Flatland: Fallen Angle was developed in only 3 weeks by Sydney-based indie developer SeeThrough Studios.
The game had stringent rules on the time it could take to make, and even more stringent rules about ensuring no overtime was taken by any of the three-person team. It was released on Sunday at a humble showing of the game at the Lansdowne in Sydney, and has adopted a pay-by-donation model (which is undergoing some difficulty due to the payment provider having an issue with videogames) where consumers can purchase the game for as much or as little as they’d like.
MCV spoke to SeeThrough team member Paul Sztajer about the reasons for the unique development structure.
Tell me about the specific restrictions the team placed on themselves when developing Flatland.
SeeThrough Studios’ motto is “Make Games Fast. Show your working.”, and this is reflected in the development processes for Flatland: Fallen Angle.
The game was made in ninety-six hours: in twelve eight-hour days, over a period of three weeks. During those hours, most of our developers were onsite at our ‘office’ (my second bedroom), with exceptions arising for audio (as specialised equipment was required).
In this time, we resolved to complete all the major processes of the development, including monetisation, marketing and analysis of playtesting data.
We also aimed to be as transparent as possible with our processes. We’re keen to share what we do with the rest of the game development community, and to help other budding indies to learn from our mistakes.
What was the core thing your team was hoping to achieve by doing things this way?
Our main aim was simply to fact-find: to figure out what we could do within the time limit, and what was needed to make a game in its entirety.
As a studio just starting out, it’s really hard to know exactly what your team can achieve in a normal five-day work cycle. What’s even less clear is just how much extra time all of the ‘extra stuff’ you have to do (monetisation, website maintenance, marketing etc.) will take, and how it will affect the development itself.
In addition to this, it was a trial of a development cycle that didn’t include any development crunch. We firmly believe that creative people need clear heads to work at their best, and that long work hours will likely hurt productivity and create an unsustainable work environment.
So would you recommend that other indies have a go at something like this?
In a word, yes. I think that one of the hardest things to realise when you go from being a bedroom game developer to being an independent studio is that man-hours matter, and that throwing more hours into a problem by staying up overnight is a short-term solution.
If a studio is going to be stable, it needs to get better at using the hours it has more effectively, and nothing more effectively helps you identify your inefficiencies than a ticking clock.
On the topic of crunch – I think many of our Thursday mornings (a work day with two days off preceding it) proved that having time off and a good amount of sleep is invaluable: without fail, we all came in on Thursdays with a much clearer picture of what we needed to do.
In fact, the experiment was so successful that we’re likely to model our day-to-day development cycle on a similar system: we’re working out the kinks as we speak!
Thank you for your time.
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