Forge of Legends: Post Mortem
February 10, 2014
It has been quite some time since the last update was posted on the Forge of Legends project. I am finally able to share some information.
In the time since I last posted, the single largest factor in delaying work on the game is that I have moved my family twice. Selling and buying a home turned out to be a bit more than I bargained for. Moving twice even more so. I totally stopped coding work during this period.
However, even while I was still coding the game, I noticed a few troubling trends. Foremost was that when I began coding on FOL years ago, there were precious few examples of the kind of game it is intended to be. That is, a party-based, turn-based dungeon crawler, old school in every way. At the time, I wanted a game like that so badly that I decided to make my own! After years of coding, the market has shifted. There are more and more games like this out there. I feel the moment has passed, in essence.
Even when the game was making steady progress, I had outlined such a large feature scope that I was probably doomed never to complete the game. This in spite of lots of good advice out there about keeping your scope limited! I knew it was too much, but every feature was just too precious to cut, it seemed to me. I was designing the game I always wanted to play…
This is one of the lessons I have learned: if your gut tells you there is too much to do, there is. Start by completing a core, then you can add more and more neat stuff if you finish that. Don’t start out to build an aircraft carrier — start with a fishing boat. Tack on the AI-controlled pneumatic arresting gear later.
Speaking of lessons, there are several I have taken away from this effort. To list a few more:
— I tended to agonize over resources, like images, spending days on these alone. That in itself is not such a bad thing, but I think it would have been better to get “something” in place, then come back later and plug in the ideal art or image. Too often I allowed myself to bog down working on pieces of the project whose time had not yet come.
— A development soundboard is exceedingly useful. What I mean is someone who understands your project, and even may have projects of his own. A fellow coder or game designer who you can bounce ideas off of, or just help you stay interested. You know who you are, and thanks :)
— Marketing too early. One of the things I most regret about this project is that I reached out and set expectations which I have not met. Take for example the fine folks at RPGWatch, who posted game updates from a nobody. In the future, I think I will postpone this phase until I am practically ready for beta testing.
— Reduce scope. Did I mention reducing scope?
What happens next? I haven’t explicitly stated what I now intend for Forge of Legends. Partly that is because I am not sure. I will say that I am putting the code down for now, and moving to another project. There is still a largely complete 2D/3D game engine, however, and a usable level editor. I think I would be open to making the code for both of these available, given the right kind of person was interested in it. I have also given some thought to releasing a free, scope-reduced version of the game.
There is also a chance that I could return to the project in the future when the winds have changed. Who knows? Never say never, right?
As for me, I do have another project underway. One of my first and primary efforts is now to design what is minimally viable (see reduce scope above). I intend to bring it almost to completion before I bug anyone about it.
If you have interest in past or future projects, you can contact me via my website!