So here’s my first (mini) Ludum Dare submission. It’s a week early, but due to Sophie’s leniency on this month’s rules and the fact that I’m going to be busy the next weekend, I thought I’d best get it done now (plus my wife went to visit a friend so it was the perfect opportunity to do some hardcore coding!)
The collaborator is my wife, and we discussed the theme “Greatest Fear”. She’s a bit of a hippy, so her greatest fear is environmental change, where loggers, evil corporations and cities have taken over the world and there are no more trees and greenery. We talked about a potential game idea, perhaps a 3D globe where you could save the world by strategically preventing loggers from clearing forests, planting trees and building sustainable energy centres. In the end though, we decided that the idea was turning into some sort of dry economic simulation, and although it was probably educational you have to ask yourself the question: Is this game going to be any fun?
I returned to the idea a few days later and looked at it from a new perspective: gameplay. The environmental theme is still there but the game is much more focused now.
The premise is that there are 2 sides, the Hippies and the Loggers, each fighting to own a piece of land. The Hippies want to plant trees and the Loggers want to cut them down and build cities. Each side gets a selection of units to send out into the field: you have Bulldozers, which are very slow but have immense pushing power, Hippy Vans which are fast and agile but not as powerful, and Hippies & Lumberjacks which are the generic ground troops and are cheap to produce. Units that reach the other side wins some land for your side but you will need to defend it from incoming units as well. The result is a fast paced twitchy game with subtle strategy using a tug of war mechanic. You’re constantly sending out your troops to push the other side back and hopefully get some of your units to the other side as well. I drew heavy inspiration from games such as Plants vs Zombies, and an old PC game called Gearheads. For 2 days solid effort I’m quite pleased with how it’s turned out.
You can try the prototype here
I created all the graphics and programming myself using Photoshop and Flex/Flash. Sound effects were created in sfxr and for the soundtrack I used royalty free music from soundtaxi.net. I got my wife to do a bit of voice acting too! As this is my first Ludum Dare I found the whole process to be a great learning experience. I’ve never written such bad quality code in a long time and yet this is also the first time I’ve managed to complete a game programming project. I think when you really let go of professional development values and ignore things like perfect design patterns and just embrace rapid prototyping, it becomes a whole lot easier to deliver something of a unique value.
Aside from the usual polish and cosmetic details, there are a number of improvements I would like to make should I decide to take this game further. More unit types and more interesting unit behaviours would be good (eg. a police car might scare away hippy activists and make them change direction, or a giant ent might crush bulldozers but also be vulnerable to lumberjacks). The various unit variables need additional tweaking to balance out the gameplay (unit speed and pushing power for example). Finally, some kind of intelligent AI as right now all computer actions are completely random (gasp!)
Hope you enjoy, it’s been an exhausting weekend but I will certainly look forward to the next event!