Two hours after the “Where’s the fun?” meeting, we’re at our final leads sync for the day. Timelines are looking good, but these are production deadlines for the bits and pieces that’ll go into the game - not how they’ll all _really_ tie together. It’s like saying we’re on track to put the ingredients in the pot; we’ve still got a stew to make.
There’s more focus in the room since the “Where’s the fun?” meeting, and the team is shaking off constraints to go _bigger_. Before 10pm (“THAT’S THE CUT!”), nothing is sacred, so mayhem and destruction are being dialed up. Levels are doubled, or even tripled, in size, more enemies are piled in, and bumpers are thrown everywhere. There’s a point of reckoning for a controversial mechanic: friendly fire. _”If Ziggs wants to blow up everything, why’s he gotta be so afraid of his bombs?”_ We chuck it.
Our high spirits come to a head at this leads sync, where everyone’s looking at the horizon, picking out their next milestones. Then a suggestion is made:
_”Why don’t we release a one-level gameplay demo to players, and get some feedback?”_
Up to now, we’ve recorded a lot of gameplay on video, but it’s hard to suss out mechanics through someone else’s eyes. We’ve also been shy to ship “a build” - a packaged, playable instance of the game - to players. Technically because we haven’t yet set up the AWS download - so we can’t distribute the game client at scale - but mainly because it’s scary to put an unfinished anything out in the wild.
Initially there are concerns. _”What if a player thinks this is the complete thing?”_ We call it a pre-alpha test build, hoping at least one term in that tentative word salad tells you this thing is a work in progress. _”What if a player accidentally downloads this, when there’s a complete version somewhere else?”_ We add an obnoxious Comic Sans watermark and make the game kill you after you clear level 1, thereby forcing you to reckon with an end game screen that tells you *this game ain’t done!* and points you to our instagram for up-to-date information.
People are now nodding. Yeah, let’s do this.
It’s pretty much gravy from here. We decide to limit the first playtest of the game to our discord family, a rotating cast of a hundred or so folks who have been chatting with us throughout the day, making far too many memes about donuts, and then eventually sending us some donuts to make it through the night (thanks!). The download gets set up, we let the channel know if they walk off the map they won’t die and will have to restart the game completely because we didn’t code a “fell off the map” death, then we let it go.
… and in comes the feedback!
Overall, the game is deemed fun. Mechanically a little disproportioned (Ziggs drops like a rock, and bombs kind of plop out of him), but there’s a great joy to be found in bumpers and bumper-related activities. Satchels start off divisive, but quickly get figured out and embraced as alternate forms of transportation. Bombs get thrown onto bumpers with great delight.
We also hear the harder feedback: spamming bombs with no consequence means a player _never stops throwing bombs_, which means everything dies before they’re seen, which means we made a lot of cool enemies who aren’t doing much other than dying. Except the one shield minion, who never dies.
This is valuable feedback, but we definitely won’t be able to action all of it. Tradeoffs will have to be made in terms of what we prioritize for polish vs. what we let be and hope still stands. This is the eternal challenge of game development, pressure-cooked by a 48-hour game jam setting.
But it’s also immensely helpful for the team, and heartening to hear so much enthusiastic engagement. 36 hours ago, we had nothing.
This also gives us a lot of fire heading into our 10pm FINAL CUT meeting, and where we’re tailing off for the night. From here, the various discipline leads will begin polishing vs. implementing. We do a guided playtest on the projector and run through the two sprawling, destruction-filled levels, ending at a Battle Boss Brand fight that gets everyone clapping in the end.
The cut is called. We’ve got 12 hours to polish, and it looks like we’re going to be able to ship this game.