Why developing your first game always takes way longer than expected
Published 9 months ago
We finally understand why
We put Colony Survival on Steam Greenlight in September 2014. We sincerely believed we could release the game within a couple of weeks. Today it is the 15th of June 2017, and we’re releasing the game tomorrow.
How does that happen?! We ourselves were always complaining about the slow development of video games, and now we had become the slow developers.
I’d like to compare it with building a racetrack. Pave an area with asphalt, invite some friends with cars, and you can have fun racing each other. Bring some cameras and GoPro’s and you can put an awesome video on YouTube that same weekend.
Now you’ve got your own racetrack. You’d like to host some big, official competitions. Can’t be too hard, you’ve already got the most important pant down: the racetrack. Right?
Well, you’ll need to install kerbing, barriers and tyre walls, obviously. And pitlanes. And paddocks. A safety car, fire trucks and ambulances must be on standby during races.
Oh, and there will be spectators. They have to be seated, so you’ll need to build grandstands. You’ll need to build toilets, food stands and parking spots for them. You’ve got to sell tickets. You’ll need to place signage.
You built the racetrack in months. It’ll take years before the first official competition is hosted there!
This is exactly what happened when we developed Colony Survival, minus the fast, expensive cars. The first build was ugly, but functional, and ready within months. We expected to be able to make the game ready for release within a comparable timeframe: months. But there’s a big difference between a game that works on your own hardware and when you play it, and a game that works on a lot of diverse PCs and is quickly understood by new players.
We improved the graphics. Improved the interface. Added multiplayer. Made the world a lot bigger. Found bugs. Fixed bugs! Added support for translations. Added support for non-Latin scripts. Improved the performance. Added more gameplay. Integrated the Steam API. Improved the interface again. Tested it with new players. Found new issues. Resolved the issues. Tested it again, repeat the cycle!
At a certain moment, you’ve literally played your game for years. Your approach is totally different from someone who is new to your game, so you become blind to the issues that they face. When you see them struggle with these problems, you’ll hopefully want to fix them. Add feedback to improve their experience. Error messages, better icons, changing the controls, just to make the game more accessible to new players.
It’s relatively easy to make a basic game concept. It’s a lot harder to release a polished build. We don’t believe our game is finished enough for a definitive release, but we hope players will appreciate the Early Access version that releases on the 16th!
Luke Boltjes