Here’s the first in my (maybe) three part series of postmortems for my game ZERO2. Of course, I’d recommend checking the game out first before reading so here’s the link:
This is my second time participating in Ludum Dare, so coming into it I was hoping not only to simply make a game, but to outdo my previous effort. My LD21 game (NO ESCAPE [pictured below]) was fairly well received for its graphics and audio but (as many commentors noted) suffered from three main flaws:
1. ‘Not A Game’
Well, that’s a little harsh, but in some ways maybe true. I hadn’t even attempted to program anything for years going into LD21, so I decided on a concept that would require the bare minimum of coding. The result ended up feeling more like an interactive movie than a proper game, with little variation between playthroughs, and no real challenge or obstacles.
2. ’40 MB WTF?!?!’
While I was working on it the last thing on my mind was how big the .swf was going to be. Turns out it was really big – 40 MB big, which in the world of Flash games is humongous. This led to a painfully slow preloading screen. This wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t for this next point…
3. ‘Press Space Bar for a Minute Then it’s Over?!?’
Yup, despite all that loading time you were getting only about a minute of gameplay. And while I generally go for quality over quantity, I think it’s safe to say my game simply didn’t have enough content.
So, with these goals in mind, how do I think I did with my LD22 entry?
1. ‘It’s A Game This Time I Swear!’
This time I based my gameplay on the point-and-click adventure style popularized by games like Myst in the early 90′s. Although this type of game still has moments that feel a bit like ‘interactive movies’, it still definitely feels like a game. You solve (admittedly simple) puzzles, collect equipment, and have to find your way to the end. The great thing for me, is that this type of game is relatively easy to code – and I was sort of thrilled that everything worked as expected almost right off the bat.
2. ’3 MB OHH YEAAAAHHHH’
I was SO concerned about the file size of the final .swf that I took every imaginable step to keep it down. All of the image files are as compressed as I could get them without showing too many artifacts. I also really restrained myself in terms of adding animated sequences to the game, and when I did add them I tried to be very conservative with the frame count.
3. ‘It Takes Slightly Longer Than a Minute to Beat!’
Ok, it’s still a short game, but I really busted my ass to create as many environments as I could so that the experience would have some ‘girth’ to it. I think these types of games are successful when you can really drag the player into the game world so they can feel that sense of exploration and being lost in an unknown environment. While I think this game could certainly be much longer, I think it’s long enough to get the player ‘involved’ with the world and the story.
While overall I think I would describe the game as a success, there are certainly ways it could be better:
1. Too Easy
Right now the game is quite simple – almost all the puzzles are solved in the same way: you need some object to proceed, find said object, proceed. I wish I could have programmed some more complicated stuff in (for example I had an idea for a ‘circuit breaker’ style minigame to get one of the elevators running) but every additional layer of complexity would have severely increased the time spent coding.
2. The Sound of Silence
While I’d like to think the environments convey a potent atmosphere with the visuals alone, the truth is that sound probably would have made the experience twice as good. In fact, I was thinking about sounds all the way through the development process – unfortunately, I just ran out of time!
3. Too Short / Not Enough Replay Value
Ok, after patting myself on the back for making it longer than my LD21 game, I still think I could do better. Part of that could be achieved through replay value. And while replay value for puzzle/adventure games is always hard to achieve, I had a pretty good idea to implement an ‘Investigation Rating’ at the end of the game so that players would potentially want to go through it again and try to examine everything in the game for a 100% rating. You know, basically achievement hunting! Of course, I’d need to add a lot more stuff to investigate…
Despite these ‘failures’ I still feel pretty good about my game, as I think overall I was able to achieve my goal of outdoing my LD21 in almost every way. The other good news is that I feel I’m in a pretty good position to expand upon and improve the game without needing to completely redo it. Whether I choose to do that or not…well, we’ll see.
I haven’t said too much about the graphics since I’ve decided to save that for another post. If you’re curious about my process though stay tuned for my next postmortem, in which I’ll do a step-by-step breakdown of the creation of a single scene.