This was my first time entering and I’m pretty satisfied with the results. Congratulations to everyone who participated!
Ultimate Plant is an html game. I used jQuery, Twitter’s Bootstrap, and SASS to build the game.
Here is a link to my entry:
Evolution of my idea:
When evolution was announced I tried to steer my mind towards something new. I brainstormed all the things I could think of around evolution: dinosaurs, mutations, colonization, natural selection, culture, etc… I figured everyone would gravitate to some kind of dinosaur or sci-fi mutation theme (I’m surprised that I’ve only seen 1 dinosaur game in the results). On Friday I came up with a cool deck-building style card game idea that I planned to implement in video game form. By 3am I had sketched out a really rudimentary UI and had some crappy game mechanics that I wasn’t pleased with.
I went to bed feeling a little dejected and not very confident about the next day’s work. I think my subconscious mulled things over while sleeping and while eating breakfast I decided to scrap my original idea and try to incorporate the Game of Life into some type of puzzle game.
What went right:
1. Simple mechanics: At first I felt the GOL (Game of Life) rules were too simplistic for a cool game, but they ended up being perfect for creating something that I could incrementally improve. GOL is used in code retreat sessions (http://coderetreat.org/) and I’ve implemented the core rules several times in different languages while practicing software development techniques. It was really easy to get a quick simulator working in html.
2. Simple graphics: I kept the initial graphics simple and planned to add a bunch of flower photographs later. I ran out of time to add many photos, but I think the simplicity made it easier to design a clean UI.
3. Early tutorial and playtesting: I created 5 “simple” puzzles and a tutorial to go with them. I had a couple playtesters give good feedback that the puzzles were not simple! I then focused on making my core game understandable rather than adding more complex flower and weed breeding puzzles.
4. Developing with a group: Canopy graciously opened their offices for a Ludum Dare Jam. Everyone mostly worked in quiet isolation on their own games, but it was nice to bounce a few ideas off people.
5. Todo list: It really helped to write down and prioritize all of the features I wanted in my game. After procrastination breaks it was easy to get back on track.
Areas for improvement:
1. Indecision and Too Much Design: I felt my game idea was too simple up until halfway through the competition and spent a lot of time sketching out complex puzzles and plant types that didn’t make it into the game. Next time I’ll implement each puzzle one at a time and try to finish a few more features as opposed to thinking up great stuff to implement up front.
2. Not enough time on artwork: I knew that I could spend a lot of time trying to make subpar graphics so I planned to just add photographs of flowers. I spent a couple hours driving to a nearby arboretum and taking a lot of pictures, but I ended up with time to use just a few in the final game.
3. Social obligations: Earlier in the week I had agreed to meet a friend for a birthday dinner on Saturday. I thought it would be a nice break from coding, but we ended up at the restaurant waiting for late arrivals before we could order food. I ducked out early, but it still took up most of the evening.
5. Not enough time for puzzles: My biggest regret is the small number of puzzles in the game. I really wish I had been able to add 10-20 more puzzles with a few interesting twists. At least I can add some more to a post-competition version.
I really enjoyed the competition and am looking forward to the next one. I learned a lot about managing limited resources over the course of 48 hours.