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    post-mortem

    Posted by
    December 17th, 2007 4:00 am

    (Hm, got bored at work, so an extremely lengthy post-mortem following..)

    Post-Mortem

    LudumDare 10 entry “Lunte” by Allefant

    Introduction

    I have yet to analyze the over 3GB worth of automatic screen caps, but I think I spent about a third of time each in IRC, coding, or working in Blender. Rather minor amounts of time were devoted to idea research, making sounds in SFXR and making music in LMMS.

    Audio

    In fact, my music is somewhat of cheating, as I used an existing melody, and further, an existing .mid file including 2 additional scores to the melody, cords (or whatever, I’m no musician) and percussion. What I did is just fiddle in LMMS to create and assign instruments.. I gave a high pitched square wave to the main melody, a piano to the cords, and since LMMS decided to simply lump the midi percussion notes into one channel, ignoring the MIDI assignment, some wooden sounding neutral percussion to that. As for in-game sounds, I used SFXR by DrPetter, which simply is incredible – in last LDs I was running an old SimSynth through Wine to get some poor sounds, now (also thanks to mjau) I have a native app with all those randomization features making sound generation much quicker.

    Video

    Since sound is covered, next to graphics. My tools were Gimp and Blender. But most of the visible graphics are Blender renderings. I do know by now how to set up a simple “armature” to get stuff animated. I still have no idea what the difference between the three windows IPO/Action/NLA is and why some of them are empty some times and sometimes not. And very likely connected to that, I can’t figure out how to give separate animations to separate things (like, doing the feet animation independent of the head animation, in the same armature). With everything downscaled to 640×480 pixels, not many details were necessary anyway though.

    One thing which proved somewhat challenging were shadows. I decided I want to have them separate – since two tree sprites next to each other looked somewhat odd otherwise. Suffice to say, I had to resort to Blender’s Python-scripting capabilities to have a script which fiddles with material parameters – for the non-shadow version, disabling the shadow, for the shadow version, setting all materials to “cast-only” and a special “shadow plane” to “only-shadow”. The result is, each of my graphics has two versions, the shadow and the rest.

    The biggest challenge however was the explosions. I learned some about particles, soft-body and the deflection setting in Blender. One thing I wasted time on was when I tried to get the explosion to cast a shadow – Blender simply can’t to that (yet?) – particles can receive shadow, but not cast it.

    Code

    Now, finally, to the code. I ended up not using pygame but my C-disguised-as-Python language and my custom library. Which for someone who wants to compile means, the following dependencies are required:

    • allegro window, input, timers
    • allegroglopengl context in above window
    • DUMBmod player, actually not used, but i found no time to edit it out of everything
    • OpenGL, FreeType, png, z, jpeg, ogg, vorbis, vorbisfile

    After that, it should be a matter of compiling all .c files in the “generated” folder and linking to those library. I provided the Makefile I used for cross-compiling the .exe.

    The actual code I have written is all in the src directory, little more than 800 lines. I love the Python syntax for that, even though the code is rather hackish and there’s no comments, the forced indentation makes it still easy to follow. There’s nothing really special regarding the gameplay, it’s a rather simple puzzle game, done a 100 times. I made one huge list of all objects (santa, trees, bombs, wood), then pass it to the C qsort function to sort by layer and by y position, then draw it.

    The challenging thing was the water/ice/snow layers. The straightforward idea was to first draw water, then where there is ice draw ice tiles, and finally snow tiles. It just would have meant, if there’s a snow tile at x/y, cut that tile out of the snow texture, and place to the screen. However, I wanted to use an alpha mask for the cutting out – but OpenGL 1.0 does not allow specifying a separate alpha channel. Which would have left me with some texture combine extension, or a fragment shader. I read up a bit on fragment shaders, but then finally went for a software solution, re-calculating the water animation with possibly ice and snow in front each time level geometry changes.

    Game Design

    One thing I totally neglected was level design. The game I cloned apparently lived from the clever level design, giving you hours of puzzles. In my version, there are no real levels, basically just 13 tutorial/test screens. I guess I could try and find a ROM of the original then rip out the levels. Or try to create some challenging levels myself. In any case, when doing a puzzle game in an LD48, time for level creation must be factored in. It’s hard enough doing platformer levels in short time, but for a puzzle game it’s crucial.

    Conclusion

    In a way, not having the least bit of originality haunted me throughout the competition. I wish now I had thought more about my initial chain-of-lights on xmas tree idea (all the xmas setting is a remnant of it), then could have spent the time creating explosions and break-able terrain on implementing that idea instead.

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