Sunsetting Nevada

If you’ve read this blog before, or if you are a student of mine at Purdue, you might be vaguely familiar with the detective/adventure game I’ve been working on, called Nevada.

I started working on it in the summer of 2020. I’ve made a lot of great progress on it, and I think the game does some neat things.

But I’ve decided to not finish it. Consider this post a kind of post-mortem on the project. But instead of “what went wrong” and “what went right,” I’m instead going to discuss why I’m shutting this down. Cold Iron used to do a milestone review thing called “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly” which I’ll copy here.

The Good:

  1. I developed a really cool game that proves all the things I wanted Nevada to prove. That game would be Stranger, the Korean language game. It isn’t available yet in any sense as a general release, but it is done and ready for the research it was intended for. And it is certainly far more “finished” than Nevada is. Nevada was always about proving I could complete a sophisticated, complete game using modern game design without being part of a commercial studio. I ended up doing exactly that with Stranger.
  2. Purdue has given me way more to do, especially during this summer. And most of it is stuff I really enjoy, and even the stuff I don’t directly enjoy (non-game development service stuff) is pretty fulfilling work. I am very happy with my job, and therefore it gets the lion’s share of my time.

The Bad:

  1. I just don’t have time to do it. I was hoping to maybe get back into it over the Christmas break, but that break is now just hours away from being over.

The Ugly:

  1. I could have designed the game better. Funny thing coming from a game designer, right? Sure, I had design documents for this, but this project really had an improvisational feel to it. It started out as something like an “interactive music video” (which would have been far easier to make) and mutated into a full-blown detective adventure. While this was more fun to make, it made it far harder to make on my own. I contrast this with Stranger. Since this was a grant-funded project, I just had a different mentality without fully realizing it at the time. I scoped that project with far more precision. It was completed on-time with very little scope reductions as a result.

Overall thoughts:

Sometimes it is good to move on from something. Not only do I have maintenance and potential improvements on Stranger down the line, I may have other funded projects through my university job coming. So, combine that with teaching and other stuff I do here, and yeah, it was time.

I’m still proud of a lot of what I did. It’s good that I had a project like this that kept my chops up to snuff (another reason why I did it). Happily, Purdue is affording me plenty of opportunities to get my hands dirty doing game development, so there is no need to artificially do it right now.

Am I completely done trying to make the detective game of my dreams, however? By no means! But next time I try, I’ll apply the lessons I learned from Stranger and really scope it carefully, spending a lot more time on design upfront, and less time “game jamming.”