Yesterday marked the launch of “CodeCombat Worlds” on the Roblox platform – an educational game that brings programming to life in a vibrant 3D universe. It’s one of those experiences that’s better felt than described. This project holds a special place in my heart, having donned multiple hats over the past 18 months, drawing from my diverse professional background and extending my “Jack of all trades” badge to Platinum.
This article is a reflection of my journey and the roles I’ve played in the development of this game. As the Lead Game Designer, I had the privilege to draft the game’s vision and the overarching Game Design Document (GDD). Those initial moments, staring at a blank canvas and envisioning a universe, are truly magical. It’s a time when possibilities are endless, and constraints haven’t yet surfaced.
Once our game got the green light and budget allocation, I transitioned into the role of a System Game Designer and started to make game design docs for the game systems, features, mechanics, and everything that we would need later. This entailed diving deep into the nuances of Roblox, understanding its technical capabilities, and drafting detailed design documents for various game systems and mechanics. These documents not only crystallized our vision but also boosted our confidence. I think I’ve studied more Game Design books in this period than in my whole life. It is a great time on the edge between creativity and system thinking.
Thereafter, as our team was growing and roles are being filled, my journey saw me switching roles at a dizzying pace. From Game Designer to Level Designer, Art Director, Tech Artist, Technical Game Designer – the list goes on. This period was defined by intense collaboration and countless meetings. That is the best illustration that communications are a big part of the game designer’s role.
Realizing the need for more engineering firepower (surprise, surprise, you still need programmers to make a game ;-) ), especially given our ambitious goals. Our engineers made a new framework for the Roblox game and put a solid base for the game, but it also meant we could not use common patterns from the Roblox game dev. But as time has shown later, it was a very right decision. So, back to coding! I spent a decade as an engineer before venturing into game development, and game engineer is a familiar role. The learning curve was steep, with a new coding language, framework, and game engine. Admittedly, the pressure was immense, and I apologize to anyone I may have inadvertently upset during this phase.
The culmination of my dual roles as a designer and developer was most evident in the final months. While it might not align with the conventional “pipeline,” my ability to design and implement simultaneously proved invaluable, especially when racing against time, as such a skill combo allows me to cut so many corners without creating serious tech and design debts.
The last stretch? Crunch time. Not mandated by some “evil CEO”, but driven by our collective passion for the game. Vice versus even, and our boss persuaded us to slow down and not do berserker rushes. But we put so much into this game; we wanted to give our maximum for the result and be proud of that. It was hard, but in my memory, it’s still “good fun times”.
We may have launched with less content than envisioned, but we’ve laid a strong foundation and a dedicated team that is ready to roll out more soon. As for what’s next for me? I’m uncertain, and that unpredictability is precisely what makes the game development industry so exhilarating, especially when creating educational games that instill a sense of pride.
A heartfelt thank you to the CodeCombat team. Your dedication and support have been unparalleled. Together, there’s no doubt we can achieve even greater heights!
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