BLOG – Release Your Damn Game

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by Ferruccio Cinquemani, game designer and one half of Stockholm based Bumblebee Studios. The duo have recently released their second game – Heads Will Roll, which is an arcade-puzzle game. Here Ferruccio talks about the importance of shipping your game.

No, seriously. Do it. Yes, the UI is crap. And those assets you made back in the beginning of development show, more than anything else, how much you sucked back then. And, yes, that feature works perfectly but you didn’t find the way to implement it in any level yet. Speaking of which, the game could use some more levels. But level design takes time, and polishing takes time. And it would be really neat to be able to put the game out as a free download, but at the same time implementing IAP is a pain in the ass.

What I’m trying to say is: your game is not perfect. It will never be. Release it. When three years ago we started working on our second mobile game, Heads Will Roll, the idea was to do another small project – our first game Derat Inc. was made in six months -, before moving on to something more substantial. The idea was to use this new project as a way (for me, especially) to learn more about game development, game design and art. It was supposed to be a quick remake of Gravbowl, a game my business partner Simone released the year before on Windows Phone. Heads Will Roll’s is a simple puzzle-game take on bowling, with cartoony characters and a silly horror/absurdist style.

And then life happened. I had some health issues, then both me and Simone became fathers once more (now we have both two children each). And jobs were changed, side projects started and delivered or planned and never started. Heads Will Roll was there, slowly but constantly getting built, rebuilt, and rebuilt again night after night after night. I learned how to use Photoshop, I learned C#, I read books about game design, and level design, and game feel. Month after month new features were implemented, changes in the design tested and discarded. Months passed. Until one day we realized that the “six months maximum” small project had become a more-than-two-years thing.

So here we were, with a project that was still a long way from being finished, and had never been user tested. We decided we needed to rescope. We focused on creating 50 levels (down from the 80-100 we were planning) and we created a beta to be played by a bunch of friends. We got useful feedback. We knew what to do. But now the problem was that, quite simply, we didn’t want to do it. The last sprint ended up still far from the finish line, and we were exhausted. While more months passed, I actually decided in my mind that we would take the hit and leave the game unreleased. I started working on new prototypes, and one of them is actually now almost ready for release (just a couple of years more of development. Haha)

And then one day a friend just told me to release it already. In any state, just release. It was one of those things that people tell you in the right way or just at the right time and actually for once you take an advice. I realized I needed closure. I needed this project to be completed. We invested too much time to let it rot in a git repository. I talked with Simone and we started working on Heads Will Roll again. We took the beta version and we improved it. New, simpler, UI, some new assets here and there, a ton of bug fixing, a new game mode, new music. This was the last sprint. The very idea of being close to release gave us the energy and motivation to finish the game. In a few weeks we drastically improved the beta version. The backlog started to shrink visibly, day after day (or, well, night after night, as we both have day jobs). We decided to make it a free game with some ads, just to make some small money in the remote case it turns out to be successful. Then, one day, we realised it was done. There were no bugs and no new features that we could realistically implement in this version. We made it.

It’s not the best possible version of it that we could have made. In a way, it’s not even complete. But, if even a moderately decent amount of people will download it, I wouldn’t mind creating some new levels for it, using the features that we couldn’t fit into the 50 levels on the game now. Regardless, it doesn’t matter. It’s out. We did it. Our second game is out.

So, here’s the point of this article. Like my friend told me, I’m going to tell you. RELEASE YOUR DAMN GAME. It’s not perfect. But it’s good enough. And if it’s not good enough, fuck it: the worst released game is better than the best unreleased game.

You can download Heads Will Roll for iOS on the App Store.

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