About the Game:

The game, codenamed "Anomaly Project", set in a not far out future, 2033. An abnormal magnetic phenoneom have been occurring over the peak of Mt. Blanc. Researchers have been gathering samples and conducting extensive research to understand the strange development. Throughout this whole investigation, a fresh team of researchers have been sent up to rotate out the last team.

About the Project:

Anomaly Project was the first endeavor between a group of friends that recently graduated from the university. They sat down together on January 2018 in a meeting to discuss the next route to take. They settled on developing their first commercial game together: the Anomaly Project. At the same time, the studio, Chokepoint, was born.

That same day, I happen to be there by coincidence when the meeting was in session. It was held at my friend's house, who we'll call him John. I was invited over to hang out with him earlier that day. At the end of the meeting, John elected me to be the project manager for the game development. I was surprised, but I'll take the challenge.

The Green Side - What Went Right?

There are numerous things that I was happy to find out what went right.

  • Finding out the real core team members.
  • Placing emphasis on Game Design Document before moving forward to prototyping.
  • Identifying valuable core team members and their diverse skillsets
  • Rapid prototyping of game features and contents
  • Nimbleness-- shifting from on-site work to remote work in the midst of pandemic

I was an unfamiliar face to the group, and to me, they were unfamiliar faces. But, John re-assured me that this team of people possess great talents. Great. So then I'll focus on bringing myself up to speed so I could help the team.

The Dark Side - What Went Wrong?

Everything has a con. Our endeavor throughout the project development and the pursue of commercial studios came with the things we did wrong along the way.

We started out as a team of 13 motivated individuals. Our first project idea was an open world sci-fi narrative singleplayer. Based on what I was told, the people I would be working with were talented people that know their skills. Roles were assigned. One of my friend would oversee the art department and another will oversee the programming department. They went to school for this. I'd check in on weekly basis to ensure the team is on track. I rolled out industry standard software for the team to use, thinking that there won't be much support needed from me. I wouldn't get in the way, as I, a man with outdated gamedev background experience from decade ago, recognize that these folks got the situation under control.

I was wrong.

Apparently the info I was given about the team members were exaggerated.

Two years later, only three of us had remained. The game was still stuck in early production. In the end, myself and another partner walked out.

I have always told myself: never do business with friends and family members. This was my decision based on my personal experience of helping run family restaurant and seeing all the disputes that mingle with family issues when I was growing up. Somehow I did not heed that personal advice of mines. Unlike the experience I had with my family business, this was a different take on "never do business with friends" and it's less to do with explosive drama. In fact, the way it unfolded was subtle but deadly to the project and to the business endeavor.

When it come to working on a project, whether it's a game development or running a business, part of everyone's responsibility is to minimize ambiguity as much as possible. That mean ensuring you have a well-written game design document, you espoused your vision and idea with clarity.

Complex infrastructure, enterprise solutions for small indue team, failing to lock down on software stack early on, failing to asset unknown individuals to gauge skillset and interpersonal skills. Project ambiguity, lack of game vision, poor team leads, poor communication, lack of boundary and standards all contributed to the project failure.

The leadership structure also severely hindered the game development and decisions. The project founder, with his lack of business leadership experience and lack of team-oriented mindset, refused to hand over the leadership role to our business partner, who is also a co-founder and has more professional experience in the industry. It was becoming painfully clear that the founder's ego was getting in the way of decisions that were best for the project.

So we walked.

The Conclusion

As the development cycle wears on, issues began cropping up. A lot of these issues were textbook business scenarios. Other issues were unpredictable and beyond our control, like the pandemic and the lockdowns.

We made numerous rookie mistakes, but through mistakes and failures, we learned and grew from them. We also did things that were right, and we learned from that too. Many lessons were learned from technical tasks, but I realized that game development also encompass the human elements too. Constantly striving to improve oneself and having that team cohesion by ensuring a right member with values that align with the overall team are just as important.

Overall, many lessons were taken from this project and will be kept in mind for future project endeavors.