Last LD marked my first attempt at making a game in under 48 hours, and I ended up being quite happy with the result. Evo Dash got a lot of very positive reviews, and ended up at #19 in Fun and #50 in Overall. So one might wonder what I have left to learn from this modest success? Turns out: a lot! Here’s a short list of the things I did well, and the things I failed, or could have done better.
Things I did well
- I am very happy with how the gameplay turned out. When I started out, I had a very vague idea about a cancer simulation in the human body, and I just started coding. The game completely evolved from that initial point to something extremely different, changing from a game about cancer (the origins can still be found in many class names) to a game about evolving rules and survival. I just freestyled my way through it and it really worked out great: I followed my instincts and didn’t lose any time writing down nice ideas or concepts.
- I like the graphics. Not because they’re extremely beautiful, but because they do the job, and I’m very proud of that, because I really really SUCK at doing graphics. I quickly decided that my only option was to go with abstract shapes, and managed to get some cuteness out of them in the process (eyes!)
- I loved my choice of platform: HTML5/JS is a dream for something like this. HTML5 has extremely fast (instant) code-test cycles (no compilation), good API’s to build on (canvas), immediate playability and accessibility and so much more. No setup costs either; all I used was Chrome and Sublime Text, the best text editor on the planet.
- I really like the overall feel and presentation of the game. I spent quite some time tuning the graphics and adding small details (shake effects, flashes, random colors, game tips, a nice menu, etc), and it really paid off in presentation. First impression is important and I think mine was solid.
Things I did not so well
- I really skimped on one really important part of the game: the music and sound effects. I truly believe my game would have ended considerably higher with an adrenaline-filled, pumped soundtrack underneath it to support the hectic gameplay and graphics. Sound effects also add greatly to the feel of the game, and I should not have neglected them. But I still do not really know how to go about adding them. I can’t really compose myself, and have no idea how to make sound effects, so I’d have to scavenge from the internet. Where to start? I have no idea.
- I spent quite some time optimizing the game to run on all browsers and on slower machines, time I could have spent better on other areas. But that’s the downside of the current state of HTML5: even though some browsers (chrome, IE9) are extremely fast, some others (Firefox) are slow, and you really need to pay attention to how you implement certain things to get it to run quick enough.
Still, I am very happy with the result (and ratings), and decided to go forth and build a mobile version of the game, so this gets us straight to…
Because there is no way this game was going to run in the browser on mobile devices, I had to port it to a different platform. So I spent the last month porting the game to Unity, adapting it for touchscreen and adding LOTS and LOTS of new stuff, including making the game kind-of-3D. I also got an artist in on the project to give the graphics a proper overhaul. After slightly over one month, this is what the game now looks like:
The game is coming along very nicely, and we hope to wrap up in a couple of weeks. We really improved the original game in every possible way, greatly pimped the graphics and added tons and tons of different evolutions that can happen. We’re now at the point that it becomes time to start reaching out to press, and hopefully get some buzz going for this game. I really believe we have something special here, something unique plays perfectly on mobile as a quick go-to game, comparable to Canabalt or Doodle Jump.
One sore point at this moment is the lack of sound and music. We’re not going to make the mistake again of releasing a game with bad or missing sound effects, so we took a two-pronged approach to this problem. Firstly, from the start, we used a temporary free track from Danny B’s website that represents the atmosphere of the game well to test it with. This allowed me to incorporate the music in the game early-on, which also resulted in the entire game being synched to the beat to give it a better flow. We are now getting in contact with sound effect artists and composers to find a suitable match for the final soundtrack of the game.
Things are looking great for Evo Dash, and if everything goes right, we should have a release on our hands before the end of October, which will hopefully make a little more than 1 dollar. This all resulted from my first Ludum Dare participation, so you can be damn sure I will be back for more of this later. I realized that competitions like these are excellent for trying crazy game ideas without getting lost in details, because they force you to focus on the core with the strict time constraint.
I will keep you guys up to date on the progress as we get closer to a release!