How To Finish Projects – Inspired By ZombieRun

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                                            The Endless Wall of ZombieRun Post-its
 

Side projects are great, they take you out of your routine and let you try something you feel passionate about. This is a blog post about indie game side project called ZombieRun. I will give you an overview of different stages of my side project and summarise what to keep in mind, when taking on a similar quest.

The Push

About two years ago I took a game development class in the university and that’s where it all begun. Before that I looked into game development, but didn’t get to the point where I was serious enough to give it a real shot. This class guided me through some basics and gave me a good overview of what’s it actually like to create a game. One goal of this course was to create a game. I chose the one genre I had always thought about, when thinking of game development – platformer. And that’s how ZombieRun was born. At first it had many different names like Zombie Marathon, Zombienator and ZombieFest, but after some consideration I settled with ZombieRun. So now I had kicked open the door and announced “I’m here”: What should I do now?

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                                                ZombieRun’s first concept

Analyze

By the end of the course I had my game ready enough to submit for grading. I created ZombieRun in ActionScript using Flixel framework. It had one character, one type of zombie, two guns and 4 levels. I got the maximum score and passed the course in flying colors. That’s when I started thinking, what if … ? What if I continued with the game and created something solid, something that could be considered a real game. I got quite excited about the idea and didn’t think long before I started my research into the world of zombies and platform gaming.

At one point I remembered one of my favorite quotes from a nameless game developer “Create the game you would want to play” and this was when everything changed. I started thinking about the games that I have had the most fun with lately. Then it hit me. For last few years I rarely play games alone. I just have more fun with some couch co-op gaming or split-screen action.

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4 player split screen mode in ZombieRun

Make decisions

I decided to make ZombieRun with local multiplayer modes. Now that I had this figured out, I started thinking about my choice of framework. ActionScript is good for web games, but real games aren’t only in the web. I looked into ways of creating a game for PC. I found out that you can do it with Adobe AIR, the ActionScript game is packaged inside an AIR container and it can be executed as a regular desktop application. Also, packaging as an AIR application allowed me to deploy my game to Android and even iOS. I was excited! So many platforms from one code. It was a little bit early to party though. I found out that for executing AIR applications, users have to have Adobe AIR installer in their computer, as well as on their phone. Also there are numerous performance issues involved. In the Play store comments the users say that “Adobe AIR is the best thing since sliced bread”, but I wasn’t so sure of it, so I started looking for alternatives.

On one cold winter night I stumbled upon Flixel-gdx. It’s a Java cross-platform implementation of Flixel combined with libGDX. Hmm…this could really work, since I had some experience with Java and the syntax was almost the same as in the ActionScript Flixel. The thing that really got me excited was the simplicity of compiling the game for desktop and Android.

I decided to give it a fair chance. I converted my game to Java for about a month, but not once did I think it was not worth it. The Java convert was a success.

Just Release it

It’s all great if you have a side project, but no one is going to know about it if you don’t release it. I’ve been told on many occasions “If you aren’t ashamed of your first release, then you’ve gone too far”. This is the place to stop making up those awesome features that must be in the game and stop pushing release date forward. Just make a choice and stick with it. I made a choice that the release is going to be in October 2014. I started preparing for a release in the beginning of the month and game was released on the 29th.

Go all in

It’s always good to give it your all if you do something. Believe me – people do notice. Just four days before the release there was a Gaming night event and I decided to go promote ZombieRun at the event. I had put up the game once before and wanted to make it cooler this time. First time there was just a screen and controllers for the people to play. This time I made T-shirts, ordered a big frame to put around the tv screen and I even got a friend to dress up as a Zombie to lure in some unsuspecting event visitors. This setup was a great success. There was always a queue at our booth and many gamers came back to take another stab at the zombies. Also, twice I packed my gear to start taking down our booth, but had to reassemble it, because people were hungry for killing more zombies. Here’s a short video of ZombieRun at the Game Night event.

Final words

Side projects are cool, but only if you finish them! During the project it’s important to accept the fact that you are going to leave some of your ideas out, because there is always more ideas than there is time to execute them. But don’t worry about that. You can leave some of the awesomeness for your next projects…And how can you start with the next project? You finish the one before!

Now that you have got all this sorted out, then what would be better than getting friends together on Halloween for some zombie blasting in ZombieRun?! You can get ZombieRun from http://zombierun.eu

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