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Snow Tape: a post-mortem

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Snow Tape: a post-mortem

 

On May 29th, the hour long collab level Snow Tape has been released after 4 months of work, and the feedback has been amazing and easily exceded my personnal expectations, so I would like to start off this post by thanking everyone for being so supportive of the project ! :soundheart:

 

Now, the main goal of this post is to provide as many info as possible about what I learned while working on this project and give advice as to how to start future projects to prevent them from dying early on.

 

Table of Content:

  1. Distributing parts
  2. Keep people engaged

  3. Set deadlines

  4. Do not let the community go silent

  5. Give yourself time before the release

  6. Give people multiple download options

 

1. Distributing parts

As someone who never had to handle such a big project before, this is the first part I had to learn, and even on this end, there is some things to pay attention to.

First of, you need to come to term with the fact that it will be almost impossible to please absolutely everyone in the project, not everyone will be able to get their favorite part, so do not go in trying to give everyone their favorite part, and instead go in hoping to be able to give them one of their favorite !

In order to achieve this, I had set up a google form, where people could give a list of their favorite song in no particular order (this part is important as the system that distributes the parts will not favor the songs entered first over the songs entered last).

Now the first thing that I did not do in Snow Tape but should be done in future applications of this, is to force people to give at least 2 choices, since the system ensures that everyone gets a part, if someone only picks 1 choice, either this person is the only one who did this and he will get it no matter how many people ask for it, or two or more people picked this 1 choice only and 2 people will end up without any choice left.

This should take 48 hours maximum, after which everyone who has not yet filled in the form, unless having a valid explanation, should not enter the project, trying your best to get those people in could cause more trouble than good, since this lack of activity early on will translate to a lack of activity while making the levels.

Once that all the answers are collected, you can now start distributing the parts between people, here is how I distributed the parts while making sure everything was given :

    1. I first started by making a table with 2 columns : on the left a list of every choices in the project, and on the right a list of all the players who asked for each of them.

    2. After that I looked through all the choices to see if any of them only had one person assigned to them, if yes, then I gave it to this person and removed the person from every other choices in the table, repeat this exact process until this is no longer true.

    3. Then, I looked through the list for any person who only had one choice left, and gave the choice to him, repeat this process until it is no longer true.

    4. Finaly, I looked for the first choice with the least people asking for it, and randomized the pick, I then removed the person who got picked from every other choices

    5. Repeat step 2, 3 and 4 until every choice is given

 

Drawbacks of this technique :

    - If 3 people choose the exact same 2 choices, one person will end up without a choice, this can be resolved by asking for 3 choices minimum in the forms (look at the interest given to each choice and the total amount of choices in the project in order to determine how many minimum choices to ask for).

    - If someone only gives 1 choice, they will get their choice no matter the amount of people asking for it, hence the reason for the minimum choice rule.

 

2. Keep people engaged

After picking the song comes the next big part of hte project, deciding on the colors and ennemy count, for this, you should never make those decisions yourself, this will demotivate people and make them a lot less likely to want to keep going with your project.

Instead, ask for everyone's input, give every proposition a chance, keep people engaged !

Doing so will ensure an healthy work environement (since believe it or not, this is basicaly work) and will make people want to follow up with the project and give it their all !

And of course, this isn't the only moment where you need to do this, you must do this whenever you can, it is a crucial part of making sure this project reaches its end goal !

 

3. Set deadlines

You now have everything ready to get this show on the road !

However, before that, you need to know one thing and this point might be the biggest thing I've learned while working on Snow Tape, that is the importance of deadlines.

No matter the length of the level, no matter the amount of people, you need to set consistant and reasonable deadlines, this project isn't the only thing people will have on their mind, and its really easy to get distracted by other things, and deadlines are the easiest and most effective way to make sure that people stay focused on the project at hand.

Another thing about deadlines as well, do not hesitate to take actions if someone misses too many deadlines, this is what makes the difference between effective and ineffective deadlines, constantly giving passes to people will only make less people value those deadlines and will ultimately end up with the project dying from lack of activity.

 

4. Do not let the community go silent

Thankfuly, the sheer amount of people in Snow Tape ensured that this was not an issue, however, I can still say that a community going silent for more than 2 days will more than likely kill the entire project, as people will start thinking that the project has been given up on, and everyone will quickly loose interest ! (remember, this isn't the only thing on their mind !)

In order to make up for this, ask for progress updates, ask for previews, give feedback, do whatever you can to keep the community alive, but do not let it die

 

5. Give yourself time before the release

After a long time of setting deadlines and keeping the community alive and engaged, everything is done and ready to be put together and release 🎉 !

... Or is it?

Even when you are done with the project, do not, under any circumstances, release it directly !

Take your time and make sure that it all works out without jaring issues, releasing with big issues could make this project look really rushed, and nobody wants that !

Note : for future projects, I have created a tool that allows you to chain XML files together, this tool also takes into account the 0.05 second of blank sound that Soundodger+ adds to the beginning audio files (in the case of Snow Tape, this single issue caused a delay close to 1 second by the beginning of the second half, and fiding the cause took a really long time, do not bother going through all this trouble, and use the tool instead !)

Link to the tool here

 

6. Give people multiple download options

Congrats, you've finished your project, give your entire team a big hug ! :soundheart:

Now one last thing that is quite useful to do, and you may have seen it if you've tried to download Snow Tape, but you will be presented with 3 different download options : the full version, an uncut version and an update only version.

The reason behind me giving people all of those choice is that not everyone has great internet, and having to download a 200Mb archive in order to get one fix is not worth it !

Thus, I decided to give people 3 options :

    - The full version : The entire project, should be the biggest file available to download

    - The uncut version : Only contains the finished project without the individual parts / songs, for people who only want to check it out without attempting 100%

    - The update only version : This version only contains the fixes in the latest update, allows everyone to easily get up to date !

Now a 4th option could be given, that is the Singles version, containing only the singles, however remember that all the options will have to get updated when pushing a new patch, so do as many as you can handle ! 

 

 

And this concludes this post-mortem for Snow Tape !

Of course, if you guys have any questions feel free to ask them and I will make sure to try and add any parts that people want to see !

 

 

However, before ending this post, I did want to talk about one more thing, that is the future of the Snow Tape community.

Considering the success of Snow Tape, I definitely do want to continue with something, and sadly, if you were hoping to know what this next project will be, I am sorry to say that you will not be getting it today.

However, you can hope to learn about it next month, the reason being that I want to let people breathe between projects and let the other big projects go on their way before starting a new one, as this could be damaging for everyone involved !

Another thing I wanted to say, is that this next project will have some changes as for the staff behind it : in Snow Tape, me and furret were in charge, in the next project, this is now changing and will now be me and middlethought (and possibly more people, depending on whether or not more are needed)

As well as this change, please note that the next project will likely be imposing restrictions on how to join, in this case, people might have to jion in a gorup of 2 minimum due to the length of each songs (this number might even be 3 for some songs, however this isn't final and rules might be changed around to make sure that as many people can enter as possible).

And with that said, just know that I am very excited about what the future holds and that the current proposition made middlethought reply with "Oh damn", so trust me that I have my reasons for not spilling the beans just yet :)

 

Blü out ! \o

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