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Garden Harvest, A Best Garden Post-Mortem

It's been little under a week since I released Best Garden with admittedly little fanfare. But that was entirely down to me because of my lack of focus near the end of the project.

The thing is though, I really enjoyed taking the time off of A Way Home to make it and actually release it. The fact that I've released a game is a wonder in on itself, let alone doing it in three months.

A screenshot from the original prototype, made in 8 hours.

What went right:

There were a lot of things that honestly went right, both in the initial prototype development and through out.

Core Mechanic:
One of the key parts of the jam that @UdellGames and I was that it had to be done in 8 hours, which meant that I had focus on a single core gameplay mechanic. In this case I wanted to make something that was on an entirely different pace and style to A Way Home, where A Way Home is being made to be very slow and more emotive, Best Garden is made to be fast paced much like an arcade game.

UI:
Generally UI and UX is something that I'm really bad at, I'm not sure why, I think I generally don't take into account how intuitive things like that should be. Which is why I think the UI for this came out much better than I was expecting.

Design:
Even though our games were made in 8 hours, we both had a day to design the game which actually took a while to work out. This is mainly because even though I knew that I wanted a to go for a different pace of game I had a couple of avenues that I could have taken, but going with a more arcady style game I feel was the best choice for this.

Mid way through sorting the UI.

What went wrong:

There were as many things that went wrong or didn't come up to a standard that I wanted them at.

Audio:
Much like UI and UX details I'm very bad at putting the music that's formulated in my head into something tangible. Which is why I went down the route of using procgen ambient music for the background music. Ideally I would have wanted something that was of a much high pace and suited the game a bit better.

Time Management:
It's one of the things that I'm actively trying to rectify especially since releasing Best Garden, since what I originally estimated to be a month long/two month long project eventually turned into a three month one. This was mainly down to the fact that I could not manage my time correctly and mis-calculated how difficult it would be to do certain things such as music and sfx on my own.

Feature Creep:
While this wasn't as bad as it had been in other unfinished/scrapped projects it still happened in this one, most of the features I started implementing ended up not being used in the final release, especially the local highscores and online ones. These two especially where a result of me worrying about the gameplay of the game rather than focusing on what was already there, so I essentially wasted a lot of time when trying to implement features that a) I didn't use, and b) Didn't really need in the game itself.

Marketing:
This is something that regardless of project we seem to fail at doing a lot of the time, like when I first decided that I was going to continue developing Best Garden from the prototype stage, questions like 'What would my target audience be?' or 'How can I get the word out to people who would play my game?' were nowhere to be found in my mind, because all I wanted to do was develop the game. Honestly it wasn't until I saw a thread by @DarkestKale a few weeks ago that I'd realised I had only really been marketing this project to developers. It's been the same with A Way Home as well because like with Best Garden I went into it without thinking about things like my target audience etc.

Note: It's slightly different for A Way Home because of the nature in which it was conceived.

Things mainly turned more towards visuals and polish during the latter stages of development.

Lessons Learnt:

There were plenty of things that I'd learnt during the course of this project.

Don't leave your marketing until just before release!

Plenty of other developers will say this to you "Start marketing your game as soon as possible. Especially to your target audience." I made the mistake of leaving my marketing until like 2 or 3 weeks before I fully released.

It's better to over estimate than under estimate.

It's something I try to do a lot mainly so I have some breathing room incase something does go wrong, especially in the realms of development things will go wrong! So make sure that you leave enough time to accommodate for that without putting your health or state of mind at risk.

Designing and making a game in essentially 2 days is possible.

It doesn't have to be the greatest masterpiece ever, or even have all the intended features, but as you can see with Best Garden from prototype to release it's kept the core designed gameplay mechanic, focus on that and work around it.

This was done after removing the resolution limit I'd originally placed on the game.

Conclusion:

In conclusion this project has been a welcome change of pace from the emotional intensity that is A Way Home, it's helped me learn some new tricks, helped me flesh out some old ones and enforced the fact that it's OK to release a product in an OK state so long as you're happy with it.

For now I'm turning my attention back to A Way Home because due to recent console releases and a few things I'd been working before the projects Hiatus I've firmly decided what platforms I want to release on and the goals I want to aim for with A Way Home.

There'll be more on that in my next blogpost.

I hope you enjoyed the read and that it gave you some perspective on what went into developing Best Garden.

If you want to buy it, click the Buy Now button below.

Feel free to leave a comment below or on the game page if you want to.

~ Luke