Days of Sail
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Q: How big is the team behind “Days of Sail: Wind over Waters” and how much did it take you to finish the game?
A: The Days of Sail "team" is actually a one person achievement... with occasional assistance from a good friend of mine who offered his 3D artistic expertise in some of the game's 3D models, especially the sailboat. Of course, many thanks go to the Gamestudio community which was an invaluable pool of resources.
It was some time in February 2005 when I got fed up with the game I was doing at the time. It was a VRML-based engine that I was developing on my own. But, it required so much effort in order to cope with the engine's most trivial features that it was taking the fun out of the process of making the game. When I started looking at game engines, it was an almost instant decision to go with Gamestudio because there was just so much available code around and a helpful community. What more can developers ask to get a good kick start and to have a small learning curve when confronted with a new api?
Even so, it took me one year and eight months to finish this game, working on it in a part-time basis. Had to stop entirely for 4 months though, due to excessive workload in my regular job. That was the harder time I went through with DoS.
Q: From what I know, DoS is the first game of its kind. How did you come up with this original idea?
A: Is it really the first of its kind? I think that DoS falls into the same category with the ever popular Virtual Skipper and with the Virtual Sailor series (another attempt by one and only developer - and, if I may say, a Mediterranean developer as well). My game tries to differentiate in the way you trim the sails and there is a nice (imo) addition of a skipper popping up from time to time to propose the optimal way to sail. Being a certified skipper myself, it was easy to pick up the idea of the game but it also looked like an easy project to undertake as a first Gamestudio assignment.
Q: What did you use in order to achieve the nice looking water effect?
A: It's funny that the part of my game that looks most impressive (the water) was the part that troubled me the least. I used the original shader code by Eric Hendrickson-Lambert (Steempipe) that works for most 3D cards. Then I experimented with various versions of the normalmap (in Photoshop) and tweaked the shader's parameters as well. I'm as new as anyone to shader programming.
Q: How did you create a demo that runs for only 5 minutes?
A: That was easy. There's a hard coded timer. Actually, this timer only works for the demo version. Once someone buys the full version, my game unlocks by disabling the timer and enabling all the remaining levels. There is no need to download additional levels when buying the game, it's all there in the 58 MBs of the demo version.
Q: What is the typical size (in quants) for a map in DoS?
A: Had to look that up. My game environment at any time spans at 16,000 quants. I use code to add maps or remove maps from memory depending on the position of the player.
Q: How did you create the code for the “Buy now” button at the end of the demo?
A: You should know better, George! BuyNow code in AUM 37. One of the many things I have borrowed from your AUMs.
Q: How big is the conversion rate (sales / number of demo downloads) for your game thus far?
A: After a slow first month, my game's conversion rate is close to 1%. I consider this a good achievement, since this game is definitely a niche product, meaning that few people who go to normal gaming channels find it appealing compared to something more 'normal' such as an FPS or car game. Even so, my real campaign has just started, as the next step is to advertise to yacht and boating associations. The sailing audience seems to be really interested in this game and I am planning to provide versions customized to any client's particular needs. Correct advertising is my main concern right now.
Q: Please give us a few tips for the beginners.
A: Someone once said that, in order to estimate the time taken to finish a game, you should multiply the time you THINK it might take to finish the game by three! Well, that is a big truth and DoS was no exception. If I had the chance to start all over again, I would probably undertake a smaller scale project. Therefore, my first tip for all beginners is to start with a small project. After this, there will be enough experience gained and plenty of reusable code available to move to something bigger.
Unfortunately, nobody really knows what 'small project' really means in the beginning. As your experience with game development deepens, there are so many things going on and so many huge changes in your way of thinking, that you end up with an all together different perspective. I will only say that I now have over five projects in mind that I know for sure that they will be good games and will sell well (and none of them includes a simulator!) and I also know -very important- how to start and finish them in an average of 6 months' time. Back in 2005, a sailing simulator was the best idea of a successful game I could think of and my original plans included a 10 month development time. I guess you get the point.
My second and most important tip is: love your game. When you reach a point of giving up, it helps to think back and remember with affection all the things that got you so far; remember all the sleepless nights with plenty of coffee, with those little steps of progress that made all the difference in the world for your little game. Never stop having a good time with your game. If you start hating it then the others will hate it too.
Last but not least, market your game well. It's a pity to have a good game but not sell well because of a poor marketing campaign. But.. if I'd tell you more about it, then you wouldn't be a beginner, would you?
Thank you a lot, Emmanuel.