IT Dept. Postmortem
This postmortem was written a little later than six months after the publication of the game. Why? Well… on one hand laziness, but on the other hand lack of time. Yes, we’ve been working a lot on Hilgames. Not full-time, but the free time gets a lot of dedication to Hilgames. Anyway, that’s not the issue right now. Let’s go to the postmortem.
IT Dept. is the result of a homemade game jam. And this reminds the first game jam that I, Hilger, participated, the Global Game Jam 2014. Which, by the way, was a fiasco, but that served as an enormous learning about game jams. And also wakened up a flame inside the heart, because game jams are cool, really, and became an important part of Hilgames. Anywy, in this homemade game jam I and Leander participated, and the theme was “Failure”. This theme was honestly copied from one of the themes given on experimentalgameplay.com a lot of time ago.
Oh, yes, I wrote a lot about myself, but didn’t mention that IT Dept. is the result not only of Leander’s first game jam, but also of the first game ever that he participated as developer.
What went right:
1 – Working without a lot of pressure: the game jam we made took place on the carnival holiday in Brazil, and I took some days off my job. This means a time frame from Friday night until Wednesday noon. A little more than four and a half days. It’s a lot of time for a game jam, so we had plenty of time to relax, and we could sleep well. Several game jams that are restricted to 48h or 72h force the participants to sleep poorly, eat poorly, etc, or force them to make the games smaller so they can sleep. With four days, it became easier.
2 – Pixel art: congratulations to Leander to the beauty of the art, which I think is the highest point of the game as a whole. Especially for being his first work. And seeing the game visual results stimulated myself to play a little more with pixel art, and in some games ahead (Wealthmighty Dream, for example) to use this art direction.
3 – The reference to the IT Departments: We game developers have contact with the IT people (or sometimes we are the IT people), and the telephone constantly ringing, and the lack of explanations by the callers is actually an almost exact picture of the real life. It sounds like a joke, but it’s exactly like that. And even someone commented this on our publication of the game at Scirra Arcade: “Have you tried turning it off and on again?”. I’ll keep this as an inside joke, and I love this series. The reference was great.
What went wrong::
1 – The game is annoying. Really. I get pissed with it too. That’s because the game, even having an interesting learning curve, and having a good difficulty increase, at a given point becomes stressful and the random part of the game becomes an obstacle.
2 – The randomness: The options of how to solve the IT problems on the game are actually random. At the beginning of the game, it’s interesting to not know exactly how things work, but with the progress of the game, it would be more interesting if it had a way to find out what to do specifically for each kind of problem presented. After all, the game was going to be over anyway, but the player would be beaten by the ticket volume, and not by the inability of guessing which of the three options is the correct for each problem. It’s a game design flaw (yes, mea culpa, I assume it).
3 – Lack of mobile support: a web based game MUST be accessible via mobile/tablet. It’s a rule in a world with so many smartphones as ours. When I started publicizing the game to friends and acquaintances, most of them tried to access it via smartphone first. When they saw that the game didn’t work, a lot of them immediately gave up on playing, promised to play it later, but never tried again. And like that we lost a large part of the public. I don’t know if Construct2 offers a very good support for mobile, I tried playing via smartphone some other games created on the tool, but it didn’t go 100% fine. Maybe the tool choice was not the best, I don’t know.
To sum up…
We learned a lot working on IT Dept. It may not be the best game of the world, and may not have been as well received, but it served to restart Hilgames’ life, which had disappeared since Ctrl Shift (that was two and a half years). I’m very happy with the final results, and I see it as a new beginning for Hilgames. Currently the game has more than a thousand accesses at Scirra Arcade, certainly much more than we expected. Oh, yes, the publication in more than one place and the publicizing in sites like One Game a Month helped a lot. And it was also a big evolution to learn how to use Construct2. The two following games, also made for game jams, were created using the tool. We even got stuck in limitations of the tool, which I think it’s a good sign.
One day, maybe, when we have time left among the more than 20 game ideas we have written down for the future, we may create a better version of IT Dept. Never say never! :)