Darkness Dwells Post Mortem

What Did We Do?

Darkness Dwells was a continuation on the game developed by Scott Anastasi the trimester before this. In that game, you played a child seeing monsters appear and finding comfort in your parents presence. For this project, we took that game and built it into a horror game where you have to try and keep the monsters out, only using your flashlight. The player had to try and stop three monsters, Longtooth (in the closet), The Gremlin (on the rocking horse) and UnderBed (take a wild guess). Each monster required a different tactic to handle. But there was another factor. There is also a radio that speeds up the rate of which the monsters appear that the player had to turn off.

What Went Well?

During this project our team performed really well in all fields. We communicated often and clearly about what we were working on and when. We discussed changes with each other and made sure we compromised if not all agreed. As project manager I tried to make sure that everyone had something to do at all times, and often tried to tie that into the specialization that that person wanted to use.

As a team we worked closely together with two animators that made the main character models for us. We treated them well and made sure to give them proper feedback and the praise they required. There was large amounts of trust between the game developers and the collaborators, and I think that the trust we had for work to get done was a crucial part for the games completion. We could not have been where we are today without their splendid work.

We used project management tools such as Hack’N’Plan and development schedules with excellency in order to get work done on time, with great success. We scoped when necessary and managed to pivot and change upon feedback with ease.

In my opinion the teams marketing was fantastically executed. We made up a plan, and acted upon it. At the point I am writing this, the game page on itch.io has 1278 views and 342 downloads, as well as being the number 3 most popular game on itch.io. We have had several people play the game and upload the video to youtube where it has received high praise.

What Didn’t Go Well?

This game has been my second game as a project manager, and there was a lot that went wrong with it. I enjoy being project manager, but I believe that some of the things that went wrong was that a) no one really wanted to be project manager from the start, so I stepped in just because we needed one, and b) I didn’t feel super engaged with the project for a while, so I found it difficult to do much work for it.

Nevertheless, I pushed through my feelings and tried to do my best, and it started off pretty good in my opinion. However, I as a person am very passive, and I don’t make a lot of noise when things go against my preference, so when team members started going off the schedule or started giving orders to other members, I didn’t really speak up, making it feel like I wasn’t actually the project manager.

In order to better myself for future projects, I need to speak up more. I need to start taking a stand if roles or schedules are strafed away from, and make sure we end up where we want to be. I need to try and be more inspiring and helpful, while making sure everyone does the work they’re supposed to do.

What Did I Learn?

Working on Darkness Dwells made me learn a whole heap about what being a generalist means. I got to take care of Localization, UI, Options, and many other things I haven’t touched as much before (except for UI). It was a very enriching experience and helped me accept that I am a game designer as well as generalist, instead of trying to find a specialisation.

This project taught me a whole bunch of useful information about marketing that I had no experience with before. I now know how to find a market and make a game that panders to that market, as well as creating a brand/identity and promote all of that on social media. I learned about price points and about making assumptions and researching those assumptions for the selected market.

Darkness Dwells Marketing and Branding

In the brief for Darkness Dwells we were told that marketing was going to be a big part of the development. In fact, it was the entire reason that the game was created from the start. To take an existing game, research the market for it and then start creating a brand and promoting our work online to gain an audience before the game was released.

Marketing & Promotion

For the marketing itself, we really enjoyed the thought of having the fan base try to decipher the story or the origin of the characters. To do this we planned to post images and Gifs as much as possible to attract audiences early on. The whole point of this was to make them curious and start sharing ideas and theories about the game and its story.

When we sat down to talk about the market for our game we decided that twitter would be our main platform, as it is easy to share posts with your followers there, but also using Facebook to try and reach that audience as well. We did a bunch of research into horror games and what their price points were, as well as what type of content you got for what price and what the users thought about it. We also made some difficulty assumptions, which was based on an assumption that horror game players enjoyed challenge in their horror games. Fortunately, our assumption was proven correct and it allowed us to shape our game to be more difficult. Our market for darkness dwells were mostly YouTubers and horror game players. The main reason for us using YouTubers were because they tend to fake being scared and therefore gain more viewers. More viewers for them would hopefully translate over to more downloads for our game.

In order to reach a larger audience we were given the tip that we should use localization, meaning we add language options in order to reach other countries as well. One of the main languages (that also is a big portion of the games market) is simplified chinese. It shocked me to find out how much the percentage of purchases used simplified chinese as a language.

Branding

For the branding of Darkness Dwells we early on noticed that we really enjoyed Longtooth, and because of that he became the main monster for our game, much like Freddy in the Five Nights at Freddy’s franchise. Because of this we decided to use him for a ton of promotional material including banners, logos etc. We thought it would be important to have a distinct character that would give our game a recognizable face.

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Above are some of the marketing material used to promote the game and to create a brand out of the character Longtooth.

The results of this plan will be posted in the post mortem for the project, which is being posted in a few days, so keep your eyes peeled for that.

Thanks for reading

Darkness Dwells Project Management

During this trimester I have worked with a bunch of different types of project management, as well as had the opportunity to be the project manager for our commercialisation project. For this blog I will write about my experience with project management during Darkness Dwells.

After researching around, most industry people (like Heather, and her article) seem to enjoy using WBS (Work Breakdown Software), such as Trello or Hack’N’Plan. Luckily we’ve been using Hack’N’Plan as well as spreadsheets to manage our work during Darkness Dwells, which is something I will discuss below.

The first thing I made sure we did for darkness dwells, as soon as I took the reigns as project manager, was decide to have weekly meetings. I wanted to make sure I knew what was going on with the project at all times. I also made sure that we used source control and Hack’N’Plan, as mentioned above, to plan out our work.

Spreadsheet

One method I tried out for the first time was week to week planning. I am aware that HNP does this, but I really wanted to be able to look at it in a spreadsheet, along with everyone's responsibilities for that particular week. I think this worked really well because it helped me keep track of what we had to do in the time we had left. This was also updated with time, as we pivoted at a certain point in the development.

Hack’N’Plan

Although half of the team were against using it, I enjoy using  HNP a lot. It helps me track time and is very useful to keep on top of things and make sure you know what to do. What I encountered as a difficulty during this project, as the project manager, was to motivate my team to continue updating HNP, and unfortunately it reached the point where we stopped using it. But up until the point where that happened, it worked well for us.

Slack/Discord

In order to keep in contact with everyone we decided to use Discord. However we were told that we had to use Slack for the project, so we sort of altered between the two. The reason for this was because everyone of us was used to using Discord for schoolwork, as it is a very flexible program for chat rooms. We ended up having to remind each other to use Slack, and therefore hopped between the two. In the end, we used Discord to talk to each other and Slack to talk to contributors.

Project management

This is one of the few projects I have been project manager for, and unfortunately I have had a better experience in the past. I think it all came down to the fact that I wasn’t engaged enough to take the reigns, and also because no one really wanted to be project manager so I offered to do it. I still have a lot to learn when it comes to controlling a team,  but hey, the game is out there and ready to play so I think it went well. I think it would be easier if I was more into the game.

Thank you for reading this rather short blog. My brain is pretty mushy at the end of trimester, so I'm happy I managed to get something about our process in here.