Sunday, November 8, 2015

Binary Soul (NaNoRenO 2015) Post-mortem


Note: This was written a few months back, but life slowed us down for a while so we actually forgot to post it.

Here we go; the Binary Soul post-mortem - looking back at a visual novel we made during March (and a few days of June lol).

We'll discuss what went right and wrong last NaNoRenO. This is mainly going to be a process-evaluation, for which I think BiSo is an interesting candidate.

What went right?

1. The scope
Amazing isn't it? Our main goal this time was to do asset-control (or whatever you call it); making sure the scope of the assets were limited beforehand and realistic within a month.

The scope used to be bigger, but since a fellow artist we would have been working with told us she couldn't participate after all, we nudged it down by a lot. What helped is she told us way in advance rather than in March! It allowed us to prepare well, so no harm done :).

In addition, we knew this month would be a busy one in real life, so we made the scope even smaller than we wanted. Considering we only really crunched the last few days (more about this later), I was pretty satisfied!

2. Teamwork, whoo!
We've never started on art before the script during a NaNoRenO before. The main reason for that was because we did this during our first VN and it ended up being a problem because artists IMPROVE after a while. However, it was always a bottleneck during NaNoRenO and a month is pretty short, so we tried it this time.

It turned out to be a smart decision; I started on the Titlescreen and GUI while Kiki was thinking up more ideas for the story and writing the outline from where I left off basically. We could both work this way and limit the time wasted; I might let Kiki outline our NaNoRenO projects from now on, while I do art and then finish the writing when she's done.
 
Finally, at the end we were in super-crunch mode and tasks went from me to her and back again; e.g. music, sfx and other small tasks. That way, both of us stayed productive the entire time even when we were done with our original tasks.

3. Daily progress log
While this turned out to be less useful for long-term projects (more about that in blogpost 2), this was insanely useful for NaNoRenO. It basically hammered into your head which date it was (omg) and what you'd done each day.

Personally it made sure we had a clear idea of the time-frame and ensured we worked on the project almost every day.

4. Destroyed dev-slump
Anyone who is telling me NaNoRenO was a waste of our time will be ignored :p.

You see, before NaNoRenO, we'd been through a hellish road of LoMa production, and it got me in a really big slump. Finally being able to work on something at the same time as Kiki (she's kind of waiting for art-assets in LoMa) and finishing something again felt really good. It also made me dev regularly which helped a lot.

tl;dr: this tiny NaNoRenO project destroyed our dev-slump.

5. Guinea-pig
Who cares the art quality isn't ah-may-zing for a NaNoRenO VN? You might, I don't, and this meant one awesome thing: I was able to test all the risky art-stuff I couldn't test in LoMa!

I also learned a TON about perspective and found better ways to do CGs, backgrounds and sprites. This helps picking up the pace since I'm now a little more prepared for the tough stuff in LoMa, which means hesitation isn't holding me back any more (often, a large cause of procrastination and slumps is hesitation as well).

6. We finished something
'Nuff said.

What went wrong?

1. Them bugs
We definitely underestimated the time it'd take to get out some nasty bugs; damn you, necklace-button! I still had a blast with the silly timer we put up on our blog, but this ruined it lol :'D...

2. Engine probs
We were using a Frankenstein version of the engine for testing purposes and boy did things go wrong :D. To the point where Kiki couldn't compile the game for us and I had to do it. We will use a new engine when we release LoMa though, so it's all right.

3. Random appointments and problems
No matter how well we prepared, if you looked at our daily log thing you'll see "appointments all day", which were mainly caused by me having job interviews in the middle of nowhere and Kiki being a nice girl and helping me prepare for them.

In addition, the weather was hell so we had some sleep issues; weird problem right? It's a small random thing but it kicked productivity in the nuts because it left us tired in the evenings. There's no point in staying up when it will just tire you out and slow you down more, so we slept instead.

4. Being a human
Let's face it, this is inevitable in normal circumstances and only gets worse with such a narrow deadline and problems; we definitely had ups and downs and what not. Kiki got the woes when she couldn't find the time to work or was too tired to, and I got annoyed and tired when things went too awry (the engine problems delaying the release further was a real kick in the groin for me, I had to remove myself from the internet that day).

Conclusion

Was it worth it? 
Hell yes. Look at all we learned and gained; do not underestimate the value of finishing a NaNoRenO project. Can you imagine us having the engine problems during LoMa's release? I don't even want to think about it. And last year we noticed skipping NaNoRenO didn't make a big difference for productivity, while participating got us all active and excited again!

Will you enter next NaNoRenO? 
Hard to say because I can't predict the future - but if we can, definitely!

Do you like Binary Soul?
Yes, I like it! It has a small but interesting story and characters we had fun thinking about. We kept discovering new things about them and the story as we worked, so yeah, I really liked it.

Sure, it's not perfect, but we poured our hearts into it for a whole month, and this is the result - isn't that cool? :D

What now?
Locus Magici, of course! Let's complete our goals for 2015 \o/! However, if you have any questions about our NaNoRenO experience or something else, feel free to ask.

~Anna 


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