorship ( cronusX was called X++ for a long while ).
    I'm not a great one for sequels, there are always so many games I want to do that I never really feel the urge to try and refine an idea I've already worked on.
    In saying that I've done quite a few reskins, as it's nice to re-imagine something. Years ago I had a real thing about doing remixes of games, where say I'd give the source to a game to a handful of devs and they can do whatever they like with it, their take on it, and I'd do the same with their games.
    It's never happened but maybe it could still be good, although that was back in the as1 days where even though the code was everywhere it was still simpler to mess with.

    Hey Icky, yeah totally, Asteroids is Asteroids, no matter how you dress it up. In saying that though, it's like I said, the purists hated that it deviated from the original, and most other people disliked that it didn't offer much more than Asteroids.
    Ionic received the same response, by falling between two stools you just seem to piss everyone off.

    Bas, Bas, my beautiful Bas. Yeah you're totally right, it was pure joy making the game. I think it took about 22 days or so ( With a long gap then before the final assets went in ) and everything went smoothly so I could give it all the love I wanted.
    It reminded me of when I first started and every game was an actual process of creation, where you wake up happy 'cause you know you've got a fun day ahead of you working on your own game.
    Advergaming may pay for the crowns, but unless you're really involved in the games design it's a really soulless task most of the time.
    ( Space Chaos still has the best preloader I've seen in years, that alone just drips love ).

    Did the post mortem read overly pessimistic ? I didn't mean it that way. In terms of popularity it was a failure in my eyes, but I'm really proud of it and it's one of the few games I've done that I can still play and enjoy.
    Playing it with a joypad with the music turned up loud, that's why I became a game developer, to make moments like that.

    Thanks for the feedback guys, it's always a pleasure to read your thoughts.

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