Ascension Demo Post Mortem

Well. This is going to be a long one.

Let me start off by saying thank you to everyone who has tried the demo so far. It’s been… four days so far, and we’ve already gotten a boatload of feedback, which thrills me. It’s been a long process, and we as a team have never attempted something of this magnitude. To know that we’ve been successful so far is amazing!

I guess I should start this at the beginning, shouldn’t I. Well, the concept of Ascension first sprouted up while we were developing Grief. Near the end of.. April, if I remember properly. It was initially my idea, and the pitch I gave to the team was something along the very vague lines of “A game inside a pitch black skyscraper”. Obviously, the concept needed a bit more refining, but at that point we had our hands full with finishing Grief and none of us gave it much thought. It was just a neat idea that we could play with later on.

When Grief released and we got the reception that we did, I think we were all a little surprised and excited. Like any amateur developer, we assumed that we were officially ready to take on the world. Oddly enough, we actually were, to some degree. When Grief was done we were at a loss regarding what to work on next. We had a few concepts floating around, but the one that really stuck was the one I had pitched earlier. A dark skyscraper sounded fun, and I think that the concept of attempting a horror game was something we all liked. We all knew that making a horror game wasn’t going to be easy, and I warned the team multiple times that it was going to be harder than we imagined, but we went ahead with the game anyways, for better or for worse.

We spent about… a week designing Ascension after that, although I’m not being historically correct here. Back then, we called the game Dark. One of our creative in-development names. After that, around the time that May started, we collectively came up with the GENIUS (sarcasm) idea of pausing development for one week to give Worthington time to flesh out the game. Why? I haven’t a clue. At any rate, the rest of us decided to use that week to put together a little minigame. Or at least, that was the intention. What was this minigame, you ask? Well, if you’ve been with us for a while, I think you’ll know. It was a little tower defence called AFROFARG.

As with virtually all of our projects, AFROFARG grew larger than we initially intended. We realized that we needed more than a week to create  decent game, and instead of dumping the project completely, we chose to allocate MORE time to it and away from Ascension, despite not having all that much interest in AFROFARG. Great plan, right? Anyways, long story short: We finished AFROFARG in mid-June. Was it worth it to finish the game? Well… you decide. Go play it and let us know 😉

After AFROFARG was done, we got back on track with Ascension. The framework was done and I was able to start putting together the engine. Over the course of the next two months, we were able to shape the game into something that actually looked half decent. Only problem? We were taking way too long. It’s not so much that we were lazy; we were just uninspired. We were rarely able to gather as a team during the summer, and without that in-person reassurance of our goals it was hard for us to individually stay motivated. School returned in September and changed that completely.

Again, if you’ve been following our progress recently you’ll know that we initially set the demo deadline for sometime in August. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. But seriously, that didn’t happen. I drastically underestimated just how difficult and time consuming the project was going to be. Not that I’m complaining; I’ve enjoyed every minute of development. At any rate, school came back and we decided that we really needed to get this demo finished. We’d been telling friends about the game all summer long and still had nothing to show for it. After working at a slightly faster pace through all of September, we made the call to set a realistic deadline; one that we were determined to meet. That deadline? October 30th.

As you can see, we made it. I’m thrilled that we did, but it was definitely dicey at some points. I won’t hesitate when I say that October was the hardest we’ve ever worked on a game. It was a crunch period, and I’m sure everyone is exhausted (or maybe not, who knows), but it was ultimately worth it. We stayed on-track and achieved what we set out to do. Thank god for that.

WELL. Now that I’ve summarized all of what we’ve done up until this point, let me talk a bit about my feelings regarding how the demo turned out. The others can make their own posts about how they see the game if they want; this is just my personal opinion. I’ll be honest when I say that my views on Ascension fluctuated a lot during the development process. There have been days when I felt we were a match for the greatest of the horror genre, and there have been days where I felt that we were wasting our time making a game that no one would ever find frightening. Sending this demo to our beta testers in particular was incredibly nerve-wracking for me. Those first couple days waiting for the forms to come back in were… not fun.

But then the forms DID come in and they were largely positive. Everyone had criticism, and there were things that needed changing, but people were liking the game. That was the big thing for me; the acknowledgement from others that what we’d invested our time into was successful. The thing that concerned me about the demo was that many of our school friends were going to be playing it. That was great for feedback, but a lot of the people who were playing the demo weren’t gamers. They didn’t understand platformers, let alone horror games. I expected to hear them telling us all about how the game wasn’t anything like they expected (cough Call of Duty cough). Surprisingly, I heard the exact opposite. The feedback we received, even from the people whose only experience with videogames was watching and hearing about Triple A first person shooters, was incredibly positive.

That was the turning point for me, I think. Since that beta test and the ensuing demo release, I’ve grown a lot more confident in Ascension as a product and an experience. People all over the internet have told us that the game is very, very good. As long as we maintain this level of quality, we’re in the clear. So far, at least. One thing I haven’t talked about much is how the demo period has gone, so far. I think that’s something I should touch on, because it is important.

For the first time since we formed as a team, we were releasing a demo that had a publicized release date. I was a bit nervous at first, unsure as to how I was going to simultaneously post the game on as many forums and threads as I could. In the end, I think I pulled it off quite well. The major threads we created all debuted at approximately the same time, and apart from one little Facebook mishap with a broken link, people have been able to download the game just fine.

Playing the game, on the other hand, was something that some people have had issues with. A handful of the people that gave us feedback said that GM’s surfaces weren’t functioning properly. Holy crap, I said to myself, That’s not good. I don’t know anything about how surfaces actually WORK within GM, I just know how to use them to make a game. This isn’t an issue that I’ve solved yet. I know that I’m going to have to do some research into surfaces in the future, but for now it’s an acceptable loss in the grand scheme of things.

So far, the number of downloads and replies has not been as big as what I expected, but I have to remind myself that this is merely day 4 of the demo period. I’m hoping (and expecting) that at least a couple of the more mainstream websites we submitted the game to will come through, and then our downloads should grow. I’m not worried; the game is out into the wild now, and we’re not going to stop publicizing it. With a bit of luck and some hard work, the game will grow in popularity as we continue to develop it.

 

SO, you ask, what are you going to do now? Well avid reader, I reply, we’re going to take a break.

What?

Yes, that’s correct. After six months of working on the same game, we need a change of scenery. Are we quitting Ascension? HELL NO. The current plan is to spend most/all of November working on a light-hearted, comical game that we can play around with. We’re likely to write a bit about its progress, so stay tuned for that. After we’ve had our fun with that detour, we’re coming back to Ascension. I for one am extremely eager to get the full game in motion. I think it’ll be a lot easier to stay motivated when we have palpable progress to show.

For now, that’s all I have to say. Clocking in at approximately 1650 words; I hope you’ve enjoyed the reading material. I’ll see you all soon with some updates on the demo period and perhaps our minigame.

See you then!

 

Klassic

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