It’s been a while since I’ve posted a blog, but my team and I have still been trying to get into a normal rhythm since heading to Montreal Joue to show our then-current build of Last Light. I’ll talk about the lead up to and the impact of going to Montreal in my next blog post, but for now, I just want to focus on the event itself.
Two of the producers and I left Burlington on a Friday afternoon, and manned our station from noon to 9pm the next day at the festival. We were all very nervous about it; not just the usual nerves of talking to people and presenting your work in an environment where you have no control (or maybe that’s just me), but because of the state of the build itself. The night before in our hotel room, the three of us played the game in its then-current state, and noted a large number of bugs. Some, like needing to press Q twice to bring up the flashlight the first time, were innocuous. Others, like not being able to enter the elevator to end the level, were massive blockers.
Sending the programmers a prioritized list of fixes, we ran through a new build that had been pushed in the morning, which had at least some fixes. Unfortunately, an issue that was still occurring were seemingly random deaths that we thought were related to the old mechanic of losing health when standing in dark areas.
We showed up and got our station ready, and soon had some people start playing our game. The “sudden death” bug seemed to be affecting everyone who played though, and I apologized to one of the first people this happened to. He actually revealed himself to be a professor in a gaming degree in Montreal, whose students were running a booth behind us. He told me to not worry about it: “Bugs in game development are expected, everyone here is going to have some. You don’t have to apologize for anything”.
One of our producers Kyle talking to a player at our booth
When I got to walk around and see other games on display, I saw that this was true (although still to a lesser extent than what we were experiencing). In addition, an interesting pattern kept emerging: players wouldn’t experience the “sudden death” bug until pretty much the last couple of rooms in the level. In addition, it seemed to be taking around the same amount of time for everyone. Sitting down, we started a timer on one of our phones, ran the game, and found a startling revelation: the player would always be returned to the main menu at 5 minutes exactly.
We figured out it was a bug with the kiosk timer, as opposed to anything involving the health system. In a way, it was relieving, since we could tell players ahead of time about it, and it showed that we had figured out what exactly was causing the problem. We told Jason about the bug, and asked him to look into it.
We also had a very interesting person play our game: a man who had been observing someone else play our game mentioned that we seemed to be very influenced by Outlast, to which I gave a very affirmative yes. He then introduced himself as Robin Girard, a freelance composer who had worked on Outlast‘s Whistleblower DLC, as well as the upcoming Outlast II. I hope he didn’t see my jaw drop too much.
A picture Kyle took of Robin Girard playing Last Light
After having him play the game (and apologizing for the bugs), he offered to make a looping music track for us to use in the game for free. Given that we were not dumb, we graciously accepted and asked to exchange contact info. We’re currently working on giving him a prompt to work with, and hopefully we’ll get something soon.
Obviously this was the highlight of the trip, but being in Montreal again was a welcome excursion. Despite the crunch ahead of time and the persistence of glitches in the game, most people were interested in the new implementation of the flashlight mechanic, and at least saw some value in the idea. Unfortunately, though, we weren’t aware of the issues that had arisen during this time until we got back to Burlington the next evening.