Learning to scope to the team’s strengths

Programmer for Sudd City Interactive here. I wanted to talk a bit about the history of our Sudd City Games and why you should design games around the teams strengths rather than what seems like an obvious genre for a dream game you’d like to make.

The three of us have been working on the Sudd City characters and world for a long time. They started as stories as notes passed between us in high school classes ( hashtag 90s kids. ) The core of the Sudd City stories were just about a group of super hero friends hanging out.

This is the 4th wave of Sudd City Games we’ve tried to make, and here’s a brief history of what worked and what hasn’t.

The first Sudd City Games 2006

As I was first starting to learn to program in high school I started to make interactive multiple choice text based games (usually known by another name owned by a certain overly litigation company, needless to say it was not making 80s pulp fiction paperbacks) on my TI-83 calculator. I heard these styles of calculators remained popular because at the college board SATs define a computer as something with a qwerty keyboard. I can’t imagine manually typing things out like this anymore, or programming using basic GOTOs but I had a lot of free time back then, a constant with teenagers.

The old calculator games were all lost when my batteries died.. and only ever played by max 5 people who were willing to copy them manually using a connector cable. Not exactly mainstream distribution or high quality.

The second Sudd City Games 2010

Years later, after I graduated from college and finally got some free time I wanted to revisit making a Sudd City Game with friends. It’s a story about super heroes so the natural choice was to make a “retro” co-op side scrolling brawler like Double Dragon. It was also an exciting time because Microsoft was pushing XNA hard, so you could make console games without a devkit.

That brawler genre showcased all the strengths of the Sudd City comics, working together and action! It’s actually the genre that I still thinks fits the story the best, but it does not fit the creative team best. We actually got to a workable prototype that I uploaded some videos of.

The issue with this is none of us are an animator. Animation is basically the most important part of any fighting game. So this project was abandoned shortly after this prototype.

The third Sudd City Games 2012

In 2011 I changed jobs and was legally allowed to work on side projects again, Washington state law forbids this, go California. To celebrate I wanted to finish a project so we picked the smallest scope I had an idea for, a casual card game showing character personalities. I didn’t want to do a normal poker game so instead it was “headband” poker, a kind of silly variant.

This was made at the height of Flash’s popularity so is still available:

https://www.kongregate.com/games/UltraRat/sudd-city-headband-games

It’s a bit too small of scope for what I think of about Sudd City, but it’s an important lesson that one of the first things you should do is learn to finish side projects before trying to work on bigger ones.

The fourth Sudd City Games 2019

In July 2019 the high school group got back together again and found we were all feeling a creative itch. We knew between the 3 of us we all wanted to learn to be better writers, also individually had the ability to create 2D art and program.

This meant something we could finish was static 2D images and should be more narrative heavy rather than systems heavy since none of us were strong game designers.

Screenshot1

A 2D point and click narrative works well given these constraints and I’m happy with how far this initial decision has taken us. Hard to say this without sounding cheesy but I believe picking the type of game to based on what the people that care about it the most can already deliver is the best way to maximize the potential of the end product.

In future blog posts I’ll break down the specific design, artistic, programming and writing challenges we’ve encountered in this iteration that have allowed us to come this far.

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