Ludum Dare 26
Ludum Dare 25
Ludum Dare 25 Warmup
Ludum Dare 24
Ludum Dare 23
Ludum Dare 22
Ludum Dare 21
And I have something to show for it.
☑ Leaves room for the player to experiment
☑ Funky colors
☑ Crying bushes
☑ Minecraft clone, LSD Dream Emulator clone, aaht gaym
☑ “Trial version?” Really now?
☑ Bound to get comments like “this is too confusing!!”
☑ Shipping with bugs and don’tgiveafuck
I ended up jamming, and don’t regret the decision. Best to get something done after all, and it might even be kind of an interesting experiment. You have to connect a bunch of floating platforms by tending to supernatural plants. Keep them watered and collect more water from their droppings.
It’s quite zen but still puzzly. Not in the sort of obviously designed way as my puzzle games usually are, but in the way that you’ll naturally come across problems with your resources, and have to plan ahead. You’re just given the game board and some simple rules, which you’ll have to get the most out of.
A water pulse going through a plant. Not pictured: me haunted by ugly race condition bugs again.
(I’ll change that plant texture, don’t you worry.)
The Ludum Dare middle age crisis has arrived again, and as I see it, I’m at a crossroads:
1) I could try finishing the game in Unity despite not knowing what the hell I’m doing most of the time.
2) There’s still time to recreate what I have in Flashpunk, with hand-crafted 2D environments and puzzles, hopefully with at least the same degree of ambience as with crude lo-fi 3D terrain.
3) If I go for option 1 and don’t make it, I think I’ll have to do the unthinkable and take the extra 24 hours to jam.
4) Failing all that, I think I’ll just write these blog posts for the rest of the LD, making snarky but borderline abusive and intrusively personal comments about you people.
5) I can use the packet sauce.
I can use the packet sauce.
I can use the packet sauce.
Made content and screwed around with Unity in some kind of an improvisational haze. Might be a busy tomorrow.
Most importantly, I’ve managed to combine the two main ideas I had into some kind of a gardening game with environmental puzzles. I bet there’s demand for that niche somewhere. It’s a way to interpret the minimalism theme as both “zen gameplay” and “minimal actions producing complex results”. So I think I’ll roll with that one.
“Are you tree?”
“No I, am mountain”
“There is longway to enlightenment”
The 6th time, the arrival of Ludum Dare came from the behind. But it seems it’s really that time again.
Last LD, I created a perfect game, and it would’ve revolutionized arcade gaming if it wasn’t for you meddling kids. Now that there’s nothing left for me to conquer on that horizon, I feel like making something more abstract this time, like an interactive toy/simulation/”art game”. I suppose my code structure and such will reflect this too (I wouldn’t want to write the same pseudo-engine for the nth time).
Either way, now I want to do something different and just get into that improvisational creative outburst mode, because that’s the best way to get something out of LD.
(I secretly hate making games and only do it for these blog posts)
I’ve posted a post-compo version of Hunter to Hunted on Kongregate. This article focuses on said event, making it a post-”post-compo post” post. The new version fixes the bugs you never encountered, includes online high scores that you can only watch from the sidelines while drooling (most likely out of retardation rather than admiration), and adds a help menu to wrap your pathetic minds around those colorful funny things moving on the screen. Radical changes weren’t needed because one can’t improve on perfection.
Not that you’d deserve to pick the fruits of my efforts. Not that I’d expect you to understand the revolutionary nature of the gameplay after you’ve rated my entry #461 in Fun. I’m no mathematician, but it seems to imply you implied there were 460 more fun games in LD25, and that ain’t right.
I also wrote 25 pages of witty remarks, but they’d be wasted on a bunch of illiterate rednecks, so I’ll cut this short.
Now go to hell, and take my game with you. So you can try it out.
Taking one’s own previous LD entries, converting them to a portable framework and making them more like complete games, then packaging them as a “Ludum Arcade”.
It’s not like I’m foreshadowing or anything.
I’ve seen the infamous Ludum Dare come to an end for the fifth time! Once again I submitted a game I was satisfied with, but there were many who did not survive.
Ludum Dare is never the same thing twice, and nothing can fully prepare you for it. But unusually many things were different this time. The most glaring thing was my new framework, FlashPunk, which I learned thinking of game jams specifically. And by “new”, I mean I went from knowing Hello World to finishing my most addictive LD entry in 4 days.
This was a self-imposed challenge, and I conquered it. That’s what LD is all about.
But it wasn’t a case of going from point A to point B. The main theme in my development turned out to be redesigning and piecing things together.
In the beginning, it seemed deceptively easy. I had some routines from previous LDs, and FlashPunk felt convenient for getting things done fast, so I was already working on the presentation on the first day.
Little did I know I was riding a train to the wrong direction!
A ONE-WAY TRAIN!
In the last quarter of the compo, I reached the point I’d previously named the “Ludum Dare middle-age crisis”. I thought of all the possible games I could have made instead of wasting time on something so lackluster.
The final 10 hours was where the magic happened. I stopped beating around the bush and admitted to myself I didn’t like the gameplay; it didn’t have enough action, it didn’t have enough control, it didn’t have enough strategy. It wasn’t a game I’d wanted to play if it came up while rating entries. I decided I wasn’t going to take the easy way out and submit a mediocre, unfinished game. I wouldn’t be happy unless I improved somehow from the last time.
Finally, I made an effort to consider something fundamental.
Namely, the feel of the game. Something that can’t be communicated. The thing that separates gaming from other mediums. Being able to concentrate on it was why I’d chosen a small scope to begin with.
I had to remind myself, what do I want the game to feel like? What do I do to get there? Game design starts with the spark of motivation, a flash of what the finished product will feel like. You know, “wouldn’t it be awesome to have a game where…”. I had strayed too far from this initial impression and didn’t trust my intuition. It was time for me to stop and look back for once.
I had been racing for one stroke of insight, without realizing I’d already run past several. I just couldn’t feel them because the gameplay didn’t reflect them properly. I had been adding more and more unconnected ideas, taking the thing apart and rebuilding it over and over. The source code was a mashup of unfinished games with incompatible gameplay.
So I reviewed what was important to me – resource management, strategic preparation, micromanagement, emergent puzzles – and only left the features that I felt supported these.
Suddenly, it was fun to play. Success isn’t a linear path, often it’s failing and failing until there are so many failures that they block the exits and one of the balls is bound to go in.
Anyway, after the intense last stretch, I managed to submit in time, even with a couple of minutes to spare. Everything came together after all.
A quick recap would be in order:
What went right
- I learned something new about game design and Flash development.
- The music rocks, the graphics are crispy.
- The game is pretty simplistic while having lots of depth. Basically, I did the game I wanted to play.
What went wrong
- The code’s somewhat messy and rushed, leading to a bug that places two blocks in the same tile, and even a gamebreaking bug if you get far enough while playing it conservatively (in terms of enemy placement). I seem to encounter the latter annoyingly often nowadays…
- People are saying it’s confusing. Learning the mechanics through trial and error was something I was aiming for, but maybe more visual cues should be used to improve the process.
Based on those points, I’m pleased to announce I will be making a post-compo version of my entry! I’m going to at least clean up the code, squish the bugs, and add the “ignorable tutorial” I brainstormed in the comment section. I’d love to make upgraded versions of all my Ludum Dare entries some day, but I feel this one urgently deserves it, and it can be done feasibly. Hell, maybe I’ll even submit it to Kongregate with a high score feature.
Wow, I think I’m actually going to make it. Not that I’d doubted I’d finish, but the fun aspect of my game was a bit lackluster until the very last hours. Still has some minor collision bugs and lacks a real counter for scores, but it’s about as much game as you’re gonna get. And I must say it’s quite a gem as it is.
Yes, I could submit a mediocre game, one that offers nothing out of my comfort zone and ultimately teaches me nothing about game design.
However, it feels like the perfect mechanics are in my reach, mocking me when I fail to grasp them. My thoughts are stuck in a loop and all I get from it is that frustrating feeling of wasting potential. It’s like I’m trying to say something profound but can’t find the words.
It’s coming together. The monster gives you control beyond the y-axis – without adding more keys – and its building skills foreshadow some interesting puzzles. Right now, with the game mechanics (and the source code) being a mish-mash of completely different types of games, there’s some tedium when it comes to resource collecting.
The iterative nature of the game is one successful thing about it: your building decisions decide what troubles you’ll face. Puzzles are emergent and you’re your own worst enemy until you figure out some gimmicks. The intrusive time limit is gone, so the pacing is up to you, increasing the feeling of being in control. But there’s tasteful real-time elements when you do decide to pop out some items.
I also have a neat idea to give variety and an incentive beyond survival, known in the gamedev circles as “spam items randomly wololoo”. Holes with loot open in the background, and you have to build a way to get there. Otherwise the screen will gradually fill with loot for the pesky adventurers to collect, leaving you with that infinite queue thing again.
So with the time have left, more game, more polish. I could really use visual representations for things like the item queue. And a theme song is on the way.
Okay, so there’s still something that’s working. This LD I’ve tried to not add tons of new stuff but to make an addictive arcade game where there’s nothing that should be taken away. My warmup game reminded me how laughably simple games can be while still being fun. It’s about giving the players a set of constraints and letting them figure out which patterns work. However, it turns out minimalism’s kind of difficult, so most of my time has gone into design and twiddling.
It will keep getting reinvented, so I can’t be arsed to write too much about this iteration. I think there’s still some fundamental disconnection between what the player wants to do and how they can interact.
Anyway, it’s your chamber of pillaged treasures, which greedy Indiana Jones-wannabes are currently invading through the trap doors of your lair. Luckily you’ve got some traps wired up to the same exit pipe. Two spikes on top of each other make a solid block, and you gain resources back if you manage to trap loot under one. If an adventurer gets a hold of loot, however, he invites another one into the queue, cockblocking your traps.
If you run out of resources, the game won’t forget to mock you with a negative score and a prompt to restart, as if stuck up in its own incomprehensibility.
“The ‘R’ stands for ‘RTFM’, you noob.”
It is possible to survive for quite a while (until the board fills with loot and you’re stuck with an infinite queue of adventurers), getting there is just kind of repetitive because there’s not enough micromanagement. But it has the seeds of a good game.
We can go… wider?
So far so good, FlashPunk is a pleasantly fast way to get stuff on the screen. But the dams will open once I find a way to incorporate the grindy, cute appeal my warmup game had.
I don’t want to do the same Dungeon Keeper fangame everyone’s doing, I have something more gimmicky in mind. A bit like reverse Lemmings, maybe. Resource management, fast-paced micromanagement, some building and emergent puzzles. All these arising from minimal elements that interact effectively. As little physics and AI as possible, those aren’t usually worth the time when you can represent them with something more abstract and maybe even more interesting.
It might look something like this:
I told you I’d make a warmup. And now I feel… warm. It’s like piss running down my hairy legs.
I didn’t know anything about ActionScript or FlashPunk when I started this, but it only took a couple hours of actual work to make. Experience helped, but I had to unlearn things too. I mostly struggled with the tree generation (because I did it dumb the first time) and all that nasty reference stuff, combined with FlashPunk abstracting away information that I’m used to being ubiquitous. Still, I get the impression it’s a powerful framework once you learn its way of thinking, and it feels great to have maed gaem with it.
But much like warm piss, transient feelings of success go cold fast. An ambitious developer always aims higher, all the way to integer overflow.
The real test is exactly two days away. Not sure if picking up Ogmo would be worth it at this point. I think I’ll just go take a look at others’ FlashPunk games and see how I’ve been doing everything all wrong.
5th time and you’re all cringing at the sight of me, but I’m not going anywhere. In fact, I’ll be bringing over some people who were interested in Ludum Dare. (Though we’ll do individual entries, in no small part due to our jam experiment having been a car crash.)
There’s 8 days left so I’d even have time to learn a new tool. Despite being decent at C and C++, I still don’t want to use them on the basis that they’re no good for getting shit done fast. Flashpunk and Unity sound more fitting for LD, and I’ve seen a lot of great games done with them, so I’ll take a look.
But if everything else fails, I’ll always have my Pygame. My steam-powered, no-guarantee, only-khlav-kalash Pygame.
I hate twiddling with physics, and already have a platformer on the way, so I’ll do something abstract and arcadey again – just like my previous two entries, except something completely different. Of course, I can only hope you’ll show similar competence in choosing a theme as in LD#24. The only thing I can guarantee is your “dis game 2 hard” comments.
People often wonder, “what the hell is going on in Jiggawatt’s head?”. Well, now’s your chance to find out with this timelapse of my LD24 compo entry, Manual Population Control.
One point of interest is that the visual style only gets designed at about 3/4th of the way, when I quickly slap proper images on top of the squares. I can’t even imagine having “excess sprites” like some of you have mentioned. You people are weird and I’m the only sane person here.
(Perhaps I should’ve checked if there’s anything overly private shown in that video before uploading. Oh well.)
I also made that gameplay video I wanted. People are pretty clueless about what’s going on in my game (and for a reason), so I hope this is at least proof that there is a point to this game.
See, I tend to make my games for myself, without the need to rely on buzzwords like “ease of use” or “tutorial mode”.
But I like to think my game is fair once you get the hang of it: you can always easily blame yourself for doing something wrong or having left something undone. It has that same addictive charm as roguelikes, in a sense, so I feel like it’s successful at what I set out to do. The mechanics are quite simple in the end (as a result of cutting down features), but there are some interesting strategies emerging from them.
‘Evolution’ as a theme was what I was hoping for but not expecting. I think my problem at the start was an excess of ideas rather than a lack of them. My first impression was that I’d make something like a strategy game where you indirectly guide the evolution of entities, and I had a couple of potential executions branching out from this vague “feeling” I wanted to capture.
I quickly decided I wanted to make something abstract, because fixing physics/collisions/pathfinding bugs has previously taken too much time from the actual design and content creation. It was a good decision because I had some spare time to fine-tune mechanics and just try things out, as well as add polish. Oh, and to keep proper breaks and have a good night’s sleep. Incidentally, MPC has probably the best graphics & audio I’ve made for an LD game.
It’s still not perfect, I guess, at least I want to believe that I haven’t hit my skill ceiling just yet. There are no proper animations, subtle things that would indicate gameplay events like who is attacking whom. That’s probably my biggest gripe because I realize how a developer can guide players with visual cues, and now I just resorted to writing a lengthy manual (plus the gameplay video) while leaving the rest for the imagination. I guess I should consider the user experience at some point, but it’s easy to get lost in the mechanics when there’s nobody else playtesting.
But overall, I’m once again satisfied at what I’ve done. It was my 4th LD and I’ve never failed to make a game, so I feel like I’m a lucky person when watching everyone around me give up. That feeling of clicking ‘Submit’ after two stressing days is just euphoric. You can’t plan everything in advance, so the end result is always a surprise from you to yourself. But that’s the point, to get over that perfectionism and just improvise and make a damn game.
In two days, I went from this:
It’s actually simpler than it looks, but trust me, just as difficult. I feel sorry for you for having to play this without a proper manual, and for myself for having to write one (or better, to make an educational gameplay video).
I’ll submit it in just a second, it’ll show up here: http://www.ludumdare.com/compo/ludum-dare-24/?action=rate&uid=5551