A week late, but after a break here it is, a post-mortem and a more coherent version of my game.
My main goal for this competition was to develop social game within the 48 hours, or at least something that had the hooks for a social game.
When discovery came up as the theme I figured I’d rip off Heroes of Might and Magic, that way I wouldn’t have to focus too much time over the weekend on design, and could make this game, mostly a technological challenge…. Should be easy enough to get all these features done then eh?
What I ended up with at the end of the competition was a nice start of stitched-together half-finished features. If you squint really hard, you can see the start of a HOMM style game, and I couldn’t been happier with the result. I wanted a nice little tech/scope challenge and to develop something that could transition into being a social game, this LD scratched both of those itches.
Goals, Planning And Scope
I had a clear vision of what I wanted for this LD, a HOMM style social game (ugh).
So I may have overshot a bit in my scope, but it broke down into simple milestones. Be able to navigate a hero around a hex map, unit management, combat other heroes, end condition for the game.
Having the design already done made the informal milestones a lot easier to place over the 48 hours. The last few game jams I’ve participated in I’ve tried to play around with exploratory gameplay and found it was even harder to wrap the jams up in time. In a lot of timelapses, and post-mortems I’m seeing a lot of the great games generally end up being the developer’s second attempt that weekend (It’s a Fricking Cave, Quarters). How do you know when to cut and run, when the funs not there, and wont be?
First time I’ve done a timelapse, and man was it fun. Nothing more motivating to actually get something finished for the competition then investing in recording the whole thing. Awesome fun to watch it and show it off to friends afterwards. It also goes a long way to keep you honest, you end up spending a lot less time slacking when you’ve got a camera focused on you.
Regardless of how useful or entertaining it was for anyone else, I loved it!
Choice in Tools
This is the first jam I’ve done that I’ve had experience with all of the libraries and tools I’d be using going into it. I find it so hard to apply Box2D, Flynt, or any of those fun libraries in my day to day that I figured a game jam is a great time to give this stuff a test run. And I mean it usually works okay for evaluating an engine.
On paper 48 hours is a lot of time, Ill get up to speed on whatever lib in 3 hours and It’ll be smooth sailing, this has never been my experience.
Tweenmax was a god send, simple tweens really easily took the place of more time consuming little effects (combat screen).
Oddly enough I was pretty excited about my food photos, even if they were pretty mundane.
Loved reading LD posts during a competition, so many new types of technology to try out. It’s a Frickin Cave(totally have a crush on this game) makes me really want to take a look at MMF.
In previous LD’s I’ve picked up and used Musagi and SFXR, so I’m pumped to see what technologies I end up taking away from this LD
The only downside to the whole community bit was that I was so swamped with my scope that I didn’t have a chance to take a look at the IRC channel or to jump onto Mumble, hoping to do that next time around.
Unintuitive Gameplay / Ease of Play
Biggest problem with HOMMage. If you haven’t played Heroes of Might and Magic, you’re completely lost. If you have played HOMM you’re only mostly lost
This really stuck out like a sore thumb, a lot of the comments I’ve gotten on the game have done a lot to echo it. I wasn’t unaware, I realized how rough around the edges the game was, and provided a narrated play through. Ick.
Reflecting, I’m not sure if there was much I could do within the 48 hours to really lead the player along any easier, other than a detailed tutorial… I feel like this genre of game is so focused on user interface interactions that the amount of consideration it’d take to make this a pick up and play game for a casual user could not be accomplished in 48 hours.
At the very least I get to come away from this thinking a lot harder at the concept stage about how the user will interact with my systems.
Planning and Scope
I don’t know how I held any illusions that I would get this done:
“This game will be built with AS3 using PHP to make database calls.
- Finding the time to design and develop the DB structure and getting it working properly with AS3.
- Is my little tower enough of a web server to handle multiple games?
- Working with hexes and simple pathfinding.
- Simple AI in place of human players.
Initially the whole game will be single player with AI, I’m hoping thats not as far as it gets but well see how I can manage my time.”
Honestly? Anyway, even paring this down to the smallest scope that constituted as a game, it still would have been painful to polish it, let alone find time to put sound into it. Huge flop here in terms of making a game for the competition, the sting is mildly dulled since I at least met most of my initial goals and motivations.
I wanted to use my tablet for everything. Wasting time on the HUD by sketching it out on the tablet was a huge time suck. I figured even if the result was so-so, it’d give the game a little character. But no, no I was way off.
Even though the rest of the art wasn’t terribly gorgeous, I had a blast doing it, huge time suck though.
All things interface really kicked my butt here. “How should clicks act if the currently selected hex is ____ and the user clicks ____” trying to figure out a lot of the interactions and then implementing them consumed a ton of time that could have been spent polishing gameplay, or spent trying to make the game more intuitive.
After reflecting a bit, this stab at a HOMM style game just isn’t fun. Even the post competition version, is still just a neat tech piece and not really something people would want to play.
This really got me thinking about “fun”, and where it comes from in the HOMM series, and even in other strategy games.
Thinking about HOMM and other strategy games, you could say fun comes from the progression, building up a units, becoming a force within the system of game mechanics. Theres a lot of minutia there in making that an enjoyable experience, carefully balanced units, carefully balanced progression of AI opponents, and a lot of pretty window dressing.
Any fun strategy games I’ve seen as a result of game jams do well to avoid the majority of the genres trappings. Something simple like, setting up a simple top down map, and simple units with flocking behavior. Only allowing the user to point to where the flock should go. Or letting a user choose his units before the game starts, and once engaged the units will automatically interact with their environment.
With some time to reflect on it, I feel if you really take a hard look at the strategy genre, you can boil the core “fun” of a strategy game down to “conflict between units”. With the focus I spent in pretty much every other aspect, it seems like I may have totally missed the mark on this one.
Even ripping a game off HOMM’s design, there are so many bits of interface minutia to consider that there was no way to deliver an intuitive quick to play game within the 48 hours, but the trip getting there was a blast.
Post Competition Build
Loved the comments I was getting, gave me enough motivation to bring the concept a little further along. Pretty strapped for time over the holidays but I came up with this build.
- Fog of war.
- Working combat, more information.
- Working unit purchasing.
- Tons of small bug fixes.
I figured this would be about where I should have ended up for the competition. It does well enough to showcase most of the main elements of HOMMage.
Time consuming things I wish I could have added:
- Racial abilities.
- Abilities for the special characters of each race.
- Hero abilities.
- Enemy AI.
- Castle garrison combat.
- Title screen + tutorial.
- Items on the world map.
- Multiple heroes and castles.
You guys can play it here.
And just tacking this on here since it’ll be my last LD19 post. Big thanks to the organizers, you guys do an awesome job every LD of putting this together, the rating system for games is just awesome now. And a big shout out to the community, I’ve learned tons and garnered tons of neat things from posts here and there