48 hours of 'fun'

So I will take a little time today to discuss the events of my demo launch. The mistakes, the wins, the highs and the lows!!

Its been a great experience, that I highly recommend to everyone as soon as you have something playable. 

So set your mind all the way back to Saturday, 18th July. I am going to open with the first and foremost mistake I made, and the biggest lesson I learned.... In a rush to take advantage of the community support, I set myself a stupid arbitrary deadline and announced it to the world, There was no need, and every mistake i made could have been avoided with an extra 24-48 hrs testing. 

Trust me, in hindsight i should have swallowed my pride that Saturday and delayed it, or the more clever option - not set one in the first place!

This could have gone one of two ways, and I am lucky that I did not lose support. If anything it is a testament to the game development community that this was actually a really good thing!

So I tested as best I could, with some help from my lad, we found ALOT that needed fixing. But I thought we were there and released approaching midnight UK time! Ohhhhhhhh I was mistaken.

I put the demo up, and alerted two people I will speak about later. FaervalTv and KimberPLS who had agreed to cover the demo for me on their channels. I approached them as a few people had approached me out of the blue, and i wanted to ensure that if it was being showcased it would be somewhere I would be proud to be linked to. Both graciously accepted and i am truly indebted to them.

So the messages I got from Kimber went - I am downloading now - 10 mins later - I fell straight out of the world!!

Well that wasn't meant to happen.

I jumped into editor and started searching, where oh where had this happened? I asked and - single doors. Somehow the Collider had come off the prefab for single doors!!

Quick fix.

Now i knew some people wanted to play, did not expect to suddenly be getting messages about the page being down as I uploaded the fix!

So the fix goes up. And something in Editor in build must have changed in the meta data. All of a sudden I now have an issue that people are downloading and getting a DLL error.

Panic, cold sweats, heart pounding. I have never even heard of this, and its way past midnight,

Into the forums we go!! Easy Fix. OK......

At this point, i feel good!! I get some sleep....Or try to.

I get up a few hours later and start bouncing off walls!! And oh my god some of them have lost their colliders!! 4AM Fix.

Things go well, nobody comes saying anythings wrong and we get the happy feeling.

Now I sit and play, I bounce off walls. I shoot ZOMS, I cant use medkits or pick certain items up. Ok that could be a problem, jump into editor, works in there? Ask a couple of people, they are doing fine?

Back to the forums! An issue with the Playmaker mouse lock...

Ok fix and warn Faerval because he said he was gonna do a Vid today!! As I am writing the message I get one from him, he enjoyed playing and the Vid will be up in 15!!

So i sit and refresh on his channel. There are bugs. Most importantly, he is falling through the floor at junctions. 


Hes following my bread crumbs, hes triggering my enemies, ok that trigger is resetting? he is triggering alot of my enemies!! This would annoy me.....HES LOVING IT!! ITS NOW CALLED DEMON ALLEY, HE JUST WENT AND FOUND A GRENADE AND NOW HES GOING BACK>>>THIS IS AWESOME.

Now a couple of people have asked why i would link a push this vid, with the bugs...those people massively missed the point. Most people got it though....The MAN HAD FUN!!! 

I turn the editor back on feeling so happy. Easy to fix those bits of floor, the Video was awesome, only one pick-up missed.

Now a little talk about level design, there are great established level designers out there writing quality content all the time.

 I found some great articles and tips online by notimetolouse while working on parts of the game which i will link below, which became like a bible, and the design was a massive difference to the way it had look a mere couple of weeks earlier. I kept everything based on 5x5 tliles (the original advise was for 4x4 but in unity it is best to have your characters 2m tall rather than 1.8m) and that everything works on a grid that allows things to fluidly flow, and create organic areas etc.

I strongly just suggest you follow him on twitter, the man is a Sensei at this stuff.

Once I implemented the information from the article, one of the things i start hearing is 'the city is brilliant, feels like a real city, flows great. Mission accomplished.

The other was eye drawing and bread crumbs, i accomplished this relatively easily with corpses, vehicles and enemy spawn points, mostly to draw the player towards either a pick up or a hoard spawner. It will take more finesses as the world fills in, but so far so good. And as a solo dev - seeing people outside of my household react to them or walk right past them....that was an amazing eye opener that resulted in quick changes and something everybody should seize if the opportunity arises!!

So Monday happens, Kimber is going to stream about 6pm UK time. The days pretty easy, noodle around and play. I put down a large safety net so that she cant fall off the map (which she later uses to pretend to be jesus, then falls off the map!)

I walk through a wall backwards...not forwards only backwards. Its only 1 mesh out of 7000+ so she wont do that.......she will do that wont she?

Its past 5pm....Fix it fix it fix it! Safe. OK upload.

The upload takes forever, as 6pm approaches i start to get nervous...5.30 and its going to be too late!! Then i hear those great words -- Mark, check out what i just unlocked on fortnite!!-- I go upstairs and the kids have 5 devices online between them. Kill the devices (nearly the kids lol) and jumps from 5% to 95%

I shower, brush teeth and out on a clean tee for the stream. Im not on camera, i just gonna be watching and typing, I'll never know why i did this. But considering how the stream went...might be a routine now lol.

So the stream starts, and just to make it so that things continue on course...googles removed me convoluted twitch password. Reset, can hear stream starting...

The stream was easily one of the best experiences of my life, seeing someone enjoy what you have made, and seeing it run in a stable form. My family all end up watching the stream, she finds all the easter eggs, every weapon, makes friends with a zombie, races him and loses him when she jumps out of his detection range.

Her community are loving it, people who are just joining chat and dont know I am there are liking it, I end up chatting to them as they ask questions about the plans, make suggestions. 

Between this and Faerval, i suddenly feel like this can be a thing. And if you can get the support like this I highly recomend it, if i have to go back to day job and life makes this untenable, i will always have that!

The community in general are feeding back great, no-ones saying best game ever, but supportive voices from people just discovering me to AAA designers come through.

In conclusion 

- Dont set yourself unrealistic goals

- Test, Test, Test

- Take any advise you can

- Things will go wrong (hopefully not as wrong as some of this did if youve read this) but that doesnt mean the whole things going titanic.

-Put time into your community, they will help you, and you owe it to them, their support is a privelige. 

Thanks for reading my ramblings. 

Vids mentioned -

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iuVsDdcLfdQ&t=2s - Faervals youtube 

https://t.co/S6GmL56PEd?amp=1 = Kimbers stream

https://medium.com/@iuliu.cosmin.oniscu - Level design insight articles

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