Friday, September 14, 2012

Hope, faith, etc

I've been checking Cliff Johnson's Fool and His Money production schedule regularly, as it ticked down past the diagnostic four-week mark. (In previous cycles, Johnson's habit has been to chime in at around four weeks to go, apologize, and reschedule.) As I write this, it says:
Sep-10   Finale & Bugs
Sep-17   Finale & Bugs
Sep-24       Done

However, I missed this additional note:

As priorities shift on an hourly basis, it is becoming clear that The Finale is falling behind schedule.

I concentrate my energy on the gameplay & on the bugs.

Do I release the Game without The Finale on September 24th and then publish the Game with The Finale at a future date?

What are your thoughts?

That's a tough question. Tougher because he's certain to get both answers from different groups of people, and they're both justifiable answers. Some of the answerers (on both sides, I'm sure) will be using exclamation points. I've gotten hypersensitized to Yelling On The Internet. Maybe my answer should just be "Dude, do what you're going to do, and don't let the Internets throw you off course."

But no. I am too much the Internet loudmouth myself to let the opportunity pass, so here goes.

My general answer, when this sort of question comes up, is "Take as much time as the game needs." But of course no case is ever the general case, and Johnson has staked a lot of good will on the September deadline.

I'm assuming the Finale in question is like the Finale of The Fool's Errand -- a miniature animated movie that wraps up the story. (If I'm wrong, and we're talking puzzles, then no question: take as much time as the puzzles need. Don't ship a game missing gameplay.)

For a non-interactive Finale, I'd suggest this: assemble a bare-bones Finale -- a simple text screen that conveys the end of the story. Ship the game on time with it. Obviously my text bias is showing here! I have no problem with story elements presented as text.

Then, if/when we get an update with the full-blown Finale, I'll go back and watch it. (Yes, I'm taking for granted that I can finish the game before Johnson -- er -- finishes the game.)

Kicking this around with friends, I saw two contrary comments: "Shipping an incomplete game will probably increase the chance of him releasing an update with the finale and bug fixes," versus "Shipping an incomplete game will probably take the pressure off him releasing an update."

Hm. You know what, there's no point in getting into that. I'm not in charge of Johnson's work habits, and neither is anybody else who's been waiting for this game.

There's some old irony floating around, by the way. When I played The Fool's Errand back in college, I was running off a pirated disk -- and it didn't include the game's Finale! So when I won, I didn't get to see it. I think I found a copy a couple of years later, and watched it then. If The Fool and His Money winds up running the same way, I can say for certain that I'll cope.

(I know, bootlegging is bad form. Sorry. I was in college. I bought the later Mac games.)

The other irony, of course, is that my own Kickstarter project is about to hit its two-year anniversary. I have not yet finished Hadean Lands. I'm not sure I have anything else to say about that either, but someone's going to mention it, and it might as well be me. Yes, I intend to take as much time as the game -- and I -- need.

Comments imported from Gameshelf

Doodpants (Sep 14, 2012 at 7:54 PM):

I decided a long time ago to just assume that the game would be done sometime around Summer 2015. I am confident that he can still make this schedule. I just hope that it can still run on whatever computer/OS I'm using at that point.

peterb (Sep 15, 2012 at 5:10 AM):

My advice to him would be "Just ship it". Not because I want to play it (at this point, I've kinda wandered off and stopped caring) but because I think shipping SOMETHING already is essential for his continued mental health.

Jason McIntosh (Sep 16, 2012 at 11:38 AM):

I'm rather hoping he makes the game available for digital download, because none of my active computers are capable of reading the CD-ROM his website's order-page has listed since 2003. (I can recomission one of my closet-bound old Macs if I need to.)

Also, ha ha wow, $40 (plus shipping)! Was it only nine years ago that seemed like a reasonable price for an indie puzzle game? Not a dig against Cliff here -- just an observation of how far the marketplace has shifted since then.

Andrew Plotkin (Sep 17, 2012 at 11:15 AM):

As of this morning, he's updated the page (and also sent out an email update):

"I'm afraid there are still some stray bugs, most notably occasional and unpredictable screen freezes which irk me to no end. I'm assembling an “Omega Testing Team” for a host of fresh eyes to play the Game. The new release date is Friday, October 26th via digital download from my website(s)."

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