Monday, August 19, 2013

Gridiron Solitaire #68: Almost!

Fredrik synced the audio and video of the cut scene, and it was pretty thrilling to see it for the first time today.

That's the good news. The bad news is that you won't see it until next week. We're adding the sound of a projector running in the background, and it's not integrated into the audio yet (although I've done it manually, and it's just what I wanted). Plus Fredrik is making a few minor changes in individual images. So it's probably not going to be totally finished until the Wednesday-Thursday timeframe.

That's one piece of big news for this week. The other big news is that after resisting doing this for over a year, I'm adding an exhibition game for first-time players.

I finally decided to do this because the first fifteen minutes of user experience is killing me. People have a very negative reaction to playing a league game--and losing, almost certainly--while they're trying to learn game mechanics.


At first, I thought the Rookie difficulty setting would compensate for this, but really, it doesn't. The game is deceptively simple--and the mechanics are simple--but the strategic details are much more layered, and learning them is a process, not a one-time event. So you can easily learn how to play the game in ten minutes, but learning how to play well is going to take longer.

That's fine, but getting your ass kicked for the 10 minutes you're going through the tutorial, and having the game count on your league record, feels cheap and unfair.

The exhibition game will be one half long, and almost all the dynamic help will show in the course of the half. Anything that doesn't get shown (onside kicks, for example) will get shown the first time the situation occurs in regular gameplay.

The exhibition half should take about 10 minutes play.

That's not going to make everyone happy, but I've learned over time that nothing will make everyone happy. So you make as many people happy as possible, and inconvenience the people who aren't happy as little as possible, and that's probably a happy medium in terms of accessibility, as long as it doesn't change your fundamental vision of the game.

I started working on the exhibition game code today, and much to my surprise, it's going fairly quickly. I think it will be finished in the Wednesday-Thursday timeframe, about the same time the cut scene is done.

At that point, and I find this hard to believe, the game will be approximately done. Feature complete, content complete, and almost completely down to bug fixes.

I want to refactor the code, but at the same time, that scares me a bit, because changing code to make it more efficient has at least some degree of risk. The upside is that if I could reduce the total number of lines of code by 10-15% (right now I think there are about 45,000 lines of code, plus the XAML, which is probably another 5,000 lines), it will be easier to maintain and easier to find bugs.

Taking so long to develop something means that a bunch of different versions of You worked on it. There's Really Dumb You, which was early on, and the recent version is Considerably Smarter But Not Adept You. So every time you see code by Dumb You (that's a lot of code), the latest You thinks it could be written in half as many lines.

That may be true, but like I said, I may not be willing to dismantle anything to put it together more efficiently. The darn thing works.

There's one person left who I want to show the game. He's the single person I respect most in the gaming world, someone who created some of the best games I ever played, and he's been gracious enough to say that he would look at the game when I thought it was ready.

Well, it's almost ready.

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