Project LEAP: A Prototype & A Vision

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

February 29, 2016 was probably one of the scariest moments of my life.  It was a special day, not only because it was a leap day, but it was also the day I revealed my ambition to enter into the game development space. Before then, I had no credit to my name. Nothing tangible of my potential and skill as a developer of software. Sure, I had a decent YouTube following. I guess I had gained some sort of small “clout” as more and more people began to recognize me while in the public eye. I built up a small, but distinct reputation of credibility and viewership who really appreciated the creative content I made about my favorite medium in the world.

It is almost like an archive of growth for myself personally, as I have spent the last couple of months isolated from the YouTube space.  The time I have gained from going on hiatus for my YouTube channel granted me pockets of fresh air to take a step back and see who I have become. I still remain active on twitter and have been trying to make attempts to stream more so, I can still connect and interact with all my fans and friends, but it all feels static to me compared to the moments where I would be alone working and learning about game design.

Before February 29, 2016 if you asked me what I was passionate about, I probably would have said talking about video games or making YouTube videos. Now if you ask me, I would answer almost immediately: “Designing Video Games”. Even today, I wouldn’t say I have stopped caring about the creative process of making videos. I would instead say my desire to redirect that energy spent in that creative process wanted to evolve into a new format. To adapt everything I had talked about on games to actually doing those things. From instead of explaining what makes compelling side quests to actually implementing those ideas into something.

Have you ever had that instinct that if given the chance, you could succeed where others have failed, that action of at least trying was the only way you would ever feel satisfied? I felt that slowly starting to creep inside my mind back late 2015 and it really went into overdrive in 2016.  I have comically said a couple times that if 2015 Ethos was in a room with 2017 Ethos, the two would probably not like each other and I think watching my content over the span of the last 3 years drives that point home.

Project LEAP was at one time a small little hobby I started to work on to feed that instinct. Originally, the first inception of the project was a simple game design document I wrote up out of spite due to the lackluster releases of AAA games in 2014.  Here’s a little piece of the first iteration of it.

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Something I really love about this specific segment of the first design document is the innocence behind my answer to why create this game?  At this point, around mid 2015, my knowledge of game design was pretty one dimensional. I understood the basic concepts of design, but when it came to the complexity vs depth of mechanics, game engine pipelines, creating assets, user experience and optimization, I was naive. However, even with this naivety came a sense of passion to learn and be open to a whole new world I previously had only cracked the surface to.

So, after spending 6 months finding people who believed in my vision and had the skills necessary to pull it off, we built the first ever prototype of LEAP which you can still watch on my channel.

I’m sure now with the context of this blog, you can look at this prototype video in a whole new light. Spending the last few days hastily playing the prototype, developing some very last minute updates to it, recording footage, editing it and preparing an information website on the game, sleeping wasn’t even a possibility during that time. I regretted that later, but someway somehow, we were able to upload footage of the vision for the project.

Surprisingly, it was met with a positive reaction even while at the back of my head, I had my own doubts. Don’t get me wrong, I was proud of what we achieved in such a small amount of time with a team that had little experience working with each other.

But, I could never remove the nagging feeling that perhaps people were just being nice to me because, it was my first time

After revealing the prototype, the community manager Eric and I looked at all the comments and twitter reactions to the project. Like I said, almost 90% of them were positive, but I could tell there were some obvious issues we needed to take a look at which could be expressed by some of the more question focused comments. Honestly at that time, it was my fault these questions and criticisms came to be because, I forgot at the time to put the word prototype in the title of the video. Because of this, it created expectations like release date, pricing, content, you know, what you expect out of potential buyers of your product.

What I failed at that day and ever since regretted is, I failed at presenting my “vision” of my game. What I saw as an announcement of my next step of growth became a race against the clock just for a meta reveal of a project called LEAP on a Leap day. I am still proud of the timing hahaha.  The reason I bring up this experience is, it leads to the question of why I have been very quiet and selective of revealing what the project has become over the past year.

It’s critical that I learned from the mistake I made back on February 29, 2016 and make sure I never made the same mistake again. So, after revealing the prototype, we had began to add to it more and more and flesh it out into an actual product that could be sold.  Its important to understand that before then, I always saw LEAP as just a fun hobby project, but when the turn of the new year (2017) came around, that perspective drastically changed into making it a dedicated project.

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I took a step back and really started to criticize my own work and began to ask myself, is this the best I can do? I began to question why I limited my own ability and eagerness to create something I would truly be proud of out of fear or complexity? It was at this time I was re-reading everything I wrote, that I got to this little part of my game design document.

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“How can we release a product that we ourselves don’t believe in?”

I’m not even joking, reading that final sentence upset me because, up until that moment, I didn’t realize I was lying to myself. I was trying to act like I believed, but I knew there were days where I felt everything was falling part. Certain members of the team had to leave due to personal issues, technical mistakes were made that could have been avoided and a lack of assets caused roadblocks for other parts of development. There were some days I even thought about just cancelling the project.

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If it hadn’t been for the support of my remaining teammates and close friends who believed in me and encouraged me during that time, I don’t know what I would be doing right now. I knew that if I wanted this project to succeed, I needed to start working on it as a serious project and no longer just a hobby. This decision happened at the start of 2017 and as you probably guessed, lead to my choice to put my YouTube channel on Hiatus so, I could focus all of my attention towards the game.

 

Some may feel worried or concerned for me, but don’t. If I could go back and change things, I wouldn’t because from that experience, I learned a lot as a developer, a leader and a human being. I spent a good month rebooting our project from the ground up and shared a renewed vision with the team. I won’t lie, I was worried the team members I had left would all leave the project after such a drastic change and loss of assets we already built.  Instead, it was met with excitement, opportunities and even brand new team members who were excited to help make this vision a reality.

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So, here we are in 2018. One year after an internal overhaul and zero communication with potential fans. We have made MASSIVE leaps forward on the project both in quality and scale these past months. The team has been working hard, inching closer and closer into creating a demo that I at one time thought was just a pipe dream a year ago. As the days turned to weeks and weeks turned to months, more and more pieces of the puzzle began to show themselves.

I can’t even describe the feeling of showing off your project privately with a developer that worked on one of your favorite games and hearing them tell you that they are really impressed! You know you are on to something when everyone you share your vision with is fascinated by your project after sharing only glimpses. So, we have held on to this feeling and instead of trying to rush and show you what we have created like I did with the prototype, we want to take the time to really create a polished vertical slice to a state that will blow you all away. Last week, I was just working with one teammate on a level for the game and after the session, we were both filled with excitement and pride to see it all come together better than we originally imagined.

Revisiting this roller coaster of development for the pre-production of LEAP has been refreshing and motivating to write out. As I wrote this first of hopefully many blog posts for LEAP, I realized that what I feared the entire time was not that I was inadequate. My deepest fear was that I was keeping us from achieving our true potential.

#ReturnToZero

SamuraiZero_CircleClean-Recovered

Expect even more blogs on my journey as an indie developer and progress on Project LEAP over the next couple of months.

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2 thoughts

  1. Gotta admit, I can relate to this significantly. It’s also very inspiring, since my single biggest roadblock has been the consideration of finding people that would be wiling to work on the project I’ve come up with. Always figured that even under like minded conditions, without being able to properly compensate there would be only so much loyalty. Adding in that it had been years from when I last attempted a development project, I heavily questioned how much would be required and if I could manage what I needed to in order to do it. All that negativity that comes along for the ride, you know? Sometimes you forget that you gotta take the plunge in order to know where things will go.

    Really incredible seeing this come to light, and thank you for taking the time to share this as well. Gonna make some time to revisit my thrown together design doc and actually craft something more professional and give some thought on what I really want to do with it all. For that, I offer my sincerest thanks!

    Like

  2. Pingback: Prepare To LEAP: 2/22/18 | Mind The Ethos

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