Out Of Order retrospective
Written by Tim Furnish
I made a game once, you know.
Actually, I've made several. But there's one I want to waffle about at this moment, and that's because I've just watched someone playing it.
Clearly, as it was in development, I watched people playing chunks of it... but I was standing behind them to offer suggestions and hints and tips and to remind them of things which they'd seen or heard earlier on in the game which were there to serve as clues or instructions. On top of this, once the game was playable from beginning to end I also sent it off to a few people around the planet for them to play through. Of course, all I got back from this was their distilled, concentrated views via either the medium of email or the medium of running into each other at some point over the following weeks, and therein lies the issue. Really, the best way to see whether your (or any) game works as well as it possibly can is to watch someone playing it but not to comment or help. Not even to be present for players to so much as glance over at your face to see if your expression gives them any clues as to whether they're on the right track. After all, once it's released, that's how people are going to have to play it. And although people did play my game in its entirety before its release and offer their opinions and feedback, I can't help but think it would have been useful to actually see how they tackled it and watched the successes they had and the mistakes they made while playing it. Not instead of their opinions, but as well.
So, anyway, this game - as you may or may not have deduced, and I guess that depends on who you are - was a 2D mouse-driven story-heavy adventure game called Out Of Order. Clearly my opinions and observations and ramblings are therefore likely to be more relevant to other adventure games rather than, say, a pure shoot-em-up or a match-three puzzle game. And not many people seem to be making adventure games any more. Or have I just taken my finger off the adventure-game-development pulse? Perhaps. In any case, I hope that some of what I felt today, watching someone play my game many, many years too late to be able to do anything about what I didn't like seeing, might help you go right where I went just the tiniest amount wrong.
The place where I saw my game being played was in my own house on my own computer. That's because someone has taken it upon themselves to play through it from beginning to end and post (almost) the entire thing to a little up-and-comping video-sharing website called YouTube. And yes, I sat and watched the whole thing.
This article is not all about this video, but I fully admit that its creation was triggered by me watching it and no doubt it will be mentioned a few times. As will lots of other fun stuff, and hilarious anecdotes about the development of the game, and some completely random stuff depending on what time of night I write each one.