Posts Tagged ‘ld25’
I’m in for my fourth time.
The tools will be pretty much the same as always: C# code, Unity3D (with my simple 2D Tools), cheap gfx with Gimp or Paint.net, Bfxr.
I’m back for a third go at Ludum Dare. After a first rather successful (in the personally fulfilling sense) and second substantially more successful entry, I feel. I will be entering with very similar sets of tools as the past two times but this time I will entering with ROCK-HARD DETERMINATION. That determination, of course, is to make something that makes me happy.
- Language: Lua
- Framework: LÖVE
- Code Editor: Sublime Text
- Music Writing: MuseScore
- Audio Editing: Adobe Audition CS6
- Image Editing: Adobe Photoshop CS6
Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!
Today I released MidBoss (v0.5 beta), because stuff might still change and/or break) as a feature complete game. It’s an overhauled, rebalanced version of my LD25 game, and my January entry for One Game a Month.
MidBoss is a game about possessing your defeated enemies in order to become stronger. You play the weakest of the dungeon denizens, an imp with no ability other than possessing other creatures. Your goal is to defeat and possess increasingly stronger creatures, unlocking their abilities for yourself and becoming stronger as you go along, and eventually defeat and become the dungeon’s ultimate endboss.
Features now include:
- Possess your enemy and gain their strengths and skills
- Dynamic music system with more frenetic music to accompany action
- Line of sight and fog of war systems
- A total of 15 monsters to defeat and 10 skills to unlock
- Randomly generated dungeon floors
- Single-file save and resume
- Permanent death, if you die your save is gone (save-scumming is available)
- Full options menu including key rebinding
I had never participated to Ludum Dare. Sometimes because of lack of inspiration, very often because of lack of time, sometimes because when I noticed that the jam had began, it was already ended. For Ludum Dare 25 that was organized last month, I was aware of it just some hours after the launch. The theme was inspiring and I also had a funny (at least in my opinion) idea.
Click on the image to get it!
MidBoss post compo version
So, MidBoss did fairly well in the ratings. I won’t bore you with the full overview, but it came in #81 in fun, and #91 overall. Pretty good! I kind of wish I hadn’t taken Sunday off, maybe it would’ve done better as a compo entry than a jam entry. It’s not like I actually spent the available 72 hours on it, but oh well.
Since the competition I’ve been working on the game, to polish it up and make it more playable. The post compo version is now ready and you can get it here. Keep in mind that I intend to change core gameplay mechanics to make the game easier to balance and maintain in the future! New features include:
- Dynamic line of sight and lighting
- Save/resume feature (save scumming is available)
- Dynamic music system
- Options menu (also for key rebinding!)
- Various bugfixes
And that’s not the end of MidBoss, I want to keep developing it further, so if you have any comments or feedback, or want to keep updated on progress, please follow @Enichan!
Just realized I hadn’t posted this timelapse of our jam entry recorded by Toinane (thanks!) here yet:
The first 16 minutes show us working an infiltration game (first 24h), but then as we realiezd we weren’t going to be able to do something fun and complete in the short time left, we decided to switch to a simpler, more directly fun project involving a dictator shooting tourists hogging his beach. You can start watching at 16:45 if you want to see the second project directly.
The software we used to work together in real-time is called CraftStudio (I’m the developer of it), it’s a blocky, pixelarty 3d game-making platform with a strong focus on being easy to use for people of all backgrounds / ages and featuring fully collaborative editing tools over the Internet.
If you haven’t already, you can play Beach, please! here. It’s fun, I promise.
This was my first Ludum Dare and I must say it was an awesome experience. I’ve learned a lot and I’m also pretty amazed by how much I got done in those two days. So here’s the post mortem for my entry.
What went right
Since this was my first LD I didn’t really know what to expect or how much I would be able to get done. So I was amazed that I actually got the core gameplay working given the fact I went for simulation game. I was also surprised at my own coding. Usually I tell people I’m not a very good coder but looking back all I did was coding
So I’m pretty happy how the game plays. Its fun to watch the citizens walk around and do their thing. The initial brainstorming and mind mapping helped me a lot as well in filtering out game ideas. The minimalistic graphic style turned out well but this may also be due to my previous games and experience with it. Ultimately it allowed my spent as much time coding as possible.
What went wrong
The core game concept was to force the player to suppress their citizens in order to win the game. So even the player has good intentions he will be looked as an evil king in the eyes of his citizens. The problem with this concept is that it was difficult to generate enough feedback to the player so he would understand it. I also stumbled upon how to communicate to the player that he has to force his people back to work in order to win the game. The intro story of the immediate great drought tries to provide some motivation and context but I’m not sure of people even did read all that. I tried to display angry citizens by placing a dark cloud above their heads but something else like them rallying and demonstrating in front of the castle probably would’ve been better.
Another thing was that depending on the camera zoom some things got lost and they player didn’t get what was going on or why things happened a certain way. This brings me to the next issue. The user interface which displays necessary game information but in a unappealing and cryptic way. For example its very easy to lose track of the food count.
I didn’t have time to create a tutorial or some introduction to the gameplay mechanics. I also didn’t have time to properly playtest the game in the end and there are some severe balancing issues.
Feedback is king! Because if the player doesn’t get whats going on the game isn’t going to be much fun, unless of course thats to point of the game. This is a kind of obvious thing but it gets lost so easily in between all those awesome features inside your head. I’ll definitely spend more time on communicating things better to the player in my next Ludum Dare. I’ll also try to do a simpler game so I’ll actually have enough time for that as well. I’m definitely looking forward to it.
If you want to play the game then follow this link.
First of all, happy new year, everyone!
So, I’ve rated around 100 games by now and what I can say is: wow. You guys can really make incredible things in a short time. It was great to see that everyone went through this and came up with so many creative ideas and games, it really inspires me to see so many people trying hard to create something good. This was really a great experience.
Participating on this ludum dare was a surprise to me. I was home on friday thinking about how cool it would be to participate but i couldnt, i wouldn’t be home on saturday so i didn’t have enough time. I couldn’t do it, i gave up. But then, when i got home on the saturday night i started looking at all of your posts and i really couldn’t hold myself. I needed to participate. Many ideas started floating around my head, “you are the villain” was a really cool theme too. I coudn’t really do much on the saturday because i was really tired, but on the other two days i couldn’t stop working on my first game: Target:Restaurant!
Yeah, my first game! And i’m really happy about it! Its not really finished tho, there’s just a little bit of gameplay but i had so much fun making it and seeing the result and the feedback.. You guys are the best. Thanks for all your advice and compliments, i really aprecciate it, i learned a lot from this competition. I’m working on a full version of my game and i will be finishing it soon!
Happy New Year, folks!
I thought it’s time to write a postmortem too. For those who haven’t seen my game yet, you can find it by clicking on one of these conveniently placed handcrafted icons:
And now without further ado, here we go:
Some things went wrong
Yup, I’ll make that the first section. I think the game turned out pretty well all in all, so I’ll let the best come last!
Not everything went right though. First and foremost: It took me hours and hours to get motivated. Motivation is my biggest problem when I work alone. I’m not too good with game design, and often I don’t see if a game can be great before it becomes great – which seldom happens in the first few hours. There are many moments on the first day where I wanted to give up. What helped me was to remember that I’ve felt this way before with other projects and they turned out great! And now I have another one of those.
What didn’t help either is that I have no definitive base code library, I extracted my base code from another project and had to delete stuff that doesn’t fit. And then post it here. It takes time, and I don’t feel too good about it as it goes a bit against the Ludum Dare spirit. I’ll take care of that soon and will have one for the next LD!
Unsurprisingly, the clock wasn’t kind to me. Two of the levels were created in 10 minutes before the deadline. The first level is my “easy” test level, and the fourth level is my “hard” test level. I didn’t even have time to test the two in between. The third level works quite well, the second is awful but at least it’s beatable in about 1 1/2 minutes…
The music doesn’t sound stealthy at all. I am no musician, so this is no surprise. I’m not sure if I want to put enough energy in this to get better just for the LDs, so I guess I’ll just have to deal with that. I should have added an option to turn it off though.
Some things went right
Probably the most important thing: I wrote a to-do list before I started. This is so incredibly helpful and I hope all of you are doing it. For those who are not, here are the benefits of doing it:
- You think about the code design along the way. It’s not as exhausting, restricting and time intensive as doing a full-blown software design and it still gives you a general sense of what you need.
- You can always look how much you still have to do and how you’re doing progress-wise.
- Most importantly: It keeps you from digressing. At least that’s what it does for me – every time I feel like I’m lacking clear directions, I check my to-do list. Works without fail.
I had a level editor at hand. Mind you, it’s nothing fancy – it couldn’t be easier actually:
Yup, it’s just TextPad – with an XML file, shown with a slightly modified version of the Laser Systems font. It’s dead easy to parse. I’ll surly have something fancier in the future when I’m more established with games that actually need an editor, but for now its service was perfect.
It was 10 hours before the deadline. There was no time to be wasted. Yet I was idle browsing the FlashPunk forum without anything specific to look for. And guess what I found: TileLighting [1.0.1], made 6 days before the Ludum Dare. On an impulse, I spent 2 hours to integrate it. Here is the result:
Is there are lesson to be learned from that? I have no idea. All I know is that it made the game SO much better – it basically gave the game one of its major mechanics.
Speaking of major mechanics, I was 8 hours before the deadline and I had to decide which single feature on my huge to do list I wanted to implement – all others were to be discarded. I decided on lock-picking, and it turned out great. After the light became such an essential tool in the game, I decided to link the lock-picking to the lighting level – just how it would be the case in real life: The more light you have, the easier it is to do something hard. This feature received the most praise in the comments which makes me pretty happy!
Another important thing was that I focused on what I can do best: Gameplay. I could’ve spent more time on the graphics, but then it still wouldn’t look good and be much less fun. I think the abstract graphics are working well for the time being.
Another good thing was that I inserted sound effects and music. They might not sound as well as in other games where the developers actually know what they are doing, but it’s still a vast improvement to silence! I think I did both in 1 1/2 hours. With 48 hours in total, there is no excuse not to add them.
Here’s one more on gameplay: Enemies don’t have to be intelligent, they just have to work and be fun. I thought about implementing pathfinding, but took a far easier route in the end and I fare just as well:
- Enemies just patrol a straight line.
- When they hit a wall, they go left or right.
- When they scrape a wall and find an opening, sometimes they enter it.
- An enemy that spots a player goes to where he saw him last, then follows the player’s trail a few seconds:
And yup, that’s it. Just going straight for a point, then following a trail the player leaves. It’s was rather easy to make and is a lot of fun to play against!
I have no idea how much impact the fact that I made a gameplay video had, but I think it was a pretty good idea. It can give people a sense of the game if they don’t have enough time or incentive to play it and it can provide basic instructions for those who don’t like to read and can’t figure it out by just playing. It’s not hard to make, it doesn’t take much time and you can do it after the deadline: You should definitely make one too!
Some things were learned
A few lessons learned/tips:
- Don’t like the theme? Neither did I. Deal with it! You can still make a fun game. It’s not like you have to design your whole game around it. Sure, that would be cool – but having a game that will get 1/5 in the Theme rating is still better than having no game at all because you gave up before you even started.
- Keep calm and carry on: Never give up while there is still time! Maybe the game isn’t great now and you don’t have any idea how to improve it, but if you carry on, inspiration will hit.
- A to-do list helps to keep you on track. It also helps with the design. And tells you were you stand progress-wise. Write one before you start developing.
- Focus on what you do best. For me that’s gameplay, and that’s why my game isn’t as pretty to look at as other games, but it’s a lot of fun.
- Add sound effects and music. Even if you’re not good at it, I guarantee that your game will feel FAR better with them, and with good tools, it won’t take you long to make and insert it either. (In case of doubt, just add an option to turn off the music.)
- Sleep. Yeah, 48 hours isn’t much time, but if you’re fresh you work better. And who knows what kind of ideas you get when you’ll get your subconscious some time to rest?
- Music for Programming is pretty cool. Especially when you’re having a hard time concentrating.
Some features were discarded
Are you interested in what I wanted to implement, but ran out of time to do? Here is a quick breakdown:
- Level / Gameplay
- Treasure makes you slower
- Treasure: Weight (can only carry certain amount)
- Step-on mines
- Alarm Level
- Enemies shoot
- Vanishing / Hidden after time
I don’t want to elaborate on these, just give a quick impression, but it’s such a pity that some of them are missing! I wanted to have lasers as obstacles, maybe switching on and off, traps to force you to have a higher light level (and maybe a trap disarming mini game), an alarm level slowly escalating difficulty when you’re seen, enemies shooting at you, and my favourite: Dynamite to break walls, but alerting every guard even if they can’t see you.
But well, you can only do so much in 48 hours. All in all, I’m pretty happy with the result. It’s a very good feeling I did that all on my own, and I am glad I participated!
Some thanks are offered
Thanks to the Ludum Dare organizers and to the great, great community! You guys have made a wonderful thing here and are doing all of this in your free time and it is so much appreciated! I cannot believe how many games were made, and how many kind comments I got on my game – I’ve seldom experienced such a friendly community. I had a great time and I will definitely participate again!
Do you have any questions I didn’t elaborate on? I’ll happily answer them in the comments! And you could leave a little comment if you enjoyed reading this or what you rather wanted to read.
Apropos, one last thing: Thanks a lot for reading this postmortem! It hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed writing it. (And it’s probably pretty obvious, but maybe you want to follow this other conveniently placed link and rate my game? Your feedback means a lot to me!)
@xbelanch was kind enough to produce an OS X build of my LD25 game, Bad Puppy, so you can now play the game if you’re a Mac user.
I am not sure whether the build he produced was the compo version or the post-compo, as I am unable to play it myself due to lack of Mac. Easiest way to tell is if the people in the game are all male and have green sweaters, it is the compo build.
The OS X build is not up on the main site yet, so for now please obtain it from the Mirror link.
Herein, I unearth a few more hidden games that I found by poking at random icons in the “Browse All Entries” screen. I hit a run of about 5 awesome games in a row, so two of these are from that streak.
We see a lot of first-time Unity users do the same thing, wherein they drop the standard CharacterController down into a scene with a standard 1st person POV camera, don’t change the control scheme, and proceed to experiment with importing some assets, throwing around some particle effects, and getting a handle on sending messages around the Heirarchy. While all these things appear to be true of White Rabbit, there’s a huge investment in attention to detail that make it stand strongly apart from others that do the same thing. The textures and shaders are gorgeous. The overall aesthetic makes it such that the floating text narration feels right. The dramatic timing and set design is thoughtful and masterfully executed. The theme is only tenuously followed, but I can forgive that in light of the polish and excellence in presentation here.
This game gave me some very vague and brief flashbacks to Tecmo’s Deception back on the PS1, if that game had more of a board-game feel to it. I very much enjoyed playing around with efficient floorplans and dungeon layouts. Even lowly spike pit rooms have uses not just for proper spacing but because there are heroes that are particularly weak to them.
I actually felt pretty bad after I played Vixen. Sure, it’s a game. Yeah, I’m exploring all the options given. Still, the particular villain type you’re playing here is both low and all too common. The banality of the situation kind of got to me. Once you’re done being a jerk, it might be worth going back and playing one more time and find a way to *not* be one after all.
Although it wasn’t my first game, it was my first LD. My first game was in HTML5 too, for a jam in two weeks, it was a TD with physics and A* pathfinding, made from scratch. It was completely broken, buggy and with bad programmer art.
However, I’m writing the postmortem for anoher game, a platformer. I couldn’t make a timelapse, as it missed the first 4 hours (programming,music,some art), and the last 2 hours(uploading the game somewhere). The link is here.
Stuff that went well:
- It was playable by the deadline
Stuff that went wrong (unavoidable)
- Time. The first day was completely killed, and the second day, I was too tired to think straight. That probably caused the bugs.
- For some reason, my laptop keyboard broke. It was just after uploading it for the first time. Then I somehow managed to fix the mute button bug at least on Mozilla Firefox, but gave up, as typing i dfficult with a broke keybord.
Stuff that went wrong (avoidable)
- Writing collision detection from scratch. Do not try this at a 48h compo.
- Lack of audio skilz.
- Bad programer art (it was supposed to be placeholder, but as it was nearing deadline, I had to make cuts).
- The controls bug. I tried to do something cool with them, but failed trying. However, fixing that bug would probably make the game evr more borng.
- Wrong hardcoded values (too weak gravity, too strong stiction to ground, too much control in the air, too weak hardness of the protagonist
Greetings all! A week-and-a-bit after the fact, here’s a mini post-mortem of our LD 25 Jam entry – SUPER Witch Hunter Pro.
Overall, the Jam was a fantastic experience for us both. It’s the first time we’ve worked as a team on a finished indie game, and has whet both our appetites for more of the same. At the very least we’ll be taking SWHP to a further finished version after LD judging is completed.
Overall, things went quite well.
We made good use of our first hour with a focused discussion about how villains can be interpreted in various media, and the different approaches to playing as one. It wasn’t long before we settled on subject of history judging once righteous/heroic actions as villainous or unseemly. The most compelling villains are often well-intentioned, and history often decides where villainy lies. Our scenario – What if 17th century European witch burnings were today widely perceived as good and heroic deeds, and how would they have been realized as a series of hit arcade games? We were both inspired by this, and it energized us both from the offset.
- General design & Scope
Since subject matter and history were quite “heavy” – what with women being burned alive at the stake (and worse) – we decided a simple arcade gameplay treatment would help lighten (or conceal) the tone, as well as forcing us to boil down a complex situation into basic elements. Those elements became Pyre, Wood, Witch and Fire. We looked at Game & Watch titles as an example of the sort of “plate-spinning” gameplay we wanted, though we decided to take it a step further, with many small simple loops operating in a single screen layout. We set ourselves a gameplay goal that wasn’t too ambitious, but suitable for LD. It was important to us that we could realize something relatively final, without too many obviously unfinished elements.
We both knew exactly what we were doing as a team, and where our individual strengths and responsibilities were. There was little to no downtime during the Jam due to this. We prioritized tasks that were dependencies for each other, so that there was no waiting for one another.
Implementation per design/plan went without too many hitches or serious bugs. The Pyre object acted as a nice anchor for much of our gameplay events, which helped concentrate development efforts.
- Art, 2.5d Approach
We decided early to go with 2.5d, largely sprite animation due to the short dev time and classic arcade inspired gameplay. A fixed camera allowed us to exploit a lot of time-saving tricks, and provided the game with a strong visual style. This choice allowed us to very quickly test and finalize character, gameplay and level assets.
- Scoring & General Feedback
Although we certainly could have had more, we were both pleased enough that we managed to address most important game events with visual and aural feedback. A decent variety of text dialogue/copy lent the game some added character. Scoring with combos and a basic rankings system being intact helped us get closer to our arcade game goal. These things went a long way towards making our entry feel complete.
Though not our collective strong suit, it was great we managed to get in as much as we did – ensuring no screen was too aurally empty and key events had sound. As well as boosting the final presentation, ranting about burning heretics for the VO recording was a great way to release some pressure during rapid development.
We’re planning to add all of these and more in a future (post-LD) version.
- Difficulty curve
Though we had several avenues for adding a difficulty curve, and it being fairly necessary; we knew we wouldn’t have time to properly adjust or test it, or to make It obvious enough it was in effect. We left it out so that everyone that played the game once would at least be exposed to all it had to offer.
- Victory Conditions
You can’t technically “win”. Though this is true to the arcade and game & watch references, it’d still have been nice to provided round/levels for a greater sense of progression and encouragement. As we didn’t include a difficulty curve, however, there was little basis for inserting this (and not enough time).
- Pyre score feedback
One important feedback layer we didn’t have time for was the score earning display which would appear at the pyre on “Burn Complete”. Unfortunately, though the combo (Serial Burn) bonus multiplier is working in the final game, it’s not really something the player is aware of due to this feedback not being there.
- Gating, Rain, Cauldron Bombs…
Evolving level design to include dynamic blocking and slowing volumes, rain clouds which slow or reverse fire growth, wood thieves, witches flying overhead with cauldron goop bombs, other stuff to set on fire… all the “next step” ideas that you gotta drop due to time
- More Power-ups!
To go hand in hand with more hazards, a greater variety of power-ups would have exposed further gameplay depth.
- Piety loss feedback
Since this is essentially player HP, more obvious feedback is needed – especially when failure was imminent.
Play the game:
Song of the Entry (I still have this stuck in my head…)
As happy as we are with the game, I think the biggest positive for us was our proven ability to work well as a team, and under within the time constraint. LD has really empowered us to push harder at making indie development a personal reality. So – thanks LD!
from Ben & Jerry
@JerryVerhoeven | @benjkers
This article is a copy from my blog.
On December 15th, Ludum Dare 25 started. As usual, this was an interesting experience, as exciting and awesome as it was soul-crushing. But this might be just me.
Like before, I didn’t have the right idea for the theme. This time it was “You are the Villain”, which was a better theme than usual, but unfortunately it only triggered gameplay concepts for me which all belong into the “that was already made before” category. So the first thing coming into my mind was “Dungeon Keeper”, and as much as I’d like to do a game similar to this awesome piece of gaming history, it just would be a clone without the right amount of innovation (or would it?). Among the other ideas I had were a “Pirates!” roguelike, a game where you control four bandits at once (robbing innocents and wandering around) and a board game creator where you’re the dungeon master placing the monsters (think “HeroQuest” or so).
None of these ideas were the incentive for me to actually start developing (although I still like them). In my mind, I combined them, added features and the result got bigger and bigger, and after finally deciding that it would be too much of a hassle, I started at zero again. Then I came back to a thought I had days before, namely the thought that often, good ideas for games (mostly puzzle platformers) are those which are inspired by childrens’ fantasies. So I imagined a bit what a child could think, and being able to grab the moon with the fingertips and move it around just like that, well, that seemed like a good candidate. At this point, the theme was still in the back of my head, but I tried to ignore it mostly as it obviously would just hinder me to actually develop anything. I never was good in the “Theme” category, and for that I’m sorry, but I don’t think it’s the category I want to shine, really.
I tried to create a Unity3D prototype out of that idea with the moon. Of course, prototypes become the real game eventually when doing a game jam, but first I wanted to see if I could actually create something like that. The main problem to begin with was the scale of the object currently grabbed, as it always has to be the same size for the player, no matter how far or near it would be away. I read something about the focal length of a camera before and I thought I had to factor this in in any case. I experimented (using some basecode I already announced in my “I’m in!” post) and searched on the internet, but it just wouldn’t work right. The object’s subjective size didn’t stay constant, and being very frustrated, I stopped after a while.
Thus, I re-evaluated the idea of the four bandits. This one would follow the theme and I’d really like being able to control a group of (evil) adventurers – in first person perspective! In order to make it easier for myself, I started programming the movement (again in Unity3D), which would be along the cardinal directions only and also on a grid. Just like those age old games you might know, “Dungeon Master”, “Eye of the Beholder” or “Legend of Grimrock”. In the end, the movement worked somehow, and you could add NPCs to your party, and press a button to see all four viewports at once. Probably I could have made a more or less full game out of it, but at this point I didn’t see how I could add “fun” easily and I stopped yet again.
second prototype, no fun
With the thought of fun being the most important part of it and without really expecting any results for this Ludum Dare anymore, I got back to the first prototype, and suddenly, the old problem was gone. Thinking about the focal length was a dead-end, and just getting rid of it was the way to get it work. The only problem now was the collision detection of an object that would get bigger the further it goes. Using Unity3D’s SphereCast() was the wrong direction, because the size of the collision sphere would be always the same. So now CheckSphere() gets called with a gradually increasing size of the radius parameter, and it does that a lot of times every frame – because of the simple nature of the rest of the game, this was possible without any noticable performance hits (at least on my computer). Of course, this means that every object basically has an additional bounding sphere, and that’s why most objects sometimes don’t behave as expected, especially those which don’t have uniform dimensions.
first prototype, working
I uploaded the first prototype of the game – just a simple demonstration of the gameplay – late in the night, and those who actually started it and “got it”, said it could be awesome. Yay, motivation! Also, I earned myself some sleep. The next day I “only” had to make levels and fix any occuring bug. Also, story. Also, sound. Also, …
I planned five levels at the beginning, and because of some very sad events before Ludum Dare, I didn’t think about it too long when I realized that I wouldn’t have time for all of them – as one of the levels would had have a kindergarten setting. So, three levels were made (in 3dsmax), and they describe how the protagonist is a kid with just an overly active imagination, and how this leads to an unfortunate outcome. I didn’t have time for more, and the ones I made aren’t really balanced/tested, so I am sorry for that. On the other side I am just relieved that the main gameplay works and can maybe be the foundation of a cool game; the Ludum Dare version of the finally named game “Tale of Scale” is mainly a sandbox game which happens to have a subtly communicated goal in each level.
the end result: Tale of Scale
A short summarization of What-Went-Bad:
- The start, or rather the theme. Either it is the start of a game for me, or it just stands in my way. Harumph. I squeezed the theme into the final game, but as most people won’t play it through, they probably will wonder where it actually is. I got a bit inspired by the movie “Looper”.
- I still can’t make music. I tried composing some once or twice before, but I’m always embarrassed by my own efforts, so I don’t ever get over a certain point.
- I don’t have a cool base code which actually would free me of the burden to do some stupid and boring stuff again and again. At least that’s a learning and can be helped … some day.
- The idea was cool enough to let people ignore the crude levels and graphics, hehe.
- I actually managed to make three levels, even in the timeframe I wanted to make them. Seems like I finally get the hang on estimating such things, and this is one of the things a game jam really can help with.
- I made most of the sounds myself with a microphone, and they sound okay enough. Nice.
First off this was the first Ludum Dare that my team and I have competed in. We decided to enter the 72 hour jam as a team so that we could create a more complete game than if we had entered the 48 hour compo. Initially we had a large team planned but a few people dropped out last minute which left us with 3: Myself and my friend Paul from University as the programmers, and our housemate Leela, who has never created any animations before or been involved in creating video games at all, as our artist and animator. So how did it go?
What Went Right
A lot went right to be honest. Like a few others we were expecting ‘End Of The World’ to win the theme vote. As such we’d started having a cheeky think about what we’d do if that came up the day before. ‘You Are The Villain’ took us by surprise a bit. We were a bit stumped for a bit but Paul came up with the main idea and we had decided on the sort of game and rough features we wanted after a few hours. I feel that the game fitted in with the theme quite well. We didn’t want to create the obvious you are a thief/bandit/zombie/vampire type of thing because we knew that many people would be going for that. As such Mother Nature as the villain was a little more left of field but we felt it was justified. After all she is trying to take down the entire human race in the game. Interestingly some of the criticisms we have had from the game is that people can’t see how Mother Nature is the villain and therefore how it fits in with the theme – If exterminating an entire species doesn’t make you a villain I don’t know what does
We got a lot of the features we wanted into the game. When we were first discussing the game we were talking about upgrades, different types of enemies, different landscapes and all sorts of different features. We were realistic about what we could achieve in 72 hours though and we managed to whittle this down to the core features, leaving other ideas as things we would add on if we had time (which we didn’t J) The game’s features are therefore fairly Spartan but they are the core mechanics and any other features would be built off of them. So we feel they enable the game to be played out as we had envisaged it.
Gameplay is one of the areas where we could have done a bit better. However I believe it is still enjoyable, if a bit short. We wanted to lock down our features on the Sunday So that we could focus on refining the gameplay and building levels on the Monday. Unfortunately it didn’t quite work out that way. We had a discussion on Monday morning about whether to hard code in our levels or to build a simple level editor to streamline the development. Paul was in favour of hard coding as he believed it would take too long to get a working level editor up and running AND then to create the levels. I believed I could knock up a level editor in a couple of hours and that it would save us time in the long run. I also thought that hardcoding would mean creating less interesting levels and more problems if we wanted to move things around after testing how it played. As it turned out it took me almost twice as long as I’d thought to create the level editor. Nevertheless by around 4pm we had a working level editor which could place our tiles and objects, set tile passability and so forth. It took Paul a short amount of time to create the level he had designed with it after that so I believe this is something that worked out well. I also believe that if we decide to enhance the game post-compo then this decision will pay off.
A few criticisms have been aimed at the need to invest early on or be swarmed by enemies in later levels. But this was a design choice. You can spam comets for the first couple of waves and get by but after that it becomes very hard to make it to the end. If you look at RTS’ such as AOE you will see a similar design pattern. You can build a barracks, spam the militiamen and send them over to the enemy. Whilst you might do damage initially you won’t do enough to finish the enemy off and they will be investing in their units. When they have better units they will destroy your militiamen then come and destroy you! Our game requires you to think a little and make an investment in the early waves to help you out in the later waves. Waiting and buying a volcano early on helps you out enormously!
I was particularly impressed with the artwork. As I’ve mentioned Leela had never made any sort of animations before or created graphics on the pc. On top of this she could only take part for about 2 days due to coursework commitments. So I was very impressed with what she produced for us in such a short space of time. The graphics fit in with what we had envisaged. They are bright with a good amount of contrast. The artwork she produced for the menus was my personal favourite.
The sound is something that only made it in at the last moment. I had created a simple sound manager on the first day but we didn’t have any sounds to really test it with until the last day. As it wasn’t central to gameplay it was left until the end as a less important feature. Nevertheless we all knew how important getting good sound into the game would be for setting the right mood and atmosphere. Once we had sourced some sound effects from online suddenly our comet impacts and lightning and so forth came to life. Our other housemate David, who couldn’t take part until the Monday night created the main theme and in-game music for us in a couple of hours and that really made the difference as well. Overall I am satisfied with how the sound turned out given the limited time we were able to spend on it.
What Went Wrong
Our biggest problem with the theme was that we didn’t realise that there was a bonus goat theme! All through the jam we were wondering why everyone was making games with goats in it but we’d just completely missed this extra aspect of the theme!
As I’ve said we would have liked to have added more features into the game. In particular a couple more weapons would have been good to have in. A hurricane/tornado was one we wanted to do but thought it would be a bit tricky on the art in the time we had so it was dropped. An upgrade system was something we really wanted to get in as well. This would have meant being able to upgrade the radius of attack for different weapons or their damage and so on as a trade for resources. We were hopeful that by limiting the number of weapons we had we could still keep the upgrade feature but it had to be dropped due to time constraints.
Whilst I like the gameplay it is also the area we are most disappointed with. Not so much in terms of how the weapons work and so on but more in terms of the levels themselves and this is all due to time constraints. The biggest issue is there is only one level with 5 waves. These waves are all too predictable. What I mean by that is that when the level starts all the humans spawn at a fixed time interval and all together. When we originally envisaged the game I wanted the waves to come down in groups. So rather than a continuous stream of people running to the spaceship you’d have little groups running together. I also wanted these groups to be separated a bit rather than all coming down at a fixed interval. Again this was all a case of running out of time. Another aspect that never really materialised was the points system. Although you earn points for kills this doesn’t actually mean anything to the game. We wanted to add in a highscore screen or something so that the points had a purpose but never had the time.
My biggest issue with the artwork was a lack of content. Again this is all about the limited time our artist had. We are missing animations in places which had to be replaced with static images instead. For example our volcanoes are static when idle when we really wanted them to be gently puffing out some smoke and ash. Our comets don’t animate when they fly just when they land. I don’t feel this has a huge effect on the gameplay but it would still have been good to have those animations in the game.
A lack of sound and music was the key problem although I think we managed to scrape in an acceptable amount at the end. Sound is a key component in games (amazingly I’ve played some ludum games without sound at all) which was demonstrated for us when we started putting the effects in the game. The game really came alive with the sound of comets exploding and volcanoes erupting and so on. There were other issues as well though. Some of the sound effects aren’t as loud as others, some go on too long or not long enough. When the music repeats in the menu it is not seamless as it should be. I would also have liked for you to only hear the sound effects emanating from the part of the game world you’re looking at, with all others either faded out
Most importantly though was the game ultimately fun to play? I believe that it is. One of our biggest criticisms was that the game does not last long enough which I will agree with. But that was a result of lack of time rather than design. I think that had we managed to create a few more levels the game would have entertained a bit more. Nevertheless I believe that it is still a fun game as it is. Whilst I have a few regrets over some of the features lacking in the game I am on the whole very pleased with how our game turned out. None of us had ever actually completed a full (largely bug-free) game before. The entry for our last game was riddled with bugs and almost unplayable. It left us very frustrated at the end with the time we had invested into it. But that was 2 years ago when we were starting out as programmers. This time I believe we have created a full game which is fun to play and looks and sounds good. It has also left me excited and looking forward to the next ludum dare. Can’t wait!
Have an awesome holiday season everyone! Octopi just threw this together while the kids are driving her absolutely bananas so its not the best she can do but we are happy with it
Though, Grim’s list is one you don’t want to be on! Have a play (If you want! We won’t be offended if you don’t!) to get you into the holiday spirit
Wow, it took me a week to rate 10% of the games submitted this time.
So, if I continue to at my current rate, I will only be able to play a third of them before judging ends.
Ludum Dare is huge.
- randomized petter skin color.
- fixed some subtle graphics bugs that would sometimes draw a person’s clothes backwards.