Just finished programming my latest game!

First let me say, wooooo!!! 😀 It’s taken a long time and has been tough at many points (especially the last couple of months when I’ve worked very long hours and weekends to get it done).

I’ve kinda interviewed myself about it below:

How long did it take?

OK, so it’s taken 51 weeks from beginning to end (so nearly a year). During that time period I had 3 weeks’ holiday, a week off due to a Hernia operation, a week to do my company’s annual accounts and filing, at least a week preparing to move to Canada, a week moving to Canada and settling in, then a couple of weeks getting my new PC in the BFG Vancouver office set up with everything I needed to get back into the swing of things. So that’s at least 9 weeks off, plus there were numerous minor interruptions in England and Canada which took up more time.

This means that the total time was 42 weeks max, so 210 man days (or 10 months). However it was less than this in reality because I didn’t always work as flat out as I could have in England due to various reasons, although the extra time I’ve put in recently has probably been about 15 man days.

What was the breakdown of time?

Whilst I was in England I kept a detailed time log of my hours using a specially made spreadsheet in Excel. It was very quick to make long entries in (took seconds) and it gave me a detailed analysis of how I spent my time. I used it a) for motivation (I could see if I wasn’t putting in enough hours in a day or week), b) to see how many hours each milestone took (which I got paid for), and c) just because I’m interested.

Here’s a summary graph:


Note that once I started working for BFG in Vancouver I stopped keeping a time log; so the graph only represents approximately the first three quarters of the game. The final quarter may well have contained different tasks and could have altered the chart quite a bit.

Nevertheless it’s pretty interesting to look at. (Bear in mind that I worked with a Designer and two Artists – I haven’t made the game 100% on my own of course).

The main peaks are:

– Planning and Research (Lots of planning was done at the start, but I also logged more as I went along. Research often consisted of playing similar games and making notes.)

– Organisation (Not really a peak but it shows up because I think it’s important to maintain a decent To Do list and to refactor it every so often.)

– Code (This is the biggest peak naturally, but maybe not as high as you might think due to all the other time consuming tasks required when making a complete game.)

– Bugs (Note how time spent solving bugs is about 10% of the code time.)

– Testing (This is not that high, most of the time testing is part of the Code peak, but towards the end of the project it normally goes up a lot.)

– Graphics (I log time as Graphics when I’m plugging in art into the game or making particle effects. This normally needs some code varying from simple to quite complex. I like to log it separately from pure code.)

– Sound (There’s a small peak there, but towards the end of the project I spent a lot more time on the final sounds.)

– Level Editor (Yes I made a decent level editor. It won’t be enabled in the final version, but it was good quality and enabled someone else to make all the levels.)

– Artist1 (This was the Lead Artist who did some art and directed the other artist.)

– Artist2 (This was the other Artist who did quite a lot of art. Because I was in a different country and time zone there were a *lot* of emails, which are time-consuming to type. I’m also very fussy and so there was lots of back and forth. It makes *much* more sense to work in an office with your artist, or at least the same time zone so you can call them!)

– Designer (I spent a lot of time checking out and editing the design docs, writing emails to the designer (thousands of them) and talking to the designer on the phone. Also we changed some elements of the design a few times and it’s time consuming working out all the details again. Again this peak could be greatly reduced by being in the same office or time zone.)

– Release (That last little peak is packaging up minor releases with notes for people to test out.)

What is the game about?

Sorry can’t tell you due to NDA with BFG. You’ll have to wait until it’s released. There will doubtless be a few naysayers (developers mainly) when they see the game genre, but I’ve enjoyed making it, it’s a great game, and the customers will love it – so I’m happy 🙂

When will it be released?

Probably next Friday or Saturday. It’s just going through a final test from start to end and needs to be security wrapped as well. It’s already had tons of testing done and lots of little fixes and cool tweaks. Naturally I’ll post again when it’s out properly.

Did you get all the features in you wanted?

Don’t be silly 😉 We started out with a huge feature list and the game sounded awesome, like nothing else out there. Then we had to scale down several months in when we realised that it would take way too long. Then we scaled down again later, but also added in some new stuff. Plus I’ve got a massive list of minor tweaks that I could have made. But there’s never time to put everything in, otherwise you’ll never release the game – it will become an eternal project. As long as what is in there is good and well polished, and there is enough depth (which there is), then it’s good enough to launch. Don’t misunderstand me, this game is definitely good enough to launch. People loved the beta and that was 6 or so weeks ago.

It does make me feel sad to think of the things that we left out, but then I’m very excited to see it launch next week too! The other stuff we could’ve added would have been cool but in reality it may not have made that much difference to units sold. It’s that concept of diminishing returns rearing it’s head again. We’re better off spending the time on a new game now – and oh how I look forward to that! You can get kind of sick of a game towards the end when you’ve been doing it a long time, but then that feeling is perversely mixed with the excitement of knowing it’s nearly done and will be on sale soon.

How well will it do?

Well naturally I’m hoping that it will get to no.1 on BFG (I *really* hope that this is my first no.1 game; I visualise it at no.1 quite often – and it stands a good chance of getting there).

A very good game can get into the top 10 on it’s own, but a great game (which I believe this to be) with BFG marketing behind it has the potential to get high in the top 10. My last game, Fairway Solitaire, only got to no.3 because MCF: Madame Fate, and Mystery in London (two BFG Hidden Object Games) had recently been released. At the moment there is a new very popular MCF game, Return to Ravenhearst, at no.3 and a HO game and a Time Management/HO above it. My game would need to knock them off the top spots, and anything else hot that turns up in the interim week. So please wish me luck!

What are you doing next?

Well a Mac version and Localised versions are next and that will take a couple of weeks. Also recruitment for the Vancouver studio. Then I want to tidy up the Grey Alien Framework for a final release and make some tools to assist me with my next game. Meanwhile we’ll decide on the next game (a visit to Seattle is on/in the cards) – we already have several cool concepts lined up so it’s a matter of picking the best one.

And that my dear readers is all. Time for bed!

10 Responses to “Just finished programming my latest game!”

  1. Roman Budzowski Says:

    Congratulations Jake! I love the period when you know you’ve finished the game and haven’t started another one yet.

  2. Kit Says:

    Well done Jake! I know the feeling of impending completion, as I’ve just delivered a painting commission that I started 10 months ago. Of course I don’t log all my time like you do, so I don’t know exactly how much time I actually spent painting, but the time you spend testing your games, I spend sitting on a comfy chair just looking at the painting – feeling what’s working & imagining what I could do better. And the bug-fixing that you do at the end, is like the finishing touches & little tweaks I apply to finally resolve the painting and bring everything together. And it sure feels great to have finished a big project! Good luck with your sales, I’m sure it’ll hit No.1 !

  3. Grey Alien Games Says:

    Yeah it’s a cool time that I haven’t experienced for a year! Maybe it just feels nice because it’s a huge relief?

  4. Alex Schearer Says:

    Wow sounds like an ambitious game with great expectations! Congratulations on getting it complete though! Can’t wait to see the final product 🙂

  5. Grey Alien Games Says:

    Hi Kit, nice to hear from you and interesting comparisons about making your painting (it was great btw!)

    Thanks Alex. It was ambitious, but we scaled it down. It’s really good fun though and has a unique theme/style.

  6. Grey Alien Games: Just finished programming my latest game! | Games For You Says:

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  7. JC Says:

    Can wait to see what this game is all about…


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