Dysfunctional Systems: What Went Wrong
In the post announcing the halting of full-time development on the Dysfunctional Systems series I mentioned that I would write another post detailing what exactly went wrong. This is that post. In no particular order, I'm going to list and analyze the mistakes that were made during development.
Lack of Process
Before the Kickstater, Dischan operated as a group of volunteers and there was very little process. We each had our jobs and we did them at our own pace. I thought we could continue working this way, but it proved not to be the case. Work was completed very slowly and while that would have previously been fine, now it was causing us to lose money.
A few months ago I realized something had to be done, and so I began breaking down the work and creating schedules which I got the team to commit to. Things starting moving a lot more quickly after that, but it caused another problem, which I'll discuss next.
Lack of Quality Control
The problem was that the team started rushing. Mistakes were ignored for the sake of meeting deadlines. The result is that episode 0 neared completion, but still did not qualify as "good". We needed to strike a balance between speed and quality, but we didn't have the time to do it.
We also didn't have any kind of process to guarantee quality. People completed their assigned work and then a box was ticked. We should have implemented a peer review system to ensure that work met our standards before considering it "done". When you're working on your own, it's easy to miss mistakes, after all.
Our original budget and planning was based on episode 1, but this turned out to be a bad idea, since what we were trying to create ended up being significantly more complex than episode 1. We had a more complicated codex, a travel system, an interactables system, and an overall larger scope. Altogether things ended up requiring more time than we thought. We should have tightened the scope and made the sequels less ambitious.
I really value the work people do and I wanted to properly compensate them for it, especially after having had people work as volunteers for so long. However, I should have been more shrewd and practical. I paid people too much, or at least incorrectly. Dischan employees were paid a salary when they should have been paid hourly. An hourly wage would have ensured that money was only spent when work was completed.
Sixty thousand dollars seems like a lot of money, but it disappears quickly if you try to pay four/five people decently over nine months.
I hired a designer and I should not have. That's not to say he wasn't extremely talented and a good worker, it's just that we didn't have enough work for him and in the end his work wasn't as crucial to the end product as writing, art, and implementation. I should have hired him on a contract basis.
We promised 2 full games and a third smaller game in the Kickstarter. That's a lot, and it's an obligation that puts a lot of pressure on you. The stress of that weight made it difficult to focus. We should have only promised a single episode, which we would have been able to handle much better.
Loss of Motivation
It pains me to admit this, but to some degree I lost my passion for Dysfunctional Systems. I wasn't the only one either. This was a massive problem, not just because it made it difficult to work, but also because it caused a drop in quality of work.
I think the root of the problem was the overpromising in the Kickstarter. When something you love doing becomes an obligation, it begins causing stress instead of joy. I failed to realize this would happen.
The Dysfunctional Systems Kickstarter taught us some amazingly valuable lessons that we might not have otherwise learned, but it came at a high price. If we had learned these lessons before launching the Kickstarter campaign, I'm sure it would have turned out better. It's very unfortunate that we lacked the experience and foresight required to avoid these problems.