The first version of Monster Factory was made in a little over 3 weeks, and it had no real cycle. It was a test to see what kind of game we could make. It received very positive reviews on all playthroughs, and instead of leaving at that we decided to go full ahead on a full version of the game. Now at this time I was contemplating leaving my job in the work force and going full time in game development.
While I could have been smarter about my exit from Wise Cracks, I should have had a plan. There was no plan for Slothful Media at that point. A few scraped together ideas and a pocket full of untested skills.
Now that isn’t to say Monster Factory was easy, it was not. I personally spent a few days in a row 10+ hour days, and even more up to the release. I was actually working on the game’s tutorial at 2am the night before release. So, I will list and discuss what I think are the three negatives, and after that I will sum up the three positives of this post mortem before moving on to what’s next.
Beach final look
Three positives, three negatives
Monster Factory was very rushed, even though it had no actual release date. The few dates we did pick seemed overly optimistic and again we blew right past each one. Even though we continued to add and change things as we went. We over scoped, considering we removed some mechanics at the end to release on March 28th. It very much could have been a different game if we implemented a health system and a tank. The coding for a single AI to work well was a challenge. The OG version had a working car system (for the most part) and when I tried to scale it up and incorporate a "patrol" it failed. I just didn't have the time I needed to flesh it out.
No plan has been overstated again and again on this project. The idea of what it should look like vs what it turned into was only discovered as we built the game. The assets changed 3 times, the code that ran the game changed 3 times, essentially we made Monster Factory three times before settling on its final version. Normally you go through the concept/design phase until you have a solid idea of what the game should look like. Meanwhile we did concept/design/production/post/final all in one melting pot of a production cycle. It was a mess. Things were all over the place, scattered across the discord channels and emails between my artist and I. We even brought in a musician and gave him honestly, very little direction, and he blew us away with his titles. They make some of the levels the best part of what they are.
First beach design
No schedule really falls under no plan, but I listed it separately because we never set realistic goals for ourselves. We should have had a date where no new assets went into the game, and we focused on performance, and testing, for a long period of time. A real playtest group, and the feedback that goes with it. A release date can change, but the production milestones should be baked into the cycle. Any future title will have milestones to be met, and realistic goals to be set early on. Lessons learned.
The positives of this experience really come down to the successes that we have achieved. The first being that we benchmarked our skills. We discovered what we do know, and what we don’t know. On the art side Ian learned a ton of new things that found their way into the game. Albeit they replaced already established things like buildings. The city was rebuilt at least 3-4 times by the end, with new assets right up until the last day. Animations, same thing, they changed at least twice. It was as much a learning experience as it was our first full title. Knowing what we know now in those departments will save us a heap of time in the design/concept stage. That is really where most of the work should go, before we even put anything into a game we need a plan. That’s what our benchmark helped us discover, what we are even capable of.
Learning from your mistakes is a cliché, but it is a cliché for a reason, because it works. It’s proven effective. If you do not learn from your mistakes you are doomed to repeat them, and we will repeat them without a plan. The same reason we wrote a post mortem for the title, to discover what mistakes we even need to learn from.
Slightly over complicated
Fun and easy to play
For all the mistakes we made, in the end we made a very fun and easy to play game. A low entry to players, with very simple mechanics and easy to understand maps. The game itself is easy, and for the hardcore gamer it has a splash of challenge if you know what you’re looking for. The direction of the title was influenced by the continuous positive feedback we received from the first title and the subsequent production changes were a direct result of that feedback. It was all for the better in the end.
What’s next for Slothful Media
First, the plan. Our business plan is the main focus right now, followed shortly after by our next title. A first person shooter of some sort. Be it a wave game, or a two person coop shooter, still undecided. The goal is to be a profitable company by the end of 2023, able to self sustain and pay our bills on time. Maybe even a few salaries for my artist and I.
Players should continue to expect stable, fun, and low entry level games from our studio. While Monster Factory was not aimed at children, it is entirely playable by them. Older generations could benefit from the mindless “eat everything you see” mentality, and just push forward on the joystick or mouse.
The titles we plan to publish will be smaller titles, meant for indie scene, with simple and easy to understand mechanics. Nothing overly complicated. A few titles in a few different genres: A shooter, some type of horror game, an endless runner. Simple concepts. Different types of games that appeal to different groups, until we find our signature look and feel of a title.
Closing out this post mortem, I have to write thanks to Chris and Unbranded, Ian, and both Ian’s partner and mine. Ian did all of this while raising a new born, and I put my partner though a lot of uncertainty while I chase my dreams. I hope to look back in September and see some major progress on my goals, but I had to write those goals down and a plan to achieve them or it’s like eating soup with a fork. Using the wrong tools to achieve and end result. Without these people even our first title would not have been possible, and it’ll be their support (and yours as the reader) again to support us through the completion of the next title, and forever more.