A year ago I started a series of posts about Project Aurora – an experimental iPad game I was making with a group of students and the amazing artist Kim Koskamp.
It started brilliantly – we had unique concept art, a strong design direction, and a diverse team of programmers. But two months in, my posts went dark – and so did the project.
I was in the middle of writing about project management, highlighting communication as the make-or-break quality of a team. At the same time, it became our team’s biggest weakness: emails went unanswered, and the developers were rarely available to talk synchronously, whether by phone, skype, AIM, or gchat. The semester ended and we had a beta version, but no enthusiasm to carry through, polish and release it to the app store.
I had failed.
But there was one person for whom I had failed more than any other, and that was Kim.
When I was scouting for an artist, I emphasized and re-emphasized accountability: this was a project other people were getting graded on, that we couldn’t up and disappear, no matter the friction. If you were in, you were in until the end. I kept worrying about the artist flaking, oblivious to the fact that it could go both ways.
So Kim poured her heart and soul into this project. She does this with most of her work; she’s a truly inspirational artist, dedicated against all odds. When faced with an enormous challenge – she’d never done art for a game before, much less animation – she buckled down and for the project’s entire three month roadmap was continuously iterating, improving, and learning new techniques to ensure what she delivered was the best it could possibly be. For a project we knew from the start was going to make very little money – if any – she worked harder than most salaried employees.
So when the end came, and I had nothing for her – not a playable demo, not a published game, not even an alpha version that was accessible to her – I knew I’d let down Kim more than anyone.
And that was something I couldn’t really handle.
For the past several months, I stole odd hours here and there to redesign Aurora for the web. I knew I didn’t have the ability to create it for iPad, and for once I wanted to be in control of all the variables. Because Aurora was so fundamentally tied to touch and gesture, the design had to be gutted. We kept the art, but the mechanics were redesigned from scratch.
Michael Molinari, with whom I’ve worked on several game jam projects (<3), volunteered to get the game running in Flash, and we batted ideas back and forth, and chewed our nails over a timeline, and finally came up with a simple concept we could create in a few months that would do justice to the original experience. It was hard not to tweet, share or screenshot the progress for the past several months, but now we finally get to put it out in the world:
Kim, this is for you! Failing might phase you, but it never stops you. You hit walls and find ways to leap over, dig under, or just barrel right through them. You are an incredible person, a brilliant friend, and one of the best people I’ve ever worked with. Thank you for being you, and sharing so much of yourself with others. You put your heart and soul into this project, and I hope at least some of that’s honored with this version: