The dreaded ‘S’

The first in a series of articles designed to highlight the dangers and pitfalls that all independent games developers must try to avoid at all costs.

Sequels! Has any word ever brought such terror into the heart of a games developer? How many projects have fallen foul when the future looked so, so rosy before someone had to go and utter the fateful phase, “Ooh, I’ve had a great idea for a sequel”? It always spells disaster. People’s minds are no longer focused, all they can think about is this new incredible concept that some muppet (dear friend) has just come up with to revolutionise gaming. Why continue with this sad, old, out dated thing that was bright, shiny and brilliant just moments ago?

Well, maybe it’s a personal gripe, maybe there are other companies out there who regularly discuss sequels without any negative effects at all… but not at Psync, oh no. The classic example that immediately springs to mind is our dear old friend Hydris. It was where it all began, our first foray into the industry. Yes, I’ll grant you, technically we knew very little and weren’t capable of making anything that was going to be saleable, but we knew enough to make something we could play, even if it was essentially a PowerPoint presentation (we all have to start somewhere). Why wasn’t it finished? Sequels!! That’s why! The bloody things were like wildfires springing up every time we thought we might be able to finish one. How many versions did we go through? I’ve honestly no idea, but it must have been in double figures.

The Original Hydris model in all it’s poorly rendered glory.

You start off with a clear idea of what you’ll be using and what the game play will be like. You know you have to keep it simple so you can finish it. Then someone discovers a new program that can model backgrounds and render images a million times better than what you’re using and, as one, you all wish you’d known about it when you started. The thing is though, you didn’t, for whatever reason and it’s too late to start again. So what do you do? You can’t just ignore this wondrous new device and pretend it doesn’t exist. It’s far too late for that. You’ve all seen the test shots. You can’t get them out of your brain. Imprinted on your eye lids are the high resolution beauties that make the current version look like it was made in the 80’s.

Hydris V2 went through a number of updates after the hub world model was first created.
Hydris V7 was the last before someone had another “good idea”.

“How about a sequel?”, someone eventually says and then that’s it. It’s all over. A matter of weeks later, you’ve abandoned the existing version to work on the new oh, so much better game. It’s been discussed and everyone’s agreed that it’ll be much easier this time and the end product will be amazing. It’ll be the last version because you’ve seen the samples and they are perfection, there’s no way they could ever be bettered. Ten versions later and it might not have been such a good move after all.

The last / latest iteration of Hydris is Hydris Cell.
Quite simply we lost count of versions so moved on to subtitles.

In the end we opted for the “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” solution, so every game we’ll make now, will be a sequel.

Be wary my friends! The sequel is out there and it wants you to fail!!

1 Comment

    Ignoring Dome XIV this is sound advice! (it’s worked so far anyway) Bloody good article, the world can learn things from this!

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