Roland Semrau: Software developer, certified Unity Developer, programmer, and generalist.
Tom Breuer: Designer (B.A.), 3D-Artist, rigging & animation expert, everything art and shader related, resident Blender-expert (gave Blender-courses at the university for 6 years).
We met 4 years ago in a small start-up company and have been developing apps together ever since. Our main focus are VR / AR apps. A big bulk of our work consists in architectural visualization, product presentation and translating that into VR / AR. In our work we use Unity to develop everything except games. We haven’t released a fully featured game yet, but we have a vast array of Apps (mainly AR Apps) under our belt, so we are experienced at finishing and delivering products. Our dream now is to release fully featured games.
Why back to the future?
We are both huge “Back to the Future“ fans, but we didn’t want to limit ourselves, so we tried to come up with ideas for the other franchises too. After deliberating for a while we decided to go with the franchise we felt most passionate about. We came up with original content and developed the game concept around the BTTF franchise, meaning the game is bound to the franchise, it can’t be re-skinned, and it would not make sense outside the BTTF universe.
The game concept
Respecting the movies and paying homage to them was of paramount importance to us. We wanted to continue with the rules set up in the movies and tell a story that made sense in the BTTF universe. We came up with what we think is a natural progression of the story. Introducing new stuff, but at the same time having strong links to the movies. It is also full of details that you will recognize instantly if you are a big fan.
The pitch video
This was our first time doing a pitch video. We wrote down everything we wanted to say, we recorded it and were disappointed to see that it was over 4 minutes long, and that some concepts were not easy to understand. We decided to make animations that would help explain the difficult parts. 3D-assets were created to use in the video, the GDD and the final game. Also, a few explanatory 2D animations were made.
We also decided to cut out all the “fat” and just leave in the essential parts. We managed to reduce the duration of the video to 2 minutes. We weren’t that happy with the audio quality of the video, but the pitch had potential. After the new deadline was announced, we decided to re-record the video for better audio, and since we aren’t English native speakers, we added subtitles to it. At the end we were pretty happy with the results and felt confident that we were delivering a good pitch video.
This was also our first time doing a formal GDD. We reused some of the art done for the pitch video and the 3D assets for the game. We limited ourselves to just write 7 pages of pure text. With headers, pictures and other assets we used to make it look more appealing and give it a better flow, we ended with a 13-page PDF.
Developing the vertical slice
We received the information that we were finalists while we were on vacation. As soon as we got back we dove right into the production of the game. Producing the vertical slice in the time allotted turned out to be quite a challenge. We both have jobs unrelated to game development and are doing this as a side-project in our free time. This results in us spending 12-15 hours per weekday in the office. From 7AM till 9PM has not been unusual in the last couple of weeks.
Project management: We use “basecamp” to help us stay organized. There is nothing more satisfying than getting to check the to-do lists once you have completed a task. It takes a little bit of effort to keep it updated and every week we put in new tasks. We recommend using any project management software. Write down as much as you can or else you will forget stuff. It is very easy to lose oversight of such a complex project.
We want to present the entire first level of the game as part of the vertical slice. We like the motto “learning by doing”, so we want to drop the player directly into the gameplay. Almost all the systems we would use in the final game are being developed. That is a very difficult part of the process, as we have stuff that could be used as is for the final game, it is difficult to decide what to drop out of the game. So basically, from the programming standpoint, we will deliver a very high percentage of what would be the final product, since we re-use the systems in place in the other levels.
For the moment we are enjoying very much bringing a game to life. It is one thing to deliver a finished app to a client and be proud of your work, but developing a game that you came up with is even more fulfilling.