Falling Debris: A Successful Collab

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Hello Kongregate!
What I decided to do here is to share with you what I have learned during the past month developing
Falling Debris, good techniques, good practices some problems that happened during the
development and tools to work with a team.I also target this document to anyone interested in making games
and i encourage you to also share your opinions, suggestions and tools you use.

So before I start, take note that i call this a successful Collab ,because it started from scratch
, zero budget, without a programmer, through the collab forums i found one (Kreg) and we made
the game we wanted to make, this is not Sonny 3, it’s just a simple avoider, but it was made
with discipline and passion.


Programs Used

Adobe Flash CS4
For programming and assembling everything

Autodesk 3DsMax
For the 3D Models, animations and text

Adobe Photoshop
For the menus creation and composition, color correction, additional effects and details, and retouching
some of the assets

Adobe After Effects
For particle animations like explosions, Rocket Boosters, debris, button animations and also
for the intro animation.

Audacity
For Audio Editing and additional effects

By this moment you are probably asking yourself: WTF! Do i need to know (or have) all this programs to do flash games?
The answer is no, those are just the programs i use, as a matter of fact, i don’t know how to use flash
and i’m not good at vector graphics, i come from an audiovisual artist background, and i’m no graphic designer.
So stick to any program that you master when making games, if you do things in flash you will have the
advantage of having vector graphics which have smaller file size, if you don’t then use any program and
try to balance your exports having in mind quality and filesize.


Free alternatives to some of the programs used

Autodesk 3dsMax:Blender
Adobe Photoshop:GIMP
Adobe After Effects:Jahshaka
If you don’t own flash but want to do vector graphics Inkscape


GDD

First of all, you want to make a game? —→ Write a Game Design Document, this document wraps up
what the game will be about and how it will work,in this case it doesn’t have to be complicated
like this (PDF)
because we are making a simple avoider game, but if you are making a more complex one, you have to
specify everything in the Design Document.

For Falling Debris this was the GDD , after that i showed it to different persons and got
great feedback, feedback at this time is crucial, because later on is going to be harder
to change things as you progress.


Teamwork Tools

Google Docs
We used google docs to read ,modify the GDD and share it with other people for feedback.

Live Messenger
We used Live Messenger to stay in contact when we worked, and also to chat about changes that
needed to be done

Dropbox
Dropbox is the key teamwork tool here. Dropbox is an application that
syncs a folder from a pc to any other PCs that log with the same account, and also it uploads
the contents of the folder to the web, where you can share, upload or delete them anywhere you are.

One really nice thing about dropbox is the fact that you can share a public link of any file you have
in the public folder, and if you delete a file by mistake (happened to us) you can always return
to a previous version

You can see our Dropbox layout here

When we where using Dropbox, we realized that it was better to have a To Do text file with the things to do
than to have to read them and edit them from the google document, it was easier.

SWF Cabin
SWF Cabin was used to test alpha and beta versions of the game in the web


Resources

I had a hard time finding some decent royalty free music for the game, most of the music in the Collabs
and on Newgrounds Audio Portal is not royalty free (i know that in some cases you could ask the autor
for permission and they give it to you) and most of the free music i found out was 8-bit and didn’t
go along with the game. Remember, we have 0 budget…I was so desperate at a moment that i even
tought of using classical music like Richard Strauss – Also Sprach Zarathustra for the intro,
but then i found out about Incompetech , which is a place that runs a guy called Kevin MacLeoud,
he offers a lot of music for free as long as you give credit, as a matter of fact, i stumbled with some
music i’ve heard in games made by Armor Games and other developers.

I found some music that suited the game in a way, but this is not the best option to follow, it was now,
because we had no budget, but if we had some, we would have hired a composer like TheDavidCarney
for example.

And for the rest of the audio in the game, comes from mixes and edited pieces i made from
Freesound
They have a great sound effects library, with great quality


Thanks

In name of the Falling Debris Team, we want to thank Unknown Guardian which was a key beta
tester that really helped us to have a shaped game without errors and bugs, Aeonus for providing
feedback in the early stages of the game and RobotJam for giving crucial suggestions to improve
the gameplay mechanics.

So, go and play Falling Debris, rate it and tell us what you think.

 
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Overview
I would like to give an awesome, organized, informative, and helpful guide to creating a successful colaboration (like David did). I consider myself, however, to be neither very articulate at expressing my ideas, nor very experienced in the game production world. But I’ll give it my best shot. :P


Resources
I am, as many know, very very new to programming. I started with as2, by getting about halfway through the shootorials, then decided as3 would be better to learn in early November. Overall, I’ve been programming for maybe a month and a half. I figured I’d list some of the resources I used to help me pick up what I needed. If you’re not new to actionscripting, these might not be as useful for you.

Michael J. William’s avoider game tutorial. This is the only one that I’ll really go into any detail with. I recommend it VERY highly if you’re just starting off. These tutorials hit a chord with me… he explains in exactly the way I learn, and goes into details that help generalize the principles, so that they can be used elsewhere. I very much recommend this site. Also, Michael is very good about answering individual problems you may be having in cusomizing the code to your game. An incredibly valuable resource. Thank you Michael!

http://www.adobe.com/support/flash/action_scripts/actionscript_dictionary/actionscript_dictionary505.html
http://asgamer.com/category/tutorials
http://livedocs.adobe.com/flash/9.0/main/wwhelp/wwhimpl/common/html/wwhelp.htm?context=LiveDocs_Parts&file=00001136.html
http://www.foundation-flash.com/tutorials/index2.php
http://www.republicofcode.com/tutorials/flash/as3conditionals/
http://www.mrsunstudios.com/tutorials/
http://www.flashkit.com/
http://www.lynda.com/home/DisplayCourseN.aspx?lpk2=366

Kongregate Programmer’s Forum (or, any actionscript forum, probably).

Any time I wasn’t able to find the answer to a problem I was having by myself, I would turn to the forums. Usually I would have my problem solved within an hour of posting, as there are some VERY good programmers that are more than happy to help out. One thing though: Make sure to try your hardest to solve the problem on your own first. I have seen many a post on the forums where there had been no research done beforehand, and some where the posters even refused to do any research at all. To get the most out of the forums, realize that people are taking time out of their schedules to answer your questions.


Guidelines

A few things that I noticed in this collaboration that I believe to be very important.

Open-Mindedness: This is something that I would not have considered beforehand, but I now recognize as fairly important. When I started on the project, I had certain things that I envisioned for the game, as did David. Obviously, whenever you’re working with another person, you’re going to have to realize that you will have ideas that you might think are good, but you’ll have to be flexible, as your partner(s) may not agree. Discuss in detail how the game’s going to turn out, so that you’re on the same page with everything. Which brings me to my next point:


Communication: This one is HUGE. Every time I made a change in the game, I would add it to a list, no matter how small the change was. Every time I posted an updated version of the game, I would (usually just by sending an e-mail) also put in a list of things that I had changed since the last version. That way, everything was out in the open, David would know what specifically to look at, and we could decide what needed adjusting. We also talked frequently through MSN, letting each other know what was needed, and what each of us were doing. Communication is CRUCIAL!


Clarity: Just a part of communication, really. But look for specifics. With programming, things are done in a very specific way, so if we only have a general guideline of what to do, it makes the work much harder, seem much more daunting, and take much longer. For example, we decided that the game needed powerups. So we decided together the different powerup possibilities, and then specifically what each powerup would do, how long it would last, etc. Again, our game was simple, so this example is simple, but especially for a more complicated game, clarity is very important.


Work-Ethic:Know that it’s going to take a lot of work. Honestly, I figured it would take maybe a week to get everything programmed (getting the bones of a game up is relatively quick, compared to the rest). It ended up taking over twice as long, with a LOT of hours put in, almost every single day. If you’re going to join a collaboration, make sure you can put in the time you’ll need to in order to avoid frustrating anyone you might be working with.


Preparedness: I know there are some AMAZING programmers here. This might not apply as much to them. The main reason I volunteered to do this project with David, was because I was pretty sure I knew everything that I would need to already for the programming. This ended up not really being the case, as there were a LOT of unexpected things I had to learn but I did understand the basics. Getting hung up on really little things would take me HOURS sometimes of researching, testing, bug fixing, etc. Basically, make sure you know at least most of what’s going to be required for the programming, or your partner(s) may quickly become frustrated. (Luckily, David was very patient with me, and the time it took to figure out some of the problems I was having).


Beta-Test:This is absolutely essential. I don’t think that you necessarily need assigned beta testers as part of the development team (though, I don’t see why it would be a bad idea), but make SURE to get as much feedback as you can. If you’re lucky, the game is going to be played by a LOT of people, so you want to appeal to as many different kinds of people as possible. (Also, see open-mindedness above :P) Just beta test as much as you can!


Organization: This kinda goes along with clarity, etc. I found it helpful to have a list of things that I needed to get done. As I made changes, I would add to the list, as necessary (it seems like for every change you implement, five more pop up). I would also keep a list of things that would need to be updated on the graphics side of things, that I could pass along to David. I would also routinely share my list with David, just in case there was anything he noticed that I hadn’t included.


finding someone to work with: This is a pretty controversial topic, here in the kongregate forums, due to a lack of faith in the quality of people looking into starting a colab. The reason I chose to work on David’s project, is that he appeared to be serious about making a good quality game, and making money from it. He had already posted the GDD, examples of his artwork, and what his goals were for the game. In other words, he had gone through considerable effort before he started looking for a collaboration team. This showed that he was serious, and determined, and that made him appear very good to work with. If you want to put together a successful game team, and attract “good” team members, this is an excellent example to follow.


Well, I hope I didn’t ramble, and some of what I said can be of use in successful collaborations.

Also, I’d just like to join in thanking everyone who helped beta test the game. Also, to everyone who helped me here on the forums (the most frequent answer’ers to my noobish questions are undoubtedly Unknown Guardian and Moonkey, though there were many others as well. Thank you all!

 
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Hey, thanks for sharing this. There are some things such as Dropbox and Google Docs, which I would have never thought to use for a collab, and if I ever get involved in a collab I’ll be sure to read this over again. One spelling error though,

…free music i found out was 8-bit and didn’t went along with the game.

 
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Originally posted by dasmitimsad:

Hey, thanks for sharing this. There are some things such as Dropbox and Google Docs, which I would have never thought to use for a collab, and if I ever get involved in a collab I’ll be sure to read this over again. One spelling error though,

…free music i found out was 8-bit and didn’t went along with the game.


oh :p thx for the correction,english is not my native language so i make those mistakes often. I’m glad you are getting to know tools that will be useful for you in the future

 
This post has been removed by an administrator or moderator
 
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Originally posted by SuperSamusLaser:

zero budget

I’m not surprised after the $3000+ you spent on software.

:p good point, i use the software at the place i work, i haven’t paid for it, thx to your comment im currently adding to the post open source and free alternatives to the software i use.

 
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Good controls and high quality graphics and sound, 5/5. On the other hand, a realistic ship is out of context, it’s a nice design, but a fictional model probably suits better.

I wonder what was the file size, the effects look great, but I assume they take a lot of space.

Another fact that you might add is the development time (real and estimated hours per task).

Thank you for sharing this experience. Hopefully, we will see more topics like this in the future.

 
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post updated with free alternatives to commercial software

 
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thx alot i was wondering what programs i needed for some things e.g aftereffects autodesk 3dsmax got the others :P

 
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thx alot >:)

 
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Nice topic. I’m glad that this collab worked out, even with its so far less than 3/5 ratings. Its still one of the coolest games I’ve seen out there, and the best made out of all my friends here on Kong(no offense to anyone else thats my friend).

 
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Originally posted by HectorFV:

Good controls and high quality graphics and sound, 5/5. On the other hand, a realistic ship is out of context, it’s a nice design, but a fictional model probably suits better.

I wonder what was the file size, the effects look great, but I assume they take a lot of space.

Another fact that you might add is the development time (real and estimated hours per task).

Thank you for sharing this experience. Hopefully, we will see more topics like this in the future.

Thanks for your comment, the filesize of the game is near 6.8mb, the development time of the game was near 16 days, if we had worked full time we could have made it faster but both Kreg and i have jobs. About the task vs time i would say that at the beginning we had a lot of tasks in the “To do” document that quickly were done in the first 5 days, later on we just improved everything that was applied but definitely we estimated to take less time getting the game wrapped up and ready for upload and it took way longer than expected.

 
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Originally posted by UnknownGuardian:

Nice topic. I’m glad that this collab worked out, even with its so far less than 3/5 ratings. Its still one of the coolest games I’ve seen out there, and the best made out of all my friends here on Kong(no offense to anyone else thats my friend).

Thank you for being an awesome beta tester, believe me, this game wouldn’t be the same without your feedback

 
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Originally posted by davidarcila:

GDD

First of all, you want to make a game? —→ Write a Game Design Document, this document wraps up what the game will be about and how it will work,in this case it doesn’t have to be complicated like this (PDF) because we are making a simple avoider game, but if you are making a more complex one, you have to specify everything in the Design Document.

For Falling Debris this was the GDD , after that i showed it to different persons and got great feedback, feedback at this time is crucial, because later on is going to be harder to change things as you progress.

Holy crap, people here know what they’re doing!! Someone sticky this!

 
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This is AWESOME!
Great job guys. A good fun read.

 
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I need to get after effects… I am soooo sick of doing all those effects by myself haha.

 
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@Ringer: ;)
@JohnMerrik: Thx for your comment, i think you can download a trial version from adobe’s website

btw…is anyone going to beat Kreg’s Record of 482!?

 
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Yeah, my old roomie used it… I have NO idea why I never got into using it. Makes things look SOOOO much more professional.

I think I might have to download that tonight. :)

 
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Hehe, I bought After Effects with the student discount so I could use it for a Spanish video, and it seems now to be a great opportunity to improve my games.

 
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Originally posted by UnknownGuardian:

Hehe, I bought After Effects with the student discount so I could use it for a Spanish video, and it seems now to be a great opportunity to improve my games.

Awesome! I will post the export settings i used for the intro video as soon as i get home

 
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I went ahead and posted a few things that I hope end up being useful to future collaboration efforts. (I put them in the spot that I reserved, right after David’s initial post).

 
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I’m going to request a sticky to this topic.

 
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awesome post Kreg, indeed we kept focus and order from the beginning and Kreg really went above and beyond what i asked for, every time he did changes to the game he sent me a log, it was a great experience to have worked with him and i hope we can work in the future in other projects.

Taking into consideration some things that Kraig said in his post, i would say that most of the time people looking for help in the collab forums fail because they really don’t have anything to show therefore anyone takes them seriously, even if you are an “idea guy” you could write a game design document.

 
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Hey I got one question ithink you didn´t answer.
How did you get the 3d stuff into flash?

 
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I use 3dsMax myself; upgraded from Blender, which is an incredibly powerful tool when in the right hands. It can do everything that Max does in depth, although it may take a bit longer in some scenarios. Definitely one of the top free alternatives to 3dsmax :)