So close to the end and still so much to do

So for a while I have thought I was so close to the end of my project. But then I sat down and actually listed out all the things I still have to do. And even then it was not a short list, with several of the steps having long sub-lists. So what are some of those things to do?

The first obvious thing is to check all the scripts in the project. Remove anything unneeded, make sure all the pointers are looking where they need to, and a few final checks on scripts to see they are working the way I want. While this is the first step, I will also likely repeat this near the end. Firstly as a final percussion in case I messed anything up in the meantime, but more importantly so I can make a new project folder that includes only the files needed for the end product. As of now my project folder holds archives of most of the old scripts, scenes, and assets, in case I ever needed any of them. But once I am ready to publish that won’t be needed anymore and in fact might get in the way.

Next up is a review of the effects I am using. Part of this is linked to the script review as much of the effects are controlled by scripts. But I still hold them as different steps because of their different purposes. This step has two objectives. Firstly to check all the transition effects to see they are happening at a speed I want. And secondly to review an effect I added and almost forgot about: a spark effect on activating a play area button. This effect was included to highlight the button the user selected and make it stand out against the other buttons that also changed. However the spark effect was decided on long before my theme was decided and I need to decided if it still fits in the theme, needs to be changed to fit the theme, or needs to be removed entirely.

Next up is fairly simple and to the point: final sound design. Just need to do a review of all the sound effects and make sure I don’t want to replace them.

Then I will be implementing something I have been meaning to include for a while: an options menu. This will include at least three things: volume control, credits, and an option to reset completion data (with a confirmation selection). There is one thing else I might include that effects game play… but I still need to do a lot of thinking about that one.

Once I have everything pretty much the way I want it I will do a review of the UI design. I will be reviewing it with my father, whom I respect in this subject (even if I but heads with him rather often) and who has lots of experience in the field. This will undoubtedly lead to some redesigns and possibly the need to create some new assets, but most of my UI up till now has focused on functionality rather than design, so high time to change that.

After all that I need to get my game in front of some fresh faces for beta testing. Hopefully they won’t have any major feedback. But I also hope they have something I need to change so I don’t get paranoid about having missed something.

Just two steps go and they are fairly related, but one must start with: monetization. The first step will be figuring out how I want to monetize the game. A one time up front payment would be simplest… but with the number of “free” alternatives I would be unlikely to get many people willing to pay. Next up is a free trial that is unlocked by a onetime payment. More likely to get people to download it, but more complicated to implement. And finally is implementing banner ads. I need to look into this option, even if I don’t end up using it, to see how it works. Odds are that this option would require me to rework the UI to make room for the ads. But the advantage is that the game is fully “free” to play and therefore competes on an even ground with the other games in the genre.

The final step is the same for basically all games: publication. This one will require a bunch of tedious research and set up work. Deciding what platforms to publish on. In what order or all at once. What are the different rules and requirements? So on and so forth. Honestly this is the step I dread the most. Not for some “fearing the finish line” reason. But because it includes the most things I am almost completely uninformed about, and therefore most likely to screw up. But that is life, and I will deal with it when I get there… still a bit intimidating.

Sounds Effects

One thing almost no game can go without is sound effects. And my game is no different… but where do you get those effects? For some things the answer is simplicity itself and others take a bit more creativity.

First up was determining what needed sound effects. My basic first list was: changing level, new puzzles, restarting puzzles, and pressing a play area button. And the last shall be first, for I instantly knew what I wanted to do for the play area buttons, a simple click sound. But where to get it? I could look around online and get a sound generating program or look for free to use sound effects, but I had a better idea. I simply went into my room, pulled up my phone’s recorder app, and recorded flipping the light switch. Transfer the file to my computer, clean up the file format a bit, and presto I have a simple clean clicking sound for my game.

But that left a few other sound effects, and no real easy things I could record to get an sound for them. Which is where I go back to something I mentioned before: a program that makes sound effects. After a bunch of fiddling with that program (random generation within a genre and tweaking things here and there) I got the other sounds I am now using for my game. However I am thinking I might go back in and see if I can make new sounds, now that my theme is decided.

Pruning Levels

As I get down to the last few things I need to do, I occasionally find “new” things to deal with. One of those things is something I haven’t dealt with in quite a while: What levels I am including in the finished product.

Initially I had made several passes of generating levels, until I had well over a hundred for each game type (over two hundred for the classic). But, short of going back and generating the hints for each of these levels, I didn’t really pay them much mind while I worked on the other elements of the game (UI design, Backgrounds, transitions, If I would have a tutorial, etc.). So I have decided now to go back through all the levels and prune some of them out.

Mostly this is for the early levels, the levels that are supposed to teach concepts. I thought I had a few too many and going through them again I believe I was right. I don’t want to linger too long on the very early concepts and have the player lose interest in the game before they get to the more engaging levels. But even beyond that I am going through and just discovering that some of the levels are just uninteresting or too similar to other levels and have noted them down for pruning.

Part of my methodology for this is I am going to make a first pass of the levels, note down which ones are up for pruning (and why), and then leave them alone for a little while. After having a short break from that task I will go back in and decide which ones actually need to be pruned. This is so I don’t get overzealous in the moment and get rid of something that would be difficult to recover. Slow and steady, rather than making rash decisions.