Let’s start off pessimistically. What went wrong??
I’ve been thinking for a bit about exactly what went wrong with Bright Worlds. It’s incredibly tempting to claim that the things that did go wrong were out of my control or would have happened to anyone, and at first I did think that this was the case. But after more consideration I started to think differently.
What went wrong.
- Lack of planning.
This was it. The killer. The big secret to Bright Worlds is that I actually did not design any levels or have even the foggiest notion of what they would be (apart from involving light and dark, of course) like until about 5 hours before the competition was over. I spent the 6th to last hour brainstorming every level design that currently exists in the game. Just for funzies, I uploaded some pics of my notebook where I did this.
This is what sleep deprivation does to you.
The last 5 hours were a mad rush to implement every one of these maps.
Hah! I bet I tricked you. It turned out that that mad rush was actually totally fine. I managed to get all of those levels in the game. No sweat. I’m a baus. The big problem, though, was that this lack of planning really affected what I had done in the last 1.5 days.
There was a disconnect. I had wasted a ton of time on features that I simply didn’t end up using – what a disappointment. I had sweet particle effects. I had mirrors that would reflect light in interesting directions. I had another enemy type.
On the other hand, when I did the level design I realized that I was going to need some features I didn’t have – particularly glass, a patrolling enemy, and a few other things.
A clear lesson has been learned: A solid starting plan will keep everything in order.
Another thing I did wrong, similar to the first.
- No prioritization.
My game is all over the map in terms of polish. I have that really sweet effect where the sound gets masked when you go into darkness, but controls are clunky. The raycasting and lighting effects look really good, but block movement is only in 16 pixel increments, which a lot of people called me out on.
The reason for this is very simple. When I was keeping my LD todo list, I didn’t have any system of priority at all. That meant that the things that ended up getting done were pretty random. I would just choose something on my list and do it. Now that I’m writing this out, it seems incredibly stupid, but it was true! Later on (last 8 hours) I started to catch on that something was up, and I starred each item from 1-5 stars, forcing myself to work on higher stars before lower. This was a lot better, but it was a bit too late for me to really gain the benefits of this approach.
When I look back on my previous LDs – particularly LD19, as LD21′s notes are sadly lost to me – I had used a website called Workflowy which allowed me to take hierarchical notes and write notes under notes and remarks to myself and stuff like that. Another big benefit of the website over the notebook that I used this time was that when you turn the page of the notebook you’re very likely not to turn it back. This is not really possible on a website, since a page can just keep getting bigger and bigger I think in the future I’ll use Workflowy again to plan out my game.
Lesson learned: Prioritize your notes.
- Less features, more polish.
I don’t know if anyone is keeping track, but the number of features in my games has been growing exponentially.
- Jump bar
- Dark world
- Escape / Enemy Avoider
- 1 Enemy type
- Dead Body Dropper
- HP Bar
- Sanity bar
- 3 enemy types
- Radial light
- Beam light
- Pushable blocks
- Powerups and health balls
- Heck, I even had a particle engine and mirrors. They didn’t even make it into the game.
This is absurd!!! Honestly I don’t think anyone even cares about the number of features you have. I think they care more about the polish – it’s easier to immediately see. If you look at the really strong contenders this time around and just count up features, I probably have more, but my game is not nearly as good.
Next time, I’m going to dial down the features and instead work a lot more on polish. Cute animations for everything, nice parallax moving backgrounds, etc. It’s going to be a thing of beauty, I promise you.
Lesson learned: Never underestimate how important polish is, and how important features aren’t.
This has been really pessimistic so far, so I’ll pat myself on the back for a bit here. Things I was happy about with this game include:
- The art. I did significantly better than my last two entries, and I was really happy to see that pan out. (I think I can do even better though )
- The music. This is the first time I’ve had people take notice of the music in the comments, and that’s totally awesome!
- The last two puzzles. I’m not going to spoil them, but I was particularly happy about how they turned out.
- The overall product. As much as I bashed myself up above, I really do think that this was one of my best games I’ve ever made, and even though it’s flaws it’s definitely my best entry to LD.
Thanks for reading. Here’s a link to the game – check it out!