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Chris

Development Diary / Post-Mortem

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One of the Kickstarter rewards was a "Development Diary" - basically a lengthy writeup of the development process. After a bit of thought on how best to format this, I've produced a 5,000 word post-mortem article on the development process.

This will be included in V1.09 and all future versions of Xenonauts in the launcher (under the Extras button), but I figured I'd post it up here too so people can read it if they like.

If you spot any typos, please let me know - I'm not planning to update the content or the choice of words, but the spellcheck isn't working on my home PC. It might save me some blushes before I send out a Kickstarter Update about it!

DevelopmentDiary.pdf

DevelopmentDiary.pdf

DevelopmentDiary.pdf

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A few comments...

- I enjoyed the practical insights of the diary. Very interesting for indie developers.

- I agree with your assessment of the TU controversy. I, like many others, was initially disappointed with the change. I have since grown to appreciate it and think the game is much the better for it. This seems inherent in involving the community pre-release. Pre-release involvement, whether early or late, still seems like a pretty evenly weighted decision, rather than just right or wrong or dependent on the funding. The community would certainly have done a lot less testing and contributed a lot less if they were involved later.

- In terms of Alien models, I actually liked this more 'realistic' version of aliens where they were all roughly humanoid in size similar to humans. That actually makes this stand out from other portrayals of aliens, which generally imagine more extreme changes from earthlings.

I was going to say something about dealing with community reactions but, on second thought, I will not offer unasked for advice. : ) Congrats on making a good game and making your dream a reality. I hope Xenonauts continues to sell well and the next game is just as good.

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Very interesting reading!

I'm happy that everything turned out well.

While Xenonauts is not perfect, it's very very much enjoyable, in a way that didn't happen to me for a game in a very long time.

Good luck with your next project, i'm sure that with what you've learned with xenonauts you're gonna do some wonderful piece of game.

PS: You didn't put enough stress on one of the best design decision i think you've made: to make it as much open to modding as possible (last but not least your opening to comunity coders). I think that this will single handing grant you a long lasting success and fame.

Edited by LKx

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Perfect.

I could comment on many things, but I'll say only one thing - you did well, Chris. World is harsh place, but you're strong and mature enough to handle it. And this is, where you're truly good man.

Thank you for all you have done. Keep your trajectory further and proceed in this great world. ;)

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Very interesting thoutht, making us understand and learn from your choices and mistakes. As a Junior Developer, your exeperience is priceless for my personal carrier, s thanks a lot!

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Thanks for that Chris. It was an interesting summary of many of the things that have been discussed here over the months and months...and from the dev diary some more months and months.

But that has always been one of the plus points. That despite the changing funding, the early set backs, the horrible engine you still discussed a lot of those issues with the people here.

One quote concerned the realistic setting "I consider it a mistake. Firstly, we wasted the setting: the mistrust between the two superpowers is barely mentioned, let alone factored into the gameplay mechanics. I took an interesting period and

then did nothing with it."

As someone who banged on about the game crying out for this part to be developed further, I'd be the first to say that it was still one of the biggest attractions in the first place.

Choosing that setting and,specifically, making that gritty Osprey style art available so early, gave the game a distinctive style that any amount of near-future games would fail to achieve. Like the stories behind each Xenonaut, there's a lot that can be picked up by the player's imagination in such a setting.

Because of the interaction with the forum, it was clear what the priorities of the game were to be. So, while it's true to say that the setting wasn't developed as much as it could have been, it was always clear why. I'd never say it was wasted, since it was a big drawing point in the first place.

Another quote "Having the community involved in development is of huge benefit to any team, but I really feel the

optimal point to bring them in is when the prototyping phase is over and the design is largely settled."

I can certainly see the appeal of that from a developers side. But from a player's view having all those discussions means that the reasons behind the choices are understood. I could pick half a dozen things from when the game design was largely settled and mistakenly think poorly of the game. Perhaps enough to not pick it up.

Knowing how those decisions were reached, makes quite a difference. Having an opportunity to express an opinion before hand makes an even bigger difference. Not venting on several issues at once, as you would had the game been developed more privately also helps. The global reach chinook being a good example of this. It's a natural reaction to see people react poorly at first to small changes, let alone the larger design decisions that had to be made for Xenonauts. As uncomfortable as those first few days are, it works out in the end.

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I also enjoyed reading your thoughts on the development process from the other side.

I enjoyed the process from the community side and think this and the final product definitely justifies getting in as early as I did.

As for critiquing the writing I only noticed a couple of things:

Not exactly helpful when we was (were) trying to modernise a game from twenty years ago!

This endless stream (of) feedback allowed us to gradually polish away at the game’s rough edges.

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Thank you so much for posting this, it was very insightful. You gave us a lot to think about and it sounds like you learned a lot from the experience.

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Can't wait to read this. This will be good to read for someone who is just about to enter the Game Design field.

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A corporate lawyer helped us set up a US company and corporate bank account for our

Kickstarter (rather than have to use IndieGoGo)

This guy alone may have saved the game. Not saying Xenonauts wouldn't have gotten finished without him but Indiegogo could've been a disaster.

If the game took 5 years (60 months) to finish and took 10 times longer than anticipated does that mean you initially expected to have it done in 6 months? :P

In any case a great write up with lots of hard earned insight.

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Thanks for a good read Chris.

I'm hoping the sale figures are sufficient for all your trials and troubles.

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A lot of developers/Indie Groups could learn from you on handling the Community side of their projects. You've done a great job in the Forums of keeping us fans (many of whom remain hidden in the shadows) informed and a part of development; which justifies our faith when we pre-order games. You've always keep your cool in the Forums, even against detractors and that helps set the tone for others. I really appreciate the Development Diary, it was a great read. Continued success!

Edit - I suppose you could update the goldenhawinteractive.com web page... :)

Edited by Russonc
Added Note

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I want to say thank you.

You are a man of strong will and deserve respect.

so glad everything turned out well and can't wait to see your next project.

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I'm really enjoying Xenonauts, it is "sequel" to x-com I have wanted ever since playing the first! Good job!

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In What went Right #3

Someone made translations possible by somehow tracking down an long-lost program

required to add new fonts to the engine;

Should be 'a'

in What went right #5

The first-person UI style was also big success

'a big success'

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I wonder if Chris would have even started the project if he had known ahead of time how long and how much money it was really going to take? A lot of people get into things without knowing what's ahead and accomplish things no one thought possible because they simply didn't know any better going in, but are persistent.

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I find your story very inspiring Chris. You are just a guy who knew nothing about development, who loved games enough to stand up and pour his life savings and 5 years of his time into his own game, and it turned out great. Thank You

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thanks Chris enjoyed the diary.

.. hold on! does that mean all the bug reports and criticisms I've been saving up for the last 2 years or so are no longer needed? ...damn my perfectionism. :)

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Wow, that is quite the journey. I'm glad that it turned out so well for you.

The fixed TU vs. percentage TU cost change was quite the little upheaval. And the discussions popping up about lack of realism vs. gameplay every so often got old sometimes. You did a good job handling it most of the time, and I salute you guys.

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The three biggest controversies I remember were: Indestructible aircraft, % TU for firing, and the implementation of psionics. I still don't like how those were done, but, hey, the game is still fun.

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