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A Game Is Born

With an idea and a rough semblance of a plan, the beginnings of how to approach this technologically, and a newly-minted corporation, it was time to build a team and the game.

(This is the third part of a multi-part story of Vintock. See Our Origin Story and A Company Is Born for the first two parts).

Building a Team

While Jonathan and I have a variety of talents, we knew that we didn’t have all the skills we needed to make this work. A game is a visual creature, and thus needs graphics, beyond merely having “pretty pictures”. It needs design, not just images. It also needs sounds for ambiance, and music for emotion. But, like any piece of technology, it also has to work reliably, which means it needs thorough testing.

Joanne Leung came on board to provide us with our imagery, as well as contribute to the game mechanics. Joanne is a gamer, and was able to give a game design newbie like me pointers on other games and other approaches to building games. But Joanne was also going to help build the initial corporate identity, including typography, logos, and colour schemes.

Tracy Lewis joined the team to break the game. Also a gamer, Tracy was able to provide input and ideas on the game. Her background as a tester meant that any feedback or comments we got were detailed and thorough. When we finally had a game to test, Tracy’s skills as a tester were sine qua non. Certainly developers and testers can have a fractious and contentious relationship, but I know the value of a skilled tester. They make what I build better, and Tracy did that, in spades.

Sound effects are fairly straight forward to obtain. The game’s soundtrack, however, was of vital importance. Images and animation are what we see, but the music helps with what we feel. Jonathan and Tracy had one person in mind: Warren Tse. Warren is a talented musician, composer, and producer. Sure, he is a technical writer to pay the bills. But his musical talent is unquestioned. The man is a multi-instrumentalist, playing guitar, piano/keyboard, and violin. He has recorded with artists like Jann Arden. Warren subs for Willy Jooson on organ at the Scotiabank Saddledome for Flames, Hitmen, and Roughnecks games. Warren also understands how to match music to the context, and given our vintage vibe, we needed music with a vintage feel.

Building a Game

We had our team. I was focused on building the game software. Joanne was crafting the company image as well as the look and feel of the game. Tracy was providing input on the prototypes, and getting ready to hit the ground running once I had something that we could test. Warren was working on the soundtrack. Jonathan held it all together, making sure we were all rowing in the same direction. A the same time, Jonathan was also building the branding and marketing elements we would need to promote the game. We all participated in the mechanics of the game, determining what we wanted and how we wanted it to work.

The process wasn’t without its bumps. Delays because of things outside of the project slowed us down, but that’s a fact of life when this isn’t the only project for some people. Our original vision was rather large, so we had to reduce the scope, focusing on the core game play. If it worked, and succeeded, we could then build on that, and create a more expansive game. Our goal was to ship something, and not let “perfect” be the enemy of “good”.

It took a lot of iterations. We changed the controls of the game several times before settling on the final result. The look and feel evolved over time, as did the layout. Oh, and we had to name the thing. Oy! Again with the naming.

What’s In A Name?

When we first embarked on this, we had named the game NEO, which was short for “Near Earth Object”. I envisioned a game where you would initially be tasked with saving Earth by destroying incoming objects like asteroids. There would be a small economy, and some missions were about obtaining money and/or resources so you could upgrade your ship, a necessary step to succeeding in subsequent missions. Future versions of the game would add new story arcs, and missions within them.

NEO, however, is a somewhat older term for the various bits of flotsam and jetsam than drift about our star system. After some research, we discovered the formal term: small solar system body, or SSSB. That, in turn, was further reduced to 3SB. Short, succinct, and to the point. This naming exercise was far easier than the ones I’d been through previously.

We had our game. It had its look and feel, an awesome soundtrack, and a name. It was the result of collaboration amongst 5 people who had an interest in the result beyond just wanting to accomplish something. It was time to set 3SB loose on the world.

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