What I Learned From No Time To Explain

By December 18, 2012Uncategorized

A while ago I wrote What I Learned From Dark Souls, and that was a cool, fun thing.  I wanna do another one, but the only thing I’ve played since was X-COM, and the lesson there is basically that it’s hard again. Right now I’m testing the Steam version of No Time, and getting the game in Steam-ready mode has been an unexpectedly huge bottomless pit of stress and hard work- I actually wanted to release on the 6th. So in my state of being really fuckin annoyed and tired of looking at this game: It’ll be fun to write this.

Oh did I mention we got through Greenlight and are coming to Steam?

If you’re reading a blog post on tinyBuild.com then you probably already know that.

Don’t use Flash for anything that’s not a browser game.

but don't just take MY word for it!

but don’t just take MY word for it!

I started making games on Newgrounds when I was in school, and that was an awesome, fun experience. I made Streets of Rage type games and Metal Slug games, and I learned infinity knowledge about animation and interface design and scripting n all sorts. I made a game a month, and each one got better.

Flash doesn’t have controller support though. I’ve looked and asked around: It straight-up doesn’t. It struggles rendering a window bigger than 640×480,  whether or not you’ve got the biggest gaming PC in the world makes little difference, and you’ll have to come up with an extension or some kind of workaround just to write a save file.
–[EDIT! I’m under NDA]– At the last minute I’m having to switch to AIR, which flipped half the code on its’ arse, and stubbornly refuses to drop the anti-aliasing down from as high as it’ll go, crushing the framerate to dust and laughing in my face.

I’ve spent so much time on this game just plain compensating for it being in Flash. Which is why I learned how to use Unity, and the universally-recognized C code.

Don’t announce a release date until the hard part’s over.

Marketing: early and often, right? We started No Time To Explain with a Kickstarter, and it was way before anyone had heard of that. One of my big personal priorities around that was that I wanted people to KNOW that this game was gonna get made, and come out.  So we projected how long it took to make the first two worlds out, and announced August 15th. Nobody told me back then that no game has ever gone 100% according to plan ever, ever, not once, in history, anywhere on Earth.

Unforseen glitches came up, deals fell through,  scope and design ideas evolved from this 2-hour game that we were gonna sell on Direct2Drive and BigFishGames to the totally different thing we were gonna try to get on Steam, and back when I made free browser games it never took a whole month or two for testing and polish. It was just a load of stress that didn’t need to be there.
Now that we’ve made one game I can worry less about releasing something under the radar that nobody notices, and more about making a game I won’t still be fixing 6 months later. I think Season 2 is a much better game, wouldn’t be great if it’d just released like that?



I’ve actually dropped this whole motif since I drew these.

So this next game I’m working on has a pencil-and-paper book with 50 pages of just raw ideas, a Google doc of 50 more, a design document that explains every level from start to finish, the behavoirs of every enemy and weapon, biographies on every character, and pages n pages of sketches that won’t be in the final game.
You’ll notice that No Time has about 2 characters without names or faces, its’ art style is “a flash game”, nobody really knows what the hell is going on, its’ kind of a one-note joke, and the ending doesn’t make any sense.

I first came up with No Time where I come up with every game, which is obviously in the shower.  It was a 10-minute game on Newgrounds, it was a laugh, and I moved on to the next thing. When Alex came to me and said I should make a much bigger one that does more with the beam cannon and does a Homer’s-Toaster joke with the time travel we pretty much hit the ground running. I made a prototype, which turned into World 1, 2 and 3, we made a Kickstarter and didn’t stop. It was about 40 levels in where I started to worry about how fast I could beat them all, and how few ideas I had left.

When you’re used to making games that people finish in their lunch break, it feels like you’re not working and slacking off if you’re just doing design work. I think its something you can only learn from experience that pre-production is where the game gets made. If you’re thinking about the game at the end differently than you were when you made the first half, it WILL show, and your first 5 boss fights WILL have nothing to do with the actual antagonist, or each other.

Have A Second Source of Income

Half of the Kickstarter money went to paying our bills for the months it took to make the game- incase you don’t know, that’s how all kickstarters work. Its’ people times wage times months, plus equipment plus advertising. Nowadays it looks like its’ “plus rewards times backers” ontop o that.
So when things start piling up near the end I start worrying about sales, cos you can’t do a Kickstarter twice*. On some days I could be really easily swayed into doing something that’d really resonate with the reddit crowd,  or add something that’d give us a really good bullet point but would look lame as fuck in the grand scheme of things. Its’ easy to say “Just do what’s best for the game every time!” from the sidelines, but being the one who’s put all these months of time into it is a different story. It will effect the game, even in small ways, if you’re nervous about whether or not you’ll have to quit and get a regular job at the end.
So since then I’ve found more than one source of income that’s nothing to do with games. If Game 2 sells absolutely nothing, I’d still be able to start the next one, although incredibly annoyed and depressed.  That’s giving me the freedom to do stuff like spend a year in pre-production, not announce a release date, spend time learning how to use all this new stuff, and I don’t have to cave to presenting my work as epic win or any stupid bullshit like that.
*Plenty of people have done Kickstarters twice anyway.

A Dozen Other General Design Lessons

Collecting hats is dumb.

So that’s basically a laundry-list of what I started thinking about 6 months ago. You MIGHT say its’ anti-publicity, but hey about 4 people read this blog and its’ WAY way more fun and interesting to talk inside-baseball with people who actually care about us than it is to talk about how epic lulz we are to 10,000 people I don’t give a shit about.



Merry Christmas!

About Tom

Tom Brien is the co-founder and creative director at tinyBuild. He does all the art and art direction, alongside with game prototyping and design.