Friday, July 26, 2013
A Bittersweet Post-Mortem of Sorts
Spoilers be in this post!
It's finally arrived. The bittersweet finale of the main storyline in MQ. While it's not the end of the game itself, nor the end of the MQ universe, it's certainly the end of an era. I figured I would share a few things that I've experienced over the 5 years that I've worked on MQ. I was actually hired to animate for MQ during the week that it was released to everyone which I believe was the last week of October in 2007. Since then I've animated several mechs and weapons which enabled me to learn basic Actionscript 2, initially to help make Warlic's job easier because I felt bad handing all these mechs and weapons to him to code. Eventually it got more complicated and I started coding towns and quests. Eventually it was decided that I would be a good fit to become game lead because I was able to dabble in a little bit of everything that was required to run MQ. That wasn't completely t rue but luckilly I had Maegwyn to step in and really help me in the areas I was weakest. Anywho, that's how I got here. I figure I'm going to post some observations I've made about the game which are in no way intended to be negative if they sound that way. It's just how I saw things and hopefully it helps fill you guys in on a lot of things. I'll take this moment to say I don't regret a thing and I absolutely loved working on this game with all of these great and talented people along the way.
What went right: The team. I think there was only a brief time where the team was essentially Maegwyn and myself along with a few people who would pitch in if they could. That was a stressful time but before and after that, our team was epic and very dedicated to the game. Yergen came in and added a huge amount of style to the MQ animations. Then Arklen came in and continued that trend. He animated almost all of the finale cutscenes that you saw tonight and I think he nailed it. Vivi has become a huge force to be reckoned with when it comes to programming things. I don't even have to touch the mech or weapon files anymore and he's doing things I never would've attempted. So the staff has always been largely dedicated to the game and I think it showed. MQ has a certain level of quality in one way. My next point will highlight where I think the quality suffered.
What went wrong: The lack of a clear story arc. When I first started, I remember that it was essentially announced that the ending of MechQuest would be the Great Reset. That always kind of bothered me because I felt like we gave away the ending. Wile developing the game, we kind of wandered from story to story, not worrying too much about the Reset. When I took over, I think I started running a little too liberally with that and ended up trying to add all of these different plots that would eventually come back together somehow. We ended up with a muddled rush to tie as many plot points together in this finale and also pull in random elements just to match up with the DF beginnings. We always knew the ending of MQ and at least I always believed I needed to throw more random stories in the mix or else it would be too predictable. So we had the beginning of MQ and the ending planned but absolutely nothing inbetween. We were winging a lot of things. In one sense, I loved that. In the other, I think it hurt the overall storyline of the game. My bad.
What went right: The art quality. I always felt the MQ had an art quality that was much higher than the other games. The mech designs by Thyton as well as a few guests here and there only got more and more complicated as time went on. Thyton at some point around year 2 was really striving to push the bar and I remember being like "Yo. We may need to start pulling punches, here. It's getting insane." He declined and said everything we make needs to be better than the last thing we make. The mechs certainly reflect that because they only got more complex and more flashy. It was beautiful. It also really pushed me to get better at animating. Back then I was always trying to catch up to J6 until I got caught up in the programming. Jemini has made some really beautiful backgrounds. Even Char pitched in for a little bit. Lately it's been Minar, Plasma Charge, Arklen, and a couple newcomers whom I don't recall their game names at the moment. I'm a terrible person and I apologize. Count that as something that just went wrong. D:
What went wrong: Not enough time to fully flesh out some features!! My main gripe has always been the swordfighting. It's such a key feature but it's sooooooooooooo basic! I've always wanted to liven it up and I really tried with the Ninja class from Yokai. I tried to take it a bit further but I lacked any database experience to set up the back-end for it and we couldn't spare the resources for someone else to do it. So I think that was the biggest issue. There were also a few optimization issues that occured. Someof them, I addressed and helped give the quest and town builders more control. I remember redoing the star map. It used to be 3 separate maps in 3 separate files. If you updated one, you had to update the others separately. When I redid the menu system, I made a unified map. Update it once, and it all updates the same. Alas, it was too little too late, I'm afraid. I really wish we had more time to really flesh those out more.
What went right: Minigames! Kind of. I thought we made some really fun minigames. The problem I would have with them is that they were unskippable at the time. We've put a lot of effort into adding options that let the player skip it after so many failed attempts. I think with that addition, the minigames are perfect. We have lots of fun games from a shoot-em-up game with Galactimecha to a cool card game with Tek's Decks (I still wish we'd sell those at HeroMart). I always like little minigames in RPGs because they break up the small bouts of monotony in doing the same actions over and over. It makes your brain change gears. At some points we may have over-used them but I think overall, they came out really cool considering what we had to work with.
I think I'll leave it there for now in regards to the post-mortem. Hopefully that helps you get a good idea on the behind-the-scenes of MQ. I want to give a big hearty thanks to everyone that's worked on MQ with me. I'd like to give a special thanks to Maegwyn because I guarantee without her, the releases would've been abysmal (if it released at all). She's been a huge help to me ever since she started helping me and I appreciate every bit of it. You all should thank her, too. She cares extremely passionately for MQ and she'll practically be game lead from here-on-out. I hope to continue to assist as I can but I can't guarantee my availability all the time for big projects. MQ is heading into new territory as we begin switching gears. The game will still receive updates but they might not be nearly as regular and they may not be as large. It's definitely a passion-project. In the mean-time, the resources that are being moved to other AE projects where we can learn new technologies and make some really cool new projects. We'll definitely be revisiting MQ's universe in the future in new games so don't fret. I can't wait.
Thank you so much for playing and supporting the game.