I drew up a more specific and honest to-do list at the weekend, and realised Gunpoint is going to be done later than July. I’ve also set up a mailing list called Just Tell Me When Gunpoint Is Out. If you sign up, you’ll get two e-mails now, to confirm it’s your address, and one when the game is released.
Thanks to all who suggested this, I haven’t seen many games do it without wanting to spam you in the meantime, but it’s a great idea for both of us.
Here’s an incredibly misleading shot of a story sequence I got working last weekend:
At this point, you might wonder why I even bother to guess when Gunpoint will be done. Plenty of developers have a “When it’s done” policy, which always makes me want to say “I know, I was asking when that will be.”
What they really mean, of course, is “We have no idea when it will be done,” a position I have a newfound sympathy for. But it’s still annoying. It still feels like secrecy. You’re the developer! You must know more than we do about when it’s likely to be. We’re not asking for a contract, we just want an idea.
For Gunpoint, I can give you an idea! I can even tell you what’s left to do, how long I think it’ll take, and how much free time I have to do it in. Between now and the start of August, I have about 38 free days – i.e. most weekends. And if this to-do list is comprehensive, I have about 39 days work left to do on Gunpoint.
This calculation assumes I’ll get nothing done in the evenings, that nothing will run massively over or under its estimated time, that I’ll be free every weekend and that there’ll be no business stuff to take care of. None of these things are true, but they might all cancel each other out.
Scripted sequence test – done
Made a scripted scene last weekend, and it looks great. These are no harder than I thought they’d be, so the other few should be relatively smooth sailing.
Rating system – 1 day
Giving you feedback on impressive aspects of your performance on a mission. I have a sense this is going to add a lot, so it’s high priority.
Laptop data – 1 day
How you read the data you steal from laptops, which are optional objectives in each mission.
Dynamic music working – 1 day
I have Ryan Ike’s multi-layered music mostly working, but it vanishes if you load a savegame and it doesn’t support a few more tricks we want to try. It needs a proper system.
Actual script – GDC Plane Journey
Yes, I’m going to write the whole game on the plane. It’ll be fine.
New gadgets and devices – 2 days
This probably sounds like feature bloat, but some really strong patterns are emerging in feedback. One gadget people find almost completely useless, and I have an easy idea to redesign that. And another idea I can easily add will build on your ability to manipulate guards, which is one of the most common key positives people list. A couple of simple new devices (crosslinkable electronics) are needed to support more puzzle ideas, which’ll help with the next step.
Gadget Tutorials – 2 days
It’s really hard to train a gadget without knowing what level the player will be playing after they first buy it. I have a dynamic prioritised system in there that queues up all the info you don’t have yet and trains it at the earliest chance. It’s not working. Everyone’s still baffled. So I’m gonna make little controlled test environments for you to try a new gadget before you take it into the field, if you want to.
Make worst levels good – 4 days
Man I really hate some of the levels right now. Not worth redesigning them until I’m a) less burnt out on level design, and b) have these new elements in.
[Classified] – 4 days
An idea I won’t talk about yet, because I’ll cut it if it doesn’t work or is going to take too long. It’s targeted very specifically at people finding the game too short or too easy.
Final art integration – 4 days
There are still a few more tile sets, animations and backgrounds to come from John and Fabian – putting those in takes time, and that’s something I’ve failed to account for in the past.
Scripted sequences – 2 days
Only two or three of these to do, and I know how to do them now.
Conversation and shop interface tweaks – 2 days
I’d like to make all the menus look better and make conversations feel nicer to navigate. It’s all a bit amateur hour right now.
Guard dialogue – 2 days
I want guards to have speech bubbles to articulate what they’re doing sometimes, particularly when a gunshot goes off. If one of them fired it, the police aren’t summoned – there’s a reason for that and I want it to be clear. There’s also a lot of fun to be had with this in less critical situations, so if it’s easy, I will.
Esc menu – 2 days
Mostly a basic options menu, but I also want a plot recap on there and will need to figure out how the mission skip option works.
More sounds – 1 day
So much more to do here, and it’s going to add so much to the feel of the game. Luckily it’s generally very quick to find a good sound and put it in.
Tweaks/performance – 4 days
So many tiny usability tweaks need making, controls need revising, mechanics need altering.
Bug fixing – 4 days
Haha, 4 days? Here’s where the game will slip again.
[Classified] – 2 days
[Classified] – 3 days
[Classified] – 2 days
More things I won’t talk about in case they don’t work out.
In terms of knowing when to stop, my rule is that anything I add to my to-do list has to be more efficient than the last thing I got done. It has to be likely to add more fun to the game and take less development time. If I’m always getting more efficient, any delay is worth it. At the point of diminishing returns, I’ll lock it down, polish it up and release it.