Monday, June 27, 2011

A Few Words on Polish

I wasn't kidding when I said that preparing to release a game is almost as much work as developing the bloody thing in the first place! For the past few hours I've been creating banners and incidental graphics galore!

Large Advertising Banner

Small Advertising Banner

As I stated in the last blog post, Google need to work on their Chrome Web Store upload process. That's not to say it's bad by any means, but it could use a bit of polish.

Polish; now there's a word. One of the things that I discovered while I was working on the Web version of Creatures & Castles is that you only really get one shot at polish. A nebulous concept, difficult to define it may be, but we all know when we've played a polished game vs. an unpolished one.

With the iPhone version, I had a limited period of time (two months self-imposed deadline) to get the product out into the app store. As you can imagine, the first version that got out there was pretty rough around the edges. But "That's okay," I thought. "I'll add polish in future updates."

There are two things wrong with that. One is obvious; You never get a second chance to make a first impression. By the time I'd released it, it was pretty much too late to add polish. For maximum impact, the polish should have been there first and I should have delayed the release until it was.

Secondly, and this one is a little less obvious; by the time I got to adding in polish, I made the classic mistake of getting confused between polish and features. I added new and shiny features to the game without taking the time to really round off the ones that were already there. From discussion with other developers, I've come to the conclusion that this is fairly common.

Not only that, but to really polish something, it has to be planned in from the beginning. It's not something that can be crammed in at the last moment without a fair amount of re-architecting. That was a mistake I made with the iPhone version. I learnt from that mistake and did not repeat it with the Web version, which has a lot more polish. It's still not perfect, but nothing ever is. Given unlimited time and resources, I could have polished it much more.

Still, we learn from our mistakes. As I'm always telling my son: "Smart people learn from their mistakes; smarter people learn from other peoples' mistakes".  So when it comes to polishing your game, learn from my mistake... Plan it in advance.
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