Creator of Against the Wall.
About Acheron (twitter: @michaelpconsoli)
Ludum Dare 23
Ludum Dare 22
Ludum Dare 21
Ludum Dare 20
Ludum Dare 18
Archive for the ‘LD #20 – It’s Dangerous to go Alone! Take This!’ Category
When I first read about the October Challenge, I was inspired, though I kind of missed the mark in the end. I had been working on a game called Against the Wall for months, since the LD #20 really. It was my dream to make it my first commercial game! Thing is, I was promoting it minimally, nothing much besides a couple forum topics, a blog, and an under-used Twitter account. I had been working on fulfilling my dream project in near secrecy, a bit afraid of the reception my rather unconventional first-person platformer might have received.
When I saw the challenge go up, I accepted it… sort of. I knew that the game would not be finished within a month, and I would be unable to sell any real copies. Instead of following the LD’s challenge, I started to follow my own hacked version of it. I’d make a Kickstarter project and recieve crowd-funding rather than sell a completed game. I also decided to add a new level to the game with some additional strangeness that would be a hook for people playing the alpha.
I was pretty preoccupied by this whole thing, making a video of me feverishly explaining the game and why I needed donations, scripting the new level, debugging constantly, and putting together a few new art assets. I was so distracted that I completely missed the deadlines for a some major indie games festivals. But no matter, My Kickstarter project was the real goal here.
By mid-October, I loaded a new version of the game and prepared to launch. It was a rather nerve racking experience, putting my game out there for the whole world to see, exposing it to potential scrutiny and so on. Nonetheless, I managed to press the launch button… five days later after my Amazon Payments account linked up with my new bank (a requirement for Kickstarter). I used the extra time to fix some of the more atrocious bugs, add checkpoints, and test the thing repeatedly.
Then I launched it. The praise was mostly positive, and I was happy. A little while later, a friend managed to get my game on a Kotaku article, which gave my site over 15 thousand visitors!
At the end of the month, after receiving a good number of donations, I had to decide whether to submit the game to the October Challenge. You can correct me if I’m wrong, but I felt as if my game did not qualify, being unfinished and lacking any real sales (the major rules for the competition). I hadn’t made a single dollar, Kickstarter only cashes out once the threshold has been reached. Instead, I opted to walk away from this particular challenge, satisfied in my own little victory.
Just thought I’d share it with you, and at least update everyone on that my LD#20 game has been progressing. I’m looking forward to the LD#22 and all the crazy game concepts that the community will come up with!
So the scores are in and LD20 has come to a close! Though I didn’t get any awards, I’m happy that I scored some points for innovation. Now that voting is over, I’ve decided to share the post-compo version of the game. I’ve fixed most of the gameplay issues that plagued my entry and likely led to its reduced score. Here is an overview of what I’ve added:
- The word now procedurally generates itself as the player moves through it, making it effectively infinite.
- Sounds for player movement, the environment, and brick movement.
- A skybox, windmill building, new models, and other artistic elements.
- A messaging/menu system that provides a minimal tutorial.
- Character scripts that have reduced sensitivity, better handling mechanics, etc.
- Options screen so that players can tweak controls and a/v settings.
- Inventory system.
- Elevators, roads, shops, farms, and new brick types.
- Story/NPCs etc.
It’s been fun working on this project, and I’ve learned a great deal in terms of game design and programming. Check out the game’s website for future updates and downloadable versions of the game. I’d like to hear your feedback!
Now for some self-analysis: On the Friday evening of the competition, I initially tossed around a number of ideas that in retrospect look like the ramblings of a madman. The best one was about a herd of cattle that get telekinetic powers and rampage through a city. Not wanting to do the animation for that, I eventually settled on something simpler: a 3D platformer where the player must climb something by using a special item that forms ledges. I was hoping for something Mirror’s Edge style with the platforming, but the eventual hasty execution of that game mechanic left something to be desired.
I made a bunch of boxes, wrote some C# code that made them react to the player’s input, and limited this input by requiring the acquisition of a special item. What the item was, I had no idea at this point. I was wavering between a tk glove or a magnetic device before calling it a magic wand and moving on.
Saturday began with a texture hunt. I grabbed a digital camera and took pictures of some marble and granite surfaces in a nearby park. Other elements photographed were a blue bath towel, a bookcase, and a random metal box. I applied the stone textures to the boxy models which I created the night before with Blender.
For the procedural world, I bit off more than I could chew. The number of bricks that would exist on even a small chunk of the wall would quickly add up into the thousands, causing my PC to chug. I spent almost all of Saturday on this feature.
Sunday started with mesh creation. I made a model for the quest giver and faced him away from the player’s starting point, so that the player may initially think it was a human silhouette in the distance. I pinned a note to him (that pops-up and goes away far too quickly) that quoted the theme of the competition, and placed the wand in front of him. I crafted the city-ledge high above the player, made fake walls for the unplayable areas, and scripted some code that would trigger the player’s “winning” of the game. Problem is, I didn’t test it. The blocks that I had placed in a gap under the city that were supposed to be movable were prevented from moving due to a glitch. Imagine my surprise when I found out that my compo entry couldn’t be beaten!
The take-away? Primarily, I need to budget my time better. I spent almost all of Saturday on my ambitious procedural generator. Placing the bricks by hand would have been well enough and would have taken less time. I should have focused more on the platforming gameplay and level design. Second, I should have set aside the last few hours of the compo for testing my game. Instead, I left everything to the last moment, resulting some major bugs. Third, I went into an eleventh-hour panic when I couldn’t log into my server and Dropbox was my only alternative, then panicked because I did not load it in the right compression format, then panicked that I didn’t initially put up a webplayer, ending-breaking bug, etc. In other words, I need to chill out.
The competition was a fun challenge, and its constraints forced me to think outside the box and make something unique and interesting. My objective now is to flesh-out the game world with some story, add a variety of gameplay mechanics, and form this mess of hastily assembled code into a game.
The game turned out perfectly, and I had a lot of fun making it. You play as a person stuck on a ledge on a world that is just one flat vertical surface. You must rise up to your city above using a ledge-creating device. I got the random generator to create an infinite world but my computer’s memory overloaded quickly. Rather than resolve the problem within the last few hours, I limited the size of the worldto about fifty chunks, with fake wall streaming off into the distance. Maybe I’ll fix this in an actual release! I really enjoy the Ludum Dare, and hope that I will be able to compete in the future as well.
Edit: I originally submitted a .7z file and did not know that still had 15 minutes to correct my submission to .zip! Thanks to PaperCutDoom for the save!
Another update for “Against the Wall”: Well, I just spent several hours making a procedural generator for the world environment. Every time you play, the bricks will be arranged randomly, save for those ledges which hold villages or other permanent structures. This took a big chunk of time out of my day, perhaps unnecessarily. What I have left to do:
- Create the place where you get the item that lets you manipulate the bricks.
- Create the objective: a village, its art assets, and “people”. Cardboard cutouts are a possibility should I run out of time.
- The sky, half of which will be dominated by the endless wall, the other half is a normal sky… only there is no Earth below. Also need to program the players’ death when they fall off the wall.
Another update to “Against the Wall”. The scripts for creating the ledges and making the blocks pop out of the wall are pretty much done. There are two ways to do it. LMB makes the block pop all the way out/in from the wall. RMB lets you drag it slowly into or out of the wall to the degree that you choose. Also, I’ve baked some textures/normal maps and applied it to the block model. In addition, I’ve created some preset “chunks” that are 64×64 units in size. In Minecraft style, new chunks will be loaded as the player nears the end of the world.
Also, special black blocks will be added that cannot be moved. These blocks will house static elements such as cities and story related elements. The blue block in the pic below is the player’s current target, in the middle of the screen.
I live next to a national monument, so after my restless sleep I picked up my digital camera and shot took some pics of the ground, a statue pedestal, and walls. I loaded them into the GIMP, made them seamless, and resized them. Here’s a sample pic of them. Looks like my game will be a shade of gray. I would have gotten some sky pics too, but it’s a bit cloudy outside. I’m unclear as to what the rules for pics from stock photo websites. If they’re downloaded during the compo, are they valid? Need to check the rules again. Not wanting to skirt any rules (and to go out for some air and coffee) I gathered these textures. Back to work.
So, it’s after 4 am and I’m up way past when I said that I would go to sleep. In my last post I was very enigmatic about what exactly my gameplay would be. Perhaps I should elaborate now. My game is called “Against the Wall” and is set against a planet shaped like an infinite vertical wall. Cities, roads, and people will rest on ledges formed by bricks in the wall that jut out into space. The method of ascent/descent through this world would be through an item which gives a person the ability to create ledges by loosening bricks and pulling them partway out. Players would create staircases going up and down, or roads moving horizontally. The objective is to reach your village high above your starting point.
I picked first-person platformer as my genre. Somewhat like Mirror’s Edge, so expect to plant your face against a number of walls and fall off of high places. Unity can handle the 3D rendering, I just have to code the gameplay and drop in some original assets (taking my camera out hunting for textures tomorrow). Here’s a screenshot that tells you absolutely nothing about the gameplay:
It’s past midnight on my coast. Time for some shut-eye.
Time to invest some of my sanity into a little game. This theme’s a toughie. First hours will be spent franticly scribbling down ideas, followed by some sleep. Using Unity3D, perhaps for something 2D… Perhaps I’m thinking too much about the theme and not the gameplay. After all, this isn’t so much a theme as it is a narrative setup. With that in mind, here I go!