Software is no different. It is easy to get carried away. One moment you have a specification that can be written on a single sheet of toilet paper and the next you are sitting on a thirty page document and a room wallpapered in post-it notes. Without proper project management, keeping one’s feet nailed to the floor rather than hopping aimlessly towards la-la-land is a challenge that often requires outside input. My iPhone game is a bit like this: I figured that it would need thirty levels, three themes, three turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree in order to be released. Indeed, I had turned my molehill into such an extraordinarily large range of mountains that clouds formed above them. I then managed to convince myself that a larger, MUCH more complex project (Space Snakes!) could be finished faster. This is a little like saying that I would arrive a lot quicker if I walked to London rather than taking the train (oddly, this morning, walking might have actually been faster1, but that is another story). A couple of recent updates on the subject offer some insight into the confusion and general lack of progress so far and will ensure that you’re appraised on my various excuses.
A few weeks ago, there I was, with at least one bottle of wine circulating around me explaining to a good friend of mine why I had abandoned my first idea for Space Snakes. As the cork popped on a castle-nine-popes, he said “well, show me how far you got.” So, after several months of been too busy and disheartened to touch it, I fired up the simulator (my provisioning profile had expired on the actual phone) and prepared to make a fool of myself (this doesn’t usually require much preparation, to be fair).
Well, colour me surprised and shake my rattlesnakes: it is actually a game. Playable. Ok, so it has only one level, but we sat there for a good quarter of an hour playing it and I suddenly realised that it was actually quite a lot of fun.
My friend said to me, “you know, you have got this all wrong. You don’t need thirty levels, you need ten. You don’t need three themes, you need one. It has enormous playability and replayability, so why not just do that and release it? If it works and people enjoy it then you can justify adding new theme and level packs. Make those free and you’ll reward those that have already bought in and make the product a more attractive proposition for those that have not. If it doesn’t work and you sell one copy, well, move on.”
He is right.
So I have engaged an artist to do my one theme and I will tart up my level editor with my new-found knowledge of Mac Cocoa programming and all being well, I can have my first iPhone game finished by, oh, let’s say Christmas. BUT WHICH YEAR?
1 “First Capital Connect: transforming trains into busses!”