When Your Video Game Is Almost, Almost, Almost Done


Reviewing Making CampToday we had probably our 10th meeting where we declared the iPad version of our upcoming app, Making Camp, “almost done.” That’s not our 10th overall meeting on Making Camp, mind you, but the 10th (or maybe 9th or 11th) time where we went over the game, assigned out tasks and said, “This time, we’re almost done.” Although at the end of today’s meeting, it was “This time, we’re really, really almost done.”

And the thing is, in each of those meetings we were right. Here’s the thing about video game development, it’s kind of like Zeno’s Paradox where you keep getting closer and closer, but never actually get there.

For example, in our first meeting where we were “almost done,” we were 85% of the way done – which is certainly far closer to done than it is not done. The next time were at 90%, so even closer. Then probably 92%, 93.5%, 95%, 96.75%, 97.1%, 98.5%. Now we’re probably at 99.33% -which is good because we are planning to the app in early October, and October starts this weekend. (Don’t miss Making Camp’s debut – sign up here to be notified when it goes live.)

AnnMaria has a line that she borrowed from a friend of hers who was involved in the creation of some best-selling video games. He said, “Games are never finished, they’re just shipped and abandoned.” Which one could argue is likely the case with lots of games, works of art, books, various projects where you could continue improving and tweaking forever. But if you ever want to make any money off your game/artwork/book/product you eventually have to have a date where you need to get it on the market or to in a gallery or off to your publisher, and you have to say, “It’s good enough. Take it away.”

However, before that day comes, you actually have to build something that is “good enough.” And that is a nearly never-ending process of its own. You might think that once the main programming elements of a game where done, you’d be close to finished – and you would be right, kind of. You would be almost done as in 85% done.

I would say of the final 15% of Making Camp only about 5% where actually bug fixes – a combination of initial bug fixes and the whole “squash two bugs here and for some random reason one pops up over there” fixes. The other 10% came down to aesthetics and usability – making the game look and feel like a game. Creating uniform and obvious icons, finding fonts, tweaking input options and box sizes. Redoing videos and picking different patterns from the back of digital memory cards.

In other words, we’ve been doing the dozens upon dozens of little things that take a game from good to great – and hopefully from almost done to shipped.

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