S02 – Progress Report 9 – Postmortem: From Ashes

From where we developed this project, we see this project as a way of trying to learn what it means to integrate storytelling with direct exploration and interaction. And all we can achieve is the fact that storytelling integration in the game was implemented to invoke a sense of narrative with direct interaction as opposed to simply put expository dialogue in the game.


From Ashes is a game developed by myself and Toby Welsh, a production made in a five week span of time. This covers the story of a man trapped in a fire and a chopper is coming your way. You have only two minutes to gather three possessions and leave. This progress report will cover the development phase during the game, what went right and wrong and how could it be possible to change that in the future.

From Ashes is available on itch.io here.

During the development of this project, we covered what we can on developing a game with a simple interaction and exploration mechanics without being too bogged down by too much mechanics to pull through, it is more an aesthetic game than anything else. The way we go about doing this is to cover a list of items which allows us to cover what we would work on and provide us with a base. Although some things had to be changed because of animator communication issues, we were able to get most of the base of what we needed. We changed the plushie’s conception from the dinosaur plushie to the bear plushie because of miscommunication, which led to the fact that we were not able to put it in. Though that is a minor detriment, I find it as a small loss for the whole production to change the text based on the design.

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What went right during this project was the fact that we were able to scope our project down to simple exploration and interaction with all our focus placed on refinement, because the game we made is made in a limited time, we need to make the designs fit the time limit and the production process reflects that. We make the most of what we can with designing the structure of the game and documentation as well all at the same time.

Though one major issue that went wrong was the fact that we ditched the documentation halfway through production process, which is a detriment. This is because we weren’t able to do both production and documentation at the same time, leading to a conflict in scheduling. While this does not detriment the quality of the game, this leads to some management issues, especially with how we work things out, removing quality control as an option which is not something we should do.

No quality control leads to some problems during production as well, since we lost some data worked on during that day because of one mistake in merging the files together, since they were working on the same scene. This loses some time and leads to a short timespan in re-fixing and remaking the quality the way it is.

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During the testing phase, we manage to acquire some feedback. Most of them noted that the game does not imply you should care for the character you’re playing as. You just pick up the object and just interact out without reading the text, this is one of the issues that is lead to the game’s overall design problem. Though this game also has its issues, mainly in the fact that the world itself was simply giving so little time to absorb the situation. While two minutes seems enough for the average player, some others may find that too fast while some may find it confusing at best. What we wanted to convey to the player is to ensure that the connections between the player and the objects is made clear, and while it is made clear enough, it does not invoke the player to just pick up the object and read it based on what you think you want.

So the solution for that is to prevent players from leaving first hand for a period of time and thus makes the player require to at least analyze the surroundings before deciding what objects to take. And have a timer set up to check when they can leave serve as an indicator which helps out a lot in keeping track for the player.

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In terms of how we presented the game, we would cover the themes of home relatively well, since it is set on a house and the possessions clearly gives that theme. The positive feedback we earned during an exhibition we did have given us that much, as some people claimed the game as interesting.

The player feels the way we wanted to feel during that time and we were able to successfully convey what we need, giving the player freedom enough to do whatever they want without it being too bogged down to tell the player what they have to do step-by-step.


 

One other issue is the fact that we have no instructions in-game, which is a weakness since direct interaction seems a lot more better than simply using a menu to tell the player what to do. This would not happen if we planned ahead on how we should introduce the player to the world via a design document. This is one major step we need to consider fixing in future developments, to create documents which covers a plan of what the game is about and what each component would do assist in making the game the way it is for the player.

To conclude, the game overall has its own ups and downs. Mostly because during development cycle, we could not keep up with fixing the game while at the same time stopping for a bit to plan out a step-by-step process on how the game would work in-world and integrate instructions as well as direct level tutorial integration in the game directly.

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