This past weekend, as Martin wrote last week, a bunch of Ruffians headed over to a great pub called Sloanes to show Fragmental off at GlesGames which is a bi-monthly event arranged for fans of multiplayer gaming in Glasgow. It was my first time demo’ing Fragmental in public and we were expecting in the region of 50-100 people to come and play, have a laugh and give us some feedback on the game. It had been a while since the team last put it in the hands of the public and we wanted to know if we’d done the right things in the eyes of players… But hold this thought because I’m about to go on a slight diversion.
I had a scary alert from LinkedIn this week that I’ve been working at Ruffian for seven years. We’ve done some great things in that time and worked on lots of cool stuff that we don’t get to talk about. Conversely we’ve also had some disappointments and embarrassments but so it goes, gamedev has its highs and lows and we surf through them. Anyway! My point is that despite being a veteran Producer at Ruffian I’m a relative newcomer to the Fragmental team. This is my first Fragmental blog post (more to come!) as I’ve been working on other things *cough* Halo *cough* until we decided to put Fragmental into Greenlight. At which point I joined in to help pull some strings behind the scenes and help promote Fragmental by, err, spamming the shit out of every website that’d let us.
I got banned from Reddit. Seriously, man, fuck Reddit.
Anyway. When I joined Fragmental the project was on a bit of a high because we’d gone into Steam Greenlight, it was going well and we all felt that we had an exciting game on our hands. And that is pretty much exactly the worst point in time to bring everyone back down to earth and figure out how we can actually finish and ship the game. In general, game developers are massively ambitious and they try to do too much. Hands up, we’re no different. So the fist thing we had to do was figure out the long term plan and shape of the game, what content we’d release and how everything we wanted to do might fit into a reasonable timescale longer term.
Our first goal was that we wanted to capitalise on the success of Greenlight as quickly as possible and get the game ready for launch on Early Access and I’m glad to say we’re just a few weeks away from that happening in February.
(I was going to write a bit more about the production side of game development here but, by heck, it’s boring to read about spreadsheets. I’m going to talk more about our development roadmap in a future blog post so I’ll go into a bit more background then instead)
Now back to the GlesGames demo we just did. There’s never a good time for a demo. No matter what size your project is, someone will want a demo of your project at exactly the wrong point in time. It’ll be when your build is going backwards, just when that quickly-hacked-feature-that-never-had-any-right-to-work-in-the-first-place falls to bits and you need to refactor nearly every system just in order to do one trivial thing properly. On big games this usually happens about 2 months before E3.
On the smaller indie scale, things will start to go wrong 2 weeks before you setup in a pub ready to demo in front of some Glaswegian gamers. And, at risk of getting pulled too far into stereotypes, Glaswegians aren’t generally known for pulling their punches when it comes to opinion.
Now I’m going to blow the Ruffian trumpet for a bit. The typical scenario for a game being demo’d is that you’d be up late the night before trying to figure out a problem that is usually explained with the words “But it works on my machine”. Not this time. We had a demo build ready a whole three days before the day itself. This is actually amazing and it’s credit to a lot of hard work and experience in the team. To get to a point where, three whole days before a demo, you have build that is stable, shows approximately 95% of everything you wanted it to show and you’re playing it and everyone is laughing you just, well, you just can’t quite believe it’s happening. But it did happen. Everything was great, so we polished it a bit more. And then we broke it. Fixed it. Broke it again. Fixed it. And then it was Friday afternoon with a demo looming on Saturday and I started to worry and it was getting all dramatic and tight and… We spent the entire afternoon playing the game. It was great! We’d nailed it, the build was rock solid, played fantastically well and we were all really excited about showing the game. Hand on heart, this is the first time I’ve gone into a demo feeling confident that the game isn’t going to do something spectacularly stupid in front of a bunch of people. All I could think about was how much fun we were going to have playing it and that is a very rare feeling to have. I’m not suggesting everything else I’ve ever demo’d isn’t fun. It’s just that there’s always been situations where I’ve been stood in front of hundreds, thousands of people knowing with absolutely certainty that if A or B happens, the game will crash or turn itself inside out and make us look stupid, but not this time. Of course, I realise I’ve totally cursed the next demo by raving about all this. Oh well, you’ve got to ride the good waves when they show up.
A good number of people played Fragmental through the evening and we had a nice crowd around our PC at all times which is always a nice feeling. We also got to see old chums and generally have a Good Time. There was a lot of positive feedback that we got and I think it’s best expressed in the way the evening’s Tournament came to a climax in a 79 round epic battle that pushed and pulled between the two players who remained at the end of the evening. You can see the winning moves under the effect of the slow motion modifier with a shotgun kill in the Vine below.
So that’s it for now. I’ll sign off my first Fragmental blog post with greets and thanks to the guys who made GlesGames possible, we had a great time and we had loads of really positive feedback about Fragmental. Watch out for news of our next demos as we’re aiming to be touring around the UK in the coming months to show Fragmental at various events and expos.