Cardinal Game Studios
Why I’ve Canceled Development of Scrappy’s Shootout
While working on Scrappy’s Shootout I learned a number of things, from technical skills to the process of project development. Prior to this project my 3D modeling skills were abysmal, to the point of where I couldn’t even make basic models. I learned how to create and manage a website and Twitter. And I learned how to distribute packages, write devlogs, and more. But more importantly I learned from the mistakes I made during the project, which ultimately turned out to be fatal. I’ve realized that Scrappy’s Shootout is not worth the trouble due to a number of errors made during both the planning and development phases which I’ll discuss now.
Major mistake #1: No passion
When beginning Scrappy’s Shootout I never had an honest reason to make the game in the first place beyond doing it for the sake of doing it. For a small project this mindset might be sustainable but for a project that will last four, five months like my game was going to take, it quickly becomes a daunting task. The reason why I started Scrappy’s Shootout was because my nephew was playing this game called “Assault Cube”, a free to play first-person-shooter (FPS) I found on Linux Mint’s software manager. He really enjoyed this title and I realized I wanted to make a game that he and others might enjoy. So, I thought “Well, I guess I’ll make an FPS then.” and that’s when the planning for Scrappy’s Shootout began. I don’t know much about FPS games and I rarely play them in my free time. I don’t know what makes them fun or boring, I don’t know the standards of the genre, I just don’t know how to make an FPS. So, I wasn’t passionate about the genre I was developing around. I didn’t have any creative mechanics, no story, or art style that I was passionate about representing either. So I was pretty much doing it for the sake of doing it, which ultimately lead to me not enjoying the game I was working on. So instead of enjoying my time working on Scrappy’s Shootout I began to get annoyed by every little bug, not understanding why I didn’t enjoy the gameplay, and I found that it started to become a source of stress in my life, not a way to wind down. This is not at all a sustainable model for game development and leads to burnout and failure.
Major mistake #2: Not prototyping
The second major mistake I made was in the work flow of the project. In game development they have this term called “minimum viable product” which is essentially a barebones prototype. You’re meant to develop the core mechanics of the game and then determine if you should continue to build upon and develop these mechanics because they deliver the experience you intended. This is exactly what I didn’t do. Instead, I started making 3D models, wrote announcements and devlogs, made a website, and countless other things. While yes, I was developing the mechanics of the game, I was also spending a majority of my time doing other things which should’ve been spent on mechanics. About two months of hard work later, I built a demo, and I realized one thing: it sucked. The game is, well, boring. Nothing really stood out with Scrappy’s Shootout to me, the game just felt bland, flavorless, the type of game you might download to play for 5 minutes to mess around then never open again.
This really tanked my confidence as a developer. Two months of work with little to show for it. Now, I’m afraid to start a new project, out of fear of something like this happening again. But it’s important to learn from your mistakes and the mistakes of others. Remember, this could have all been avoided if I just did one thing: prototype.
Major mistake #3: Ambition
The last mistake I’ll discuss is ambition. I still believe that Scrappy’s Shootout, a game which I planned to include five custom maps, a multiplayer matchmaking system, AI, and more, is a very achievable project. But it was still ambitious nevertheless. Many regard being ambitious as a good trait to have for a person or project, and in some ways, it is, but in reality it’s a double edged sword. Scrappy’s Shootout was going to take a lot of time, a lot of work, and a lot of energy to complete. On top of college coursework, my social life, and the discouraging feeling of spending your time on a project which you felt like was a failure, continuing on Scrappy’s Shootout was going to be very difficult. I would be more burnt out by the end than I already was which could very well end my passion for game development as a whole. So, while an ambitious project can be very grand and impressive, beautiful and fun, you must not forget and underestimate the work that comes with that ambition, and trust me, you will, even while you’re consciously aware of this fact. It’s just a part of the process.
If there’s anything to take away from this, it’s this: Firstly, make sure the project you’re working has a proper source of passion behind it to avoid losing motivation to work like I did. Secondly, make sure the game will deliver your intended experience by developing a prototype to properly play test those mechanics before beginning that heavy development cycle of rigging models, creating sound effects, or writing tweets. Lastly, make sure that you will have the time, energy, and capabilities to actually complete your project and fulfill your ambitions to avoid being burnt out due to your self-expectations.
I’ll likely pick up a smaller and less ambitious project after this but until then I’m taking it easy. I’ve learned my lessons and I’m a bit apprehensive to feel that burn again, a burn I’m sure all developers feel at least once in their lives, regardless of the advice from others. But hopefully this post might make expectations a bit more realistic and that burn not as harsh.