Game development is a fun and unique experience that combines the best aspects of research, imagination, and art. Working on a project sends me to my happy place. Once the project is finished, I can reflect upon all of the hard work that I have placed into it. It feels marvelous and exhilarating to look at an end project, especially if it was in development for months or years. However, game development is no easy feat. There are constant changes, updates and revisions that need to happen. At some point as you iterate your game, whether it be the beginning prototype or the final release, it becomes either a glimmering gem to gaze upon or a nightmare you will want to run away from.
Today I will introduce you to a practice many game developers refer to as the post-mortem. This exercise can be used by anyone including novice developers, professionals, students or even hobbyists. With this method, it is possible to analyze mistakes as well as highlight key moments during development.
Reflect on Key Moments
A post-mortem is a document which allows developers to reflect on the production on a project. This is a great tool, as sometimes events can take us by surprise. A post-mortem allows developers to leave behind a message in a bottle for future development about how to handle a certain situation or problem.
Many game developers write post mortems for their games and generally their next game tends to be better. I found I great deal of professional post mortems on Gamasutra.com. These articles allows readers to dive into the mindset of the developers. It allows them an inside peek at what could have been, how the developers felt about what is, and what they may do in the future. If not from the knowledge these possess they are just good reading material and interesting. Especially if one of your favorite games received a post mortem.
Focus on the Game
I cannot stress this enough. When crafting a post-mortem for your game please just zero in on the production process behind the game. Some development teams which decide to write a post-mortem usually sit down together, brainstorm, and then collectively construct a piece that truly gives the reader the experience of creating said game.
Smaller teams, usually less than five, tend to lean towards individual write-ups. This method is good because you can get the perspectives of each member in the production team. Some individuals use this method as a way to place blame. One of the most important traits to successful game development is proper teamwork. If your team ran into problems like some teams do, this is not the time to express your feelings about a particular person or department. This leads to negative outcomes when the purpose of a post-mortem is just the opposite.
Write for the Future
Post-mortem reports come after the game has gone gold and is released. In these articles developers write about what went right, as well as what went wrong. Generally, efforts are made to balance these points out. Use an appropriate amount of examples as necessary!
It’s can be harder to learn from the positive elements sometimes. First address your favorite part about this project’s development cycle. Did the artwork come out clean and polished? This section is for you to shine your top five moments of your game. Things that your game wouldn’t be nearly as good without..
The “what went wrong” section is the place for you and team to express the hardships faced in the project. Did the engine you use crash a lot, causing time to be lost? Did your laptop get milk poured on it somehow and all the textures you created got corrupted before you could save them? This is the place to put that information and maybe next time learn from what happened to either prevent, or at least make it easier to bare with.
Making games is great. To me there is no greater feeling than completing and releasing your game unto the world and gauging the reactions of the people who play. But after the smoke evaporates and the dust settles, a post-mortem is the perfect way to reflect in order to make sure your next game is spot on. I hope you have enjoyed this article and decide to construct a post-mortem of your own in the future. Be sure to comment in the comment section about your post-mortems, tips you use to craft yours, or any you personally find interesting. A always have a great day and keep developing.
Originally written by Thomas Espinoza