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Osoi (translated means slow, late)

April 17, 2012

What’s the news in indie game land this week? Apart from this long blog post, lots of progress on the game, not much of it is actually visible though…I was told years ago that “the last 10% of development takes 90% of the time” and that has always proved pretty much true, perhaps not to that ratio, but it’s always a good thing to remember.

If I was to sell the game based on the last week, it would probably look like this:

On Saturday I had some time to make a “corporate” website – there really isn’t much on there at the moment, but I think we need it for submitting games, (you need a contact address, and “” probably isn’t the best thing to go smearing all over the front-end of a commercial product. So anyway here it is: because is taken by someone else who isn’t using it…bastarrrrrds.

So the last few weeks people have been playing the game, and not having as much fun as I hoped they would, the usual complaint is that it’s too hard…I guess that is the problem, learning a new alphabet really isn’t very easy…Me, I like the fact that game pushes me super hard it keeps me on the limits of learning…when it’s too much for me the game reaches a kind of equilibrium and stalls while I catch up before giving me new stuff to learn. I think as a tool for learning Japanese it works and is fun, but for people who aren’t interested in learning Japanese it’s just a bit of a pain in the ass. People also couldnt figure out what to do, which meant an entirely new tutorial had to be made, which I am still not super happy with.

I created a whole mode which didn’t involve Japanese, and then took it out as it was distracting my focus from the main thing I am trying to make, I realised to make that extra mode good would take at least a few days additional work, which is time I don’t really have. Essentially Edutainment is hard, like I originally said, people stop thinking it’s a game when they realise they are accidentally learning something. I have one last thought about how to fix this, which is to break the game down to give the user more regular reward points, and more of a sense of progression, he problem is normally in games you can cheat all that stuff, for example you can start giving the player items and weapons to make the game easier as they progress, making them feel like they have got better, or you can build in a simple to play hard to master mechanic that focuses on doing one thing over and over again…however my game is actually learning a real life skill, you can’t really cheat the player into thinking they know it, or dumb it down to a point that it feels shallow enough for casual play. So while I think I am doing OK with the hard-core target audience, I am struggling with opening it up to that casual player, which would enable this to be more of a widely appreciated game.

Today marks the four week self-imposed deadline of getting the game out…well if you remember last week I mentioned that it wasn’t looking like an achievable goal, and I was right!

Hopefully this will entertain you as much as it does me, but let’s go through the progress as though this is a production meeting with our client and we are explaining why we missed our goal…

“The Dog Ate My Codez.”

If you remember, 7 days ago I had 28 things to do, I made a naive suggestion, I said do 9 things a day and it will be fine (you have an extra day for stuff that gets added to the list)…So at the end of Wednesday I had done 11 things (above my target yeaaahhh!!!) but my list of outstanding things stood at 27…so in reality I had only impacted my task list by 1!

So then I took the far more informed approach of “get the list down to 18 by the end of day 2 by any means necessary. Bugs, not enough hours in the day and my refusal to totally destroy the game by cutting everything made this kind of impossible…

Here is a fancy chart tracking the day to day comedic progress:

Friday was lost to the options screen, while Saturday was lost to the new website. But as you can see, every time I finish a task I seem to add one. Last night when the clock struck midnight I had exactly the same number of tasks I had one week ago…Now that’s progress!!! A big part is that the more I work on it, the more I play it, and so the more issues and bugs I find.

I am now down to a priority system on my tasks with 4 layers, blockers that won’t allow me to ship, things I would be very unhappy about if I didn’t have them in the game, then things that people would like, but might not notice if they weren’t there, then finally tasks that I keep around to make myself feel like they might get done….when I know they’ll get cut at some point this week. (I usually filter off a couple each day to make it less painful!). I am not differentiating between bugs and tasks, because in the end it’s about how each one impacts the game (although, yes I realise tasks make bugs…so I am being a bit less strict with myself there)

This is like my days as a producer, and reminds me why I decided to move my focus 100% to game design. No matter which way you look at it the above data is bad, and would be a call for a crisis meeting in any company situation. The producer would be being scrutinized, and the whole project would come under fire. The thing is the above chart is so far removed from the actual game, that it’s hard to marry the two. The only real solution is to start cutting, and damaging the product, which as a producer leaves everyone pissed with you. I am kind of used to doing this stuff, it’s just that bit more painful because I only have myself to blame for it getting in to this state in the first place.

But on a plus point, I might not have to cut much, at this moment my list is down to 21, and I only have 5 class 1 / 2 tasks – a number that will probably go up and up the more I play it and the more bugs I find.

Next week I hope to be able to astound you with a launch trailer of some sort and an actual release date.

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  1. You haven’t explained what hirigana and katakana are but if I assume they are letters(?) and words(?) I think a graded approach where the first bite is free and the next bite costs something and so on with an all in price for those who want to go the whole hog straight off, although super success relies on people finding it interesting enough to do the next bit. I’m not sure if learning the letters is the right place to start though. You might want to look into modern language teaching to confirm this but I think the approach is to teach commonly used words and phrases first. So your give away might be “hello” “please” “thankyou” etc. something that immediately impresses a foreign speaking person when (particularly an english) person says it out of the blue. “arigato” impresses the pants off people and I learned that through the Ghibli films. So if I’m the sort of person who pops in an “arigato” at the end of a business meeting and impresses, I might be inclined to learn a bit more to further impress my next big client.
    I can also see loads of other applications for this, appart from the obvious other languages, times tables, famous speeches, poems, the kings of england, the presidents of america (anything that involved rote learning), sight singing, etc, etc. How about british sign language, I’ve always fancied learning that properly and it’s being encouraged for use by mothers with children not yet old enough to talk but who are capable of signing the problem being that the unspeaking toddlers learn it much faster than their parents, but if the parents started when the baby was born they would be ready and ahead at the critical point, and today’s mothers are of Amber’s generation and fully conversant and comfortable with games and apps.
    Also, there are two methods of teaching reading in english one is called phonics and I don’t know the name of the other one. One method starts by teaching you all the sounds that letters and combinations of letters makes which in theory leads to you being able to read anything (and is currently I believe the preferred teaching method in Britain). The other teaches you to recognise whole words, you learn much faster initially but apparently this doesn’t teach you to work out words for yourself as they get more complicated which is why it is currently not the preferred method generally (but I’ve got a feeling it might be preferred for those with certain medical conditions).
    If you go with any of the words ideas it would be a good idea to work out what are the most frequently used words in whatever language you are using to give you a preferred order of attack.
    By the way does writing the blog protect this idea as your own or might some asshole steal it and bring the idea to market before you with no come back?
    Nice graphs by the way kind of look like my work progress in any given week of the year. Have you fully abandonned the scrappy bits of paper with barely legible handwriting method of organising projects?
    Looking forward to the next blog.

  2. Wow monster reply! almost as long as the blog 🙂 Japanese is a phonetic language, it turns out that in English thjere are like 50,000 possible sounds or something, due to complex combinations of letters, but in Japanese there are only a couple of hundred. Esssentially if you learn the characters through this app you will be able to read any Japanese words…Understanding them though…hmmm.
    Hiragana and Katakana are two writing systems, they both consist of the same set of sounds, but are represented with two different alphabets (just to make learning a pain in tha ass!). Hiragana is for Japanese words, while Katakana is for foreign ones like coke, guitar, “Jetto generation” or “rock ‘n’ roll license”.
    Yeah I was going to do other languages, but you are right as a learning tool it isnt bad, I guess the ultimate thing would be to throw in a “make your own list of data” option, where you can use sounds, photos, words etc and pair them with other data. Or even lock down an order for learning things that are sequential like an alphabet or the links between bones in the body.
    As for it being “protected” I dunno, if people rip it off, then they need to find out about it, and if they find out about it then I will probably have sold more than 6 copies, in which case I will be a little more happy. Anyway it should be out in a couple of weeks…and I haven’t even covered the “killer feature” yet…well, killer to me, perhaps a ;ittle stupid to everyone else!

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