Snake and Bun

A free-to-play multiplayer Android game for two players on one phone, developed and published in one week.

Role: Producer
Play the game!

May 2014

 

What I Changed?

Sometimes the bun doesn’t get to rise.

Snake and Bun was almost entirely an exercise in redefining the concept and rescoping. Changes began early and were all made in collaboration because it was the only way to remain quick and focused enough to get the game made. That might seem contrary to logic, but it really does work–the team used a very Agile process to concept together and then redefine at a check-in every day.

The initial concept was pitched to the team as soon as the assignment was handed down, and the game design took all of 40 minutes. Why spend a lot of time on something that is going to have to be iterated on according to very intense and immediate implementation demands? I helped create a task list to manage work that had to happen away from project meetings, so that dependencies could be identified early. Business decisions, technical development, and the art pipeline all had to work in concert to have something ready and polished within the week.

Very quickly, the concept had to change according to certain business decisions: in order to publish on Google Play, certain technical choices had to be made and some art had to be changed to fit certain dimensions and rating standards. Similarly, the business writing that I did was affected by the emerging stylistic tone of the game and its mechanics. Due to the timeline, the changes made had to be subtle and manageable, but they were effective and the deadline was met without any significant crunch work for team members.

 

What I Learned

Although the entire Centre for Digital Media program is about Agile management, scope and collaboration, Snake and Bun was in a lot of ways the first time the program really forced its students to completely reinvent a standard game pipeline. Being forced to think in a series of near-daily sprints drove home the importance of quick, constant changes and check-ins to me. I’d applied many of these principles before in various jobs and in earlier courses, but this was the first time it was expected to be instinctive, and I had to learn to trust that and trust that my teammates and myself to pull it all off. We did.

Snake and Bun was also the first time I’d really been exposed to the business side of a project since my time working at The Dalhousie Gazette, and it was my first time negotiating the actual processes involved in getting a game to market–even a fairly straightforward market such as Google Play. That choice proved to be a good one as, within a week, even getting the basic pieces into place takes a large percentage of time. That’s something I can and will bear in mind for future games: time has to be budgeted early in the development process to set up business expectations and constraints, and to allow time for the necessary promotion and legal checks to publish a game.

Finally, this project was a good chance to get away from the constraints of story on a game that I usually encounter as a narrative designer. In some ways that was uncomfortable, but it also allowed me to help focus specifically on gameplay and player progression. There were a lot of shared skills there–I was still building a process to reach a specific situation–but it was liberating to learn how to give all the control to the player.

 

Notes

Snake and Bun is a project by Naijing Jiang, Dylan Matthias, and Michael Widmer. It is available on Google Play for free, and is best played with a friend who has a calm temperament.

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