What was Our First Production Experience Like? / by Xiaosong Shang

Hello everyone! Sam Martino here.

So I mentioned last time I would talk more about what the development process through Ashes of Kanaka was like, and what I think we did right and what I think we did right.

Ashes of Kanaka was…. an experience. None of had any game development experience and this was new for all of us. We originally decided to do a video game after we had created our fan made Mass Effect table top game, Dawn of Shadows and Spectres. We had enjoyed it so much, that we thought the next step should be to try making our own game. The main reason we went with RPGMaker was because it was easy to access and required very little understanding of programming. We had originally started with four people, and quickly realized how massive of an undertaking this project was. That said, we still finished ahead of schedule, under budget, and in my opinion, did very well for an indie RPGMaker project with little marketing.

Focusing on what we did right, I may not be a fan of RPGMaker today, but I am so glad it was the engine we chose for our first game. I still believe that this engine is the most complicated of all the ones we used. It had so many limitations that we had to get creative with how most of the game works. It is running 40+ plugins that thankfully work with each other to create what we had envisioned. That said, I don’t believe we would have finished this project had we started out with 3D to begin with. Our biggest success was choosing to go to E3 the first year. The number of useful contacts we made, along with validation from major studios that what we were doing was really great, gave us the needed energy to finish the project. Lastly, I am so thankful we did our research on what made RPGMaker games so taboo. We went through hundreds of titles to find out exactly what it was about those games that turned people off. We went to great lengths to ensure we didn’t fall prey to any of these bad practices, and it allowed us to focus on what was important and leave out needless features that people didn’t want.

That being said, looking back on it there were many other choices we should have made that would have made Ashes more successful. Perhaps our biggest blunder was waiting so long to start marketing and PR. When you start working on a game, you should work on promoting it AS SOON as you have something to share. We were scrambling towards the end months because we had finally realized that such minimal marketing had been done for our product. We also had realized that we wanted to add more, free content updates to Ashes. However, we had hit the limit for variables, switches, and maps. There really wasn’t much we could do and that was unfortunately because development had changed so much that there were some switches we didn’t even need anymore. However, when we tried to start removing some, the entire game would bug out and there wasn’t much we could do. That being said, there aren’t many switches and variables like that, but better optimization would have allowed us to add further content.

Ashes of Kanaka was largely a learning experience. I am incredibly proud of everyone involved and I think we really blew things away in terms of quality and experiences for our first ever project.

Next time, I’m going to go more in depth into something we have been talking about for a long time, remaking Ashes of Kanaka into full 3D in the Unreal Engine.

As always, please reach out to me at smartino@dogwoodgaming.com with any comments or questions. I always love hearing from you guys!