Last 25th of June, the entire development team we had an internal meeting to assess the first six months of the “The Last Door” project life. The need to undertake this meeting is obvious since we had already reached an important milestone, the turning point where the release of second chapter made the first pilot to become free to play.
From now onwards, it is even more necessary than ever to invest our efforts cleverly, this is the reason why we needed to stop to consider up to now, all that has gone well and bad.
What went well?
Among the things that have gone well, for us one of the most obvious was the quality of the product. Yeah, we are pretty proud of “The Last Door”, it’s a really good game. And the best thing is that we are not the only ones who think it! Many, a really high percentage of players have spent their time to write us (through one channel or another) and praise the game. Thank you all!
One other good thing is all the good reviews and critics we have received from the specialized press and blogosphere. We managed to put “The Last Door” in several blogs and gaming websites and, to top it all, almost everyone loved the game! That’s great, we are in the good track.
Another source of satisfaction for us, it’s the high level of players’ participation in the development of the game. From the beginning, we wanted the development to be interactive and populate each chapter with as many community provided elements as possible. In the first chapter, we had no time leeway enough to implement this goal beyond a regular beta stage(that didn’t last long, and it was exclusively to fix gameplay bugs, texts, etc.). However, for “Memories”, we have done a great effort and we are sincerely happy with the final outcome. For instance, the experience on leaving objects blank for you to be described, really paid out, we’re totally doing more of this in the future!
Furthermore, having two weeks for beta testing, we’ve been able not only to fix bugs, but to perform relevant improvements in gameplay and, regarding the writings, Wow! In the end, we got almost 100% of the texts re-written by you, and best of all, the final result has been an outstanding second chapter, full of charm.
What didn’t go so well?
First of all, we have suffered an appreciable delay in the development of the second chapter. “Memories” was planned (and budgeted) to be executed in two months and it finally took us three months. One month delay may seem not a big issue, but we failed to establish the right development speed since we hoped that we could do it faster that we did it with the first chapter, and not end up being even slower.
This delay was due to two factors. The first one is the fact that the two youngest members of the team (Daniel and Mateo) are studying and they had to attend their courses (assignments, exams, classes, etc.) which precisely finalised during the same period we’ve been creating Chapter 2. Both of them have had to make a superhuman effort to carry both responsibilities forward and at the same time, not affecting the quality of the chapter.
On the other hand, we underestimated production costs for the new gameplay features we wanted the second chapter to have, like: refactoring the engine, support for NPCs and dialogues (including the integration with ChatMapper, a very cool tool to create conversations).
To follow up the thread of things that could have gone better, we honestly hoped to be capable of start offering translations to different languages at the moment chapter 2 released. But, to be honest, in the end there was no way we could achieve that.
Finally, the most important of the inconveniences we faced, it has been that we didn’t raise the funds that we needed to cover all development expenses of the chapter. In fact, we have only reached 50% of the total. Needless to say, this is a serious problem, since this means that all the team members we’ll get paid less than expected, jeopardizing our personal finances and which in the end compromises the sustainability of the project.
In any case, having obtained 50% of the total amount should not be seen as a failure but as a challenge: we have just started to run the way and we still haven’t done everything we should do. We’re not “there” yet. In this sense, the team continues to move forward with the development of the next chapter, with conviction, but we have to work harder in some aspects, especially those related to marketing and communication, to bring The Last Door to as many people as possible and make it profitable.
This in-depth analysis, should be followed by some serious decision making, especially to establish changes and improvements, trying to find a solution to our current weaknesses and at the same time, empower everything that has been done well until now.
First, regarding the scope of Chapter 3, the most important decision we made was to limit the amount of new features that we would incorporate in the new chapter.
The team agreed that the engine has practically everything we need to build the next chapter, and given that the weaknesses of the project are more focused on marketing and communication, it is compulsory that we focus the developing efforts to strengthen these aspects, especially leveraging that the art team will be busy for a few weeks finalizing the script of Chapter 3.
Keeping this in mind, we established the following priorities for this first month of work:
– Script and Art for Chapter 3
– Localization support (Chapters 1 and 2 must be opened to non-English speaking players)
– Hall Of Fame (reward users who donated 25 €)
– Make payment easier by supporting different payment options and not just PayPal.
Other tasks, less heavy but equally necessary at this first stage:
– Game Trailer (as we are no experts with motion graphics, we are counting with the help of a great professional: Mary Kish, from IndieViddy.com)
– Improve our development with more frequent posts and videos about the game creation process.
– Wild release of Chapter (we want “The Letter” to be released by hundreds of free flash games portals, so everyone who likes it could subscribe and donate for the project).
– Implement tools within our website to facilitate sharing The Last Door on social networks.
In summary, our idea is to invest all the programming efforts in tasks that could directly impact the collection of donations, while artists are busy writing the script and designing the next chapter.
Given all these analysis on the situation, and and in order to reassess if we are making the right decisions, we have set the goal of reaching the amount of € 6,000 by the end of the month of July. Do you think we would make it?