Post-Mortem: Rawrmy

Browser-Based Game Zone’s PBBG Contest comes to a close today, and the month of judging will begin – unfortunately, without Rawrmy. Due to unforeseen circumstances, I was unable to complete Rawrmy in the time allotted – but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t give it a fair shot.

What Went Right

A few decisions that I made early on helped to get Rawrmy “on it’s feet”, for all that there were some setbacks during development. One of those decisions was to use Django, a popular Python web framework, to develop all of Rawrmy’s functionality. Django is geared towards rapid development in the same way that Rails is; both frameworks lend themselves very well to getting something out the door as quickly as possible – which was one of the goals for this contest due to the compressed time frame. Straight out of the box, Django gives you a pre-wired authentication system and admin backend – both of which were immensely valuable during initial development.

Another decision that helped ease the development process was a bit of a harder one to enforce: every feature implemented was droppable. What that means is, for any feature I was developing, I’d set a timer. If it took me longer than an hour or two, the feature got dropped – although I marked it as “come back to later”. Doing this allowed me to trim the fat out of Rawrmy, and focus only on the pieces that would get it to being a finished game the fastest.

What Went Wrong

Time was a massive factor that prevented me from completing Rawrmy. In hindsight, I probably should have taken some time off from my day job, or diverted time from some of my other projects – Rawrmy is unfinished because I was unable to devote as much time as I would have liked to to developing it.

Some things took too long. While I mentioned earlier that every feature was droppable, it was only after I had sunk a few precious hours into a specific(and still broken) feature that I realized I would need to enact this rule. If I had realized how much time I was sinking into non-valuable features at the time as opposed to afterwards, I probably would have had a lot more time to spend on getting the game working(and less time spent chasing down random bugs).

Lack of direction was a problem with Rawrmy. I have to admit that when I first decided I should enter the contest, I didn’t have any idea what I would build a game based on – and I believe this was one of my biggest problems. John Munsch had clearly been planning out his idea for ‘Big Villain’ for quite some time, and was therefore only waiting to do the development on his game. Multiple other entrants were also in the same position; the fact that they had already planned out most of their game gave them a massive advantage, because they could get started developing while I was still attempting to come up with a concept for Rawrmy.

When I initially entered the contest, I also had a team member who would be creating all of the written content for the game. However, after a week or so, my partner disappeared – and I still have yet to hear from him. This was another setback; the initial idea for Rawrmy was heavily text-based, and while I’m sure that I could have written the content myself, it would have distracted me from getting the game running and polished.

What I Learned

When you’re entering a contest with a short timeframe, you need to have a firm idea of what you’re going to build – it doesn’t neccessarily have to be large, but you need to have that idea and stick to it. Changing gears in the middle of a project will kill it – Rawrmy lost a good week or so’s worth of development time when my partner disappeared.

When you enter a contest like this, you need to be prepared to make the commitment. You need to be willing to commit development, monetary, and any other resources neccessary to get your game done – and while I was able to half-commit on most of those things, it’s not enough. The next time I enter a browsergame contest, I’ll make sure that I’ve got my other projects cleared out of the way for the duration, and can therefore focus only on the contest – instead of getting distracted by other things.

All told, I had a positive experience entering the contest – even if I had to drop out at the end. I learned a lot about my own development practices, and what I can do to improve in the future – which is enough of a win for me.

If you’re interested in seeing what Rawrmy was like, you can check it out at rawrmy.com.

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Luke is the primary editor of Building Browsergames, and has written a large portion of the articles that you read here. He generally has no idea what to say when asked to write about himself in the third person.

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Thursday, December 11th, 2008 diaryofabrowsergame
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Building Browsergames is a blog about browsergames(also known as PBBG's). It's geared towards the beginner to intermediate developer who has an interest in building their own browsergame.

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