Tetragrams is a fast-paced puzzle game inspired by Tangrams.
– Programmed in
– All art
– Game design
– Project management
– 9 months
– Finished August 2011
– Four members
Creating a game from scratch, pouring your own blood into it, and watching it ship, is an incredible experience that I will gladly perform again. Tetragrams was a project inspired by a paper I wrote. And it was a project fueled by countless hours and sleepless nights. It was my first taste of crunch-time.
Near the halfway point of development on Tetragrams, the team’s progress was slacking due to time constraints. If there’s one thing I was absolutely sure of, it was that I would not let the game fail or fall through the cracks. I wanted to make something great, something special. I took ownership of the project and began writing most of the code. Many, many hours went into the production of Tetragrams, and most of them were just me, alone, in the early hours of the morning jacked up on caffeine and passion.
Admittedly, my spearheaded effort ultimately saved the project from extinction, and the work was greatly enjoyed, but this led to a division in the team that separated me from everyone else. The massive blocks of time put into the project created walls and barriers for the other team members to work around, specifically code readability and version control. My vision was to ship the game as a holistic piece by the deadline, but to do that I had to wear every possible hat.
I became the lead designer, the gameplay programmer, and the artist. I had to attack UI, UX, puzzle design, sound, input, and I even created a puzzle editor. And then months after shipping, I had to refine most of those systems to make them even more useable for presentation at DigiPen’s PAX booth. I learned a great deal of many things, especially about programming, design, and art.
Skills that I practiced included:
- The critical nature of team communication and task distribution
- Feature and content design
- Puzzle design
- Scope and scheduling
Looking back, I would change the following:
- Replace the ramp-shaped pacing curve with a more natural, flowing curve that involves peaks and valleys
- Add player rewards such as powerups to create interesting moments
- Redesign the scoring system to be less arbitrary