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!

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