I said I’d do it soonish, and there’s no time like the present I suppose, so here it is, my Douse post mortem. With PAX coming up, I figured it was a good time to package together all my thoughts about Douse as a project.
Douse started off completely different from where it is now. Back in the beginnings of freshman year, I had the weird idea of a raindrop game based on a sight mechanic that I named ‘Drip Drop’. It wasn’t great, it wasn’t awful, but it was what I pitched to my tentative team at the beginning of the next year. We went back and forth a lot, experimenting with all sorts of ideas trying to get a great game going, from fire to aliens. The thing was, that after we whittled the team down to our core 5 people, the game design sessions were incredible. We knew exactly what we wanted and exactly what we didn’t want. It may sound kind of weird, but knowing something wouldn’t fit our game the second it was suggested allowed us to get tremendous speed in our brainstorming sessions. When someone said the right idea, there was no question about it. Douse formed itself out of these instant magic ideas, and we loved every minute of it. There is no part of Douse that wasn’t a “holy crap what if we did____” moment. The five of us were like a molten core of ideas, and we all wanted the same thing in the end. We certainly had our obstacles and trials, but I consider us quite lucky when it came to creating the vision for Douse.
If there’s one thing that I felt Douse nailed, it’s the look and the feel. Constance Chen, our lead artist, quite literally made the character of Douse on her first try. We asked her for a cute raindrop character, and the first thing she brought us we fell in love with. There was just something about the character she created that just clicked with everyone. It was actually pretty crazy, out of a sheet of character ideas, everyone went with the same one. Steven Saulls, our composer, also did a masterful job of bringing the game together with music. He was always attentive and listening to our every request, and tinkered with the soundtrack until it fit perfectly. His soundtracks just infused the backgrounds and environments with a sort of explainable magic, especially the night level. When Amanda Skibeness, a fellow dev, and I would go listen to his new piece, we would always leave his office with numerous ways to make Douse even more immersive. Michael James, the animator, did an insane job at animating not only the character of Douse, but the entire world. With his help, we went from a static beautiful world, to a living, breathing one. It was the little things that he did that really made Douse an experience. The leaves rustling, the clouds bouncing, and even just the idle animation all helped meld the game into an unforgettable experience.
Most games at Digipen are highly encouraged to go to the ‘Play Testing Club’, which is basically a few hours each week where fellow students are encouraged to play each others games and give feedback. I personally love to go try out games and see where everyone is at. Douse, being a poetic experience, didn’t fair so well when I took it to be tested. Many people wanted it to be more like an arcade-like experience or didn’t see the point of it. My team was especially discouraged by this, and all efforts towards getting the game play tested sort of dropped off. Moral was already shaky, so we decided to stop play testing almost entirely, save for family and close friends. I feel like this probably hurt us a bit. While there would always be people that wouldn’t ‘get’ Douse, we probably should have found a group of people that did. What little play testing we did helped us patch gaping holes in the game play, which definitely helped. Because we didn’t test, not many people actually knew about Douse. We had a Facebook page and invited our friends to it, but it didn’t really spread the word about the game much. In fact, I believe that this Tokyo Sense of Wonder Night will probably spread the word the furthest, which is great. Overall I feel like we could have done a little more to help make Douse a bit more accessible and known.
As I mentioned earlier, moral for our game was not always at its peak. Our highest drive was after team meetings where we would come up with the next cool thing. Unfortunately, that drive would slowly fade away soon after. Douse was a hard project, mostly because we didn’t always know exactly what we were doing. There weren’t a lot of games to compare directly to, and as a result, we lost work momentum, especially after the halfway point. Personally, after I had finished the physics and sound portion of the game, I had run out of ‘official’ jobs, and got a touch apathetic at times. I feel like we really could have added a bunch of cool stuff had we stayed at a constant pace. We did end up finishing decently in the summer once things had calmed down, and I feel like we ended up accomplishing a lot, but again, a stronger pace would have greatly benefited the game.
Douse was an incredible project to work on. I feel extremely lucky to have gotten to work with the team I did, and I can’t believe how far we got and what we ended up accomplishing. We definitely made some blunders, but those are to be expected and welcomed as learning experiences. Creating a poetic experience was something I’m glad I tried at least once, and might attempt to do again. It just reaches a different audience in a different kind of way. I’ve been playing all sorts of video games since I was a kid, and it’s nice to create something that isn’t often done. If I was to go back and do it all over again, I would hope it went down the same way because I think Douse was a creation of its failures as much as its successes.