Thursday, April 3, 2014

Looking back (…from Afar)

Expa offered an open invitation to be involved with a making of a game. Having only just moved to Jyväskylä, I decided to grab the chance and see where it would take me. It has been a lot of fun and given a real hands-­on experience of what making games is all about. How a simple game idea evolves into a polished game product has proven to be quite a journey! In addition, making new friends has been an unavoidable side-­effect of this game project.

It has been an honor to be surrounded by such a creative, devoted and skillful group of people. Producing code, graphics and sound ­effects hasn't been a problem within the group, everyone have had the chance to contribute on the level they feel comfortable and what they have wanted to learn. There has been a lot of room for different ideas and I think we captured quite early on the basic feeling that the game would have. The game project was very cleverly conducted so that different sub­-teams would concentrate on certain tasks while others worked on some other aspect. During the project there has been a story-­team, a concept & reference team, a mock-­up & layout team, mechanics team and game flow team, to name but a few.

Time devoted to this project can be seen as an investment to the future: the more one has worked with Back From Afar, the more one has learned about making games. Actually, Expa could be the purest form of learning organization. Now looking back, for me it would have been beneficial to also work with the code and sound ­effects, but making graphics was sufficient for the time I had available for this project. It has been a strength for this development project that it can be seen as a hobby and therefore the stress levels and devotion to it have been freely adjustable for every individual. Of course there has been a good amount of
pressure to get the work done, but I haven't felt it overwhelming, while tasks have mostly been selected by ourselves.

Ice stage layout with arrows indicating wind directions
From a graphics point of view, the most frustrating thing is to see how much work doesn't make it to the final game. But this was emphasized from the beginning so it did not come as a surprise and what I have noticed from the project, the same can happen to code, sound­ effects and music as well. Not to mention the amount of work put into gathering reference pictures, making mock-­ups, designing layouts and all that kind of work that has to be done before starting with the actual game. The Ice stage of Back From Afar has grown my favorite, while from the beginning of designing the layout to many of the final graphics I have been most involved with the white and snowy scene.

I hope many will enjoy playing Back From Afar and recommend all their friends to try it as well.

Saija Koivula

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