Winning Streak

About

Winning streak is an addictive and slightly controversial game, where the player controls a streaker at an American Football match and has to evade and dodge incoming footballers while at the same time trying to score more points by doing sometimes dangerous maneuvers. It was made by a team of ten people for the 72 hour jam “Indies vs PewDiePie” (hosted at gamejolt). The theme of the competition was “Fun to play, fun to watch with emphasis on funny”. The game was designed with the goal to become popular on the internet and more specifically YouTube. It ranked #18 in the competition (out of 900 initial submissions) and got featured on more than 100 YouTube channels. Subsequently the game got trough Steam Greenlight.

Features

  • Strange and hilarious
  • Simple, but challenging gameplay that tests player’s reflexes, spatial orientation and planning, and the ability to predict AI behavior
  • Scoring system that rewards surviving longer, but also taking risks and chaining combos
  • There is no time limit per se, each play session is theoretically endless, but the progressive difficulty increase encourages better use of time
  • Some physics and some ragdolling
  • Commentary which is responsive to the player’s actions
  • Most realistic graphics in an indie game I have worked on

The team

Post jam team:

  • Patrick Lacey – dialogue writer
  • Logan Byers – voice acting
  • Frankie Fiore – voiced acting
  • Fredrik Larsson – art direction, 3D art and animation
  • Jake Thorne – software development, game design, social media management, advertising
  • Twimper – 2D art and later business and startup

The jam team also included:

My involvement

  • game design – Initial concept, gameplay, user experience, took most of the decisions
  • project management – took part in planning, task delegation, team organization, collaboration tools
  • software development – one of two developers, majority of the code, architecture and system design
  • 2D and 3D art and animations – minor contributions (models, some 2D and the whacky  animations were my doing, the proper ones – Fredrik)
  • meta – partial social media management, advertising, some analytics

Status

The project is currently on-hold awaiting the resolution of other matters. Depending on the outcome I may:

  1. seize my involvement and forfeit any claims in benefit of the team
  2. make the project open source (if my team does not wish to continue)
  3. restart the project, recruiting new team members

Challenges

For this project I wanted to test my organisational and teamwork skills as well as targeted game design. Assembling a jam team, coming up with an optimal plan that makes best use of time and talent available, choosing the right collaboration tools and dealing with time zone differences and individual schedules were only a few of the challenges. The majority of the team were not very tech-savvy and there was a limit on the complexity of the tools we could use. Most of the communication happened on Skype with occasional email. For task management and delegation we used Trello in a Kanban manner using four stacks: “TODO”, “Doing”, “Done” and “Maybe”. Asset sharing was done mainly through Dropbox and for code we used github. To deal with the timezone differences we used Doodle to schedule important meetings.

Technically speaking, the resulting game was intentionally simple, as it had to be achievable within the time constraint. As it turned out working with animated human models was not easy, especially with the lack of an animator. To compensate for the poor quality of the animations we used code and ragdolls. The most difficult part was the management of the characters’ logical and animation state and the transition from an animation controller to physics controlled ragdoll.

There are a lot of different systems under the hood. Finding a good structuring in the mess that was left after the jam, was a real headache.

I had difficulty with certain game design problems, most notably adding more depth and a sense of progression requiring more assets, and unfortunately I couldn’t come up with an easy solution other than to use already existing free content.

Retrospective

I can talk a lot about my experience from this project. As look back I consider it to be an important milestone in my professional development. It was a first for me in many ways. As can be expected some things went pretty smoothly, other not so much.

The bad

I was not very good at long term team management. I preferred to avoid confrontations and tried to please everyone. I did not hold anyone responsible and I tolerated poor performance instead of managing it. In fact I would go out of my way to do tasks more suited to others, not giving the rest of the team a chance to shine. I took some decisions too lightly – the policy of having equal share of the revenue regardless of contribution was one. Had I set strict terms for the potential revenue shares and implemented a fair system that would reward individuals based on their contributions, I would have lifted the fear of freeloading and encouraged more progress to be made. I would also have been able to recruit more developers later on in the project, which brings to the second issue – we did not have a proper structure for a game development team, the team only had two part-time developers, one being me also playing as a wildcard. Two was ideal for the game jam, because I don’t believe I wouldn’t be able to effectively coordinate source code of varying quality and style coming from three or more different directions. But two was not sufficient to sustain a stable pace of development afterwards, given the scope of the project. On the other hand I was often overly-optimistic when determining deadlines, and it is not surprising that people would get upset when we failed to meet those deadlines. If I were to start this project anew I would lay some ground rules first and change the team roster, before rushing into development, as we did. On top of that own my enthusiasm drained dry in the excessive planning process, I was too focused on the team aspect than the actual game. Despite my lack of experience in unprofessional teams I think I did well. I could have done much better and I’ll definitely look to improve in the future.

The good

Despite all bad things said, there were many positive sides. In many ways I was out of my comfort zone and learning new things along the way. If game development was a game I would have leveled up in a number of disciplines and unlocked a few achievement. First of all “Winning Streak” is by far the most popular independent project I have worked on. It was the first project for which I have put some effort into marketing. It is also first game I have gotten trough Steam Greenlight. This was the largest team I have managed (beating my previous record of 7 at university). I learned a lot of new Unity tricks. Stood on the other side of the interview table. Met new people and improved at 3D art while working with professional artists. I co-founded a company and gained some insights into business infrastructure and the UK company law.

Collaborating with a team of strangers I had just met online and gathered for the event was both exciting and scary. It turned out to be a nice group of friendly people and it was usually a fun place to hang out. Since we had a common goal we had plenty to of topics to talk about. Most of the time Winning Streak was an interesting game to work on, we could go with any ridiculous idea we come up with and it would still fit the theme.

The feeling of seeing your game being played on YouTube by hundreds of gamers was incredible. I found the game was indeed very entertaining to watch. As a designer it meant I could observe the players’ reactions and patterns of play and make informed decisions on what to add, remove or fix. Basically we had free playtesters early on in the development process. Some of the bugs in the code I discovered that way. On that note the support from the community was overwhelming, and way beyond my expectations.

Technology

UnityMicrosoft Visual StudioGitBlenderMakehumanGimpTrello

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