All Hail the Master Feature List

Perhaps certainly we are young and naïve, but we never thought our lives could be this controlled by a single Excel sheet. And by “our lives” I mostly mean Rich’s life. About a month ago in an attempt to improve our organization, we formalized our dev master feature list into a series of Bitbucket tickets along with an Excel tracking sheet. We then semi-strategically selected several of those features and declared that these features to be our dev production target for the next month.

Well, that month has come and gone, so I want to give you a brief update on what we accomplished. We will be continuing with this monthly internal release strategy – we like having solid shorter term goals in order to make consistent progress. I plan to write an update blog post after every one of these internal releases going forward. While these releases are obviously very dev-centric, I will provide a brief update about where everyone on the team is at in their own work.

Dev Update (Rich)

Most of the dev features that Rich completed in this release were focused on fleshing out AOTW’s RPG system. He completed a lot of essential foundational features. The game now supports tank customization prior to each level and also allows you to add equippable parts that modify player stats. Beyond that, Rich added a feature that every good RPG needs – a mission timer. Rich also completed a more specific custom tank ability. I’ve heard that you’re supposed to build suspense for things like this – so I’m not going to go into too much detail, but let’s just say it involves things with weapons hovering in the air. Boom, suspense built.

I know what you’re thinking – “man, sounds like things are going awesome and super easily for Rich and he encountered no problems whatsoever in this dev iteration.” Sadly, this is not quite the case. While I do think Rich has made great progress on the dev front, it would be remiss of me not to mention a bit about his suffering. While working on this release, Rich encountered one of his first major AOTW bugs. My eyes may have glassed over a bit while he explained the finer points, but long story short – this bug causes all tank stats to re-set to default at random times. While this does lead to some amusing hypotheticals (imagine your stats re-setting to default in the middle of a battle), it is definitely something that needs to be fixed before dev progresses much further. So, fixing this bug will be one of Rich’s first priorities in next month’s internal release. After that, he’s got all kinds of crazy sci-fi tank weaponry to create.

Story (Austin)

It’s hard to provide really in depth story updates without throwing up spoilers left and right. So, for now this update section will be short. But trust me, Austin has been working – a lot. The story of AOTW takes place in three acts, and Austin is nearly done with Act II. Besides the sheer volume of writing required of him, the biggest challenge for Austin right now is that the character development arcs of many of the main characters are about to reach climactic points. So, basically, this next week of writing is going to be a very emotionally stressful time for Austin. He needs to unleash some heart wrenching fate on these carefully crafted characters, and he needs to do it in a believable way. I don’t envy that task.

Art (Wu-Gene)

You’ve heard a lot about things on the art front recently, but Wu-Gene continues to work away. He’s finished up concept tank art for most of the primary factions. He’s also experimented with some sweet character concept art. The next big step for Wu-Gene is going to be figuring out how to efficiently convert concept art to 2-D sprites that can actually be used in game. We need the sprites because by the time of our next internal release, we want to have real screenshots so that we can start giving people a sense of what things are going to look like in game. I don’t think the conversion process itself will be very challenging, but the real trick will be to set it up in an efficient, scalable way because there will be a ton of sprites to create once we are in the art production phase

Business Stuff (Mike)

Most of my time has been spent dreaming of being an international businessman. I have also done a few things related to AOTW though. Outside of meetings and helping with our long term planning, most of my time in the last month has been devoted to writing blog posts and improving our website. I recently made some pretty big changes to the site, and I definitely think it is improved. However, there is still a lot to do. I have a long list of site features that I want to add. WordPress has been very helpful with pre-built themes and a lot of editing features. However, to really take things to the next level I’m going to need to do some of the CSS editing myself. This week, I learned what CSS stands for, so I think I’m off to a strong start.

The Future

In conclusion, we are kicking ass and taking names. I think we are starting to hit our stride and enter that project phase where you really start cranking things out – “steamrolling” as Austin puts it.

However, there is a long long long long way to go. It’s always a bit overwhelming to think about the big picture. So, after posting this, I’m going to put my head down and start working on next month’s tasks. Cascading Style Sheets, here I come.

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