This was my first Ludum Dare and it was amazing. For the first time in my life, I produced a binary that can run on (some) other people’s machines and actually looks kinda nice, in a retro/minimalist way.
This is not to say I’m completely happy with my performance.
My game: Cannibal Slugmage of Eden. (link: http://www.ludumdare.com/compo/ludum-dare-24/?action=preview&uid=14121 ). Originally, the idea was to have a generic roguelike where instead of mana, you harvest evolving slugs. However, I have never done AI before, so by the time I decided I should probably stop planning and start coding I was wondering if having enemies was a bad idea. The solution: make the player one of the slugs.
You are a slugmage. Your sisters(*) mock your gift, but you’ll show them all. Use your sisters’ life force to fuel your unholy might as you slowly shape them into mana-thralls. Your goal: to gather enough power to ascend to godhood and remake the world in your own image.
Sounds good, right? And in fact, I am pretty happy with a lot of things about the game. But as always, it didn’t work out quite the way I wanted to.
If you try Slugmage, one of the first things you’ll notice is that it can be hard to tell what’s going on. I didn’t do (perfect) collision detection because I’m lazy, so slugs will occasionally step on each other, making them hard to interact with. Often, slugs will seem to disappear, when in reality they’re hiding under one of their sisters. But sometimes when they disappear, it’s because they’re actually dead (either at the hands of a sister or from simple drowning). Some of this confusion could be alleviated by a simple animation that plays when a slug dies.
There’s a similar issue with spellcasting. There is virtually no visual feedback that you’ve just done a wondrous and blasphemous thing. I wanted lightning bolts to actually feel impressive; I wanted flames to flicker; I wanted to see an expanding wave of the player’s color consuming the world. None of this happens.
I’m actually pretty proud of the UI I made. It’s pretty in its own little way, and it does show off some of the most important information. Parts of it were even tolerable to extend! (In particular, supporting spells and inventory-slugs in the information panel was pretty fun for me.)
Unfortunately, the UI was the most rushed thing in the whole game, and it shows. The problem?
For the most part, despite some of my triumphs, working with my UI was a nightmare. For starters, rather than passing click events to UI elements, there was a single global click handler that had to try and guess what you clicked on. (Literally “guess”. For example, if your mouse is ANYWHERE on the blue bar across the bottom of the screen, it uses those coordinates as an index into your inventory (which thankfully comes up nil)). Then, once the global click handler has figured out what it wants to do with your click, it has to do its own coordinate transform… which means it needs to know the size and position of literally everything on the screen.
I must have spent ten hours trying random permutations of arithmetic operators in search of one that worked.
I am… not good at coordinate transforms.
I’m not done with Slugmage. I think it was an awesome idea, and it deserves more than 72 hours of kludge.
Unfortunately, I did some things to my game that will make it very hard to extend, especially toward the end of the competition when I was desperate to add as many of the essential UI indicators as I could. Fortunately, I don’t care. I have learned enough from these three short days that I’m eager for a total remake (or perhaps a sequel with the same mechanics). I think I’ll call it…
Divine Sunsnail of Elysium
See you next Dare.
— Alyssa Trillioneyes
* I have ended up thinking of all the slugs (the Slugmage included) as female. Why? Simply because, in the code, slugs that are about to be added to the world (perhaps they had been birthed by a font or dropped by the player) are referred to as daughters, by analogy with mitosis.