illumynate post-mortem

Posted by (twitter: @zillix)
August 25th, 2010 10:58 am

I’ve taken a few days of a break, and now I’m ready to come back and write a post-mortem!

Play illumynate here

This was my first LD, and I didn’t really know what to expect. I’ve only ever finished and released one game before, so I was pretty worried about what I would get done in 2 days.

My goals, before the competition:
-I wanted to make a game that I would want to play
-I wanted to make a game that I would enjoy making
-I wanted to finish a game
I’m happy to announce that I was able to achieve all 3 of those!

The preparation

I decided I would enter the competition about 4 days before it started. I knew for certain that there was no way that I would be able to design a game engine as well as a game in the time allotted, so I really wanted to try to learn a framework that would do some of the engine stuff for me, namely flixel, since I have a soft spot for pixelly games. Getting flixel + flashdevelop installed and working, as well as going through the tutorials, were unquestionably the best uses of my pre-compo time. I also learned how to use some accessory programs, like sfxr, Mappy, and GraphicsGale, which I would end up using. By the time the theme was announced, I was comfortable with using these tools the way I would need to during the competition.

The idea

I’ll admit, some of the idea of my came was conceived before the theme was announced. I had two ideas for games, each which could be tweaked to accommodate several themes. My first idea was a tower defense game where the player couldn’t place turrets; they had to control a little guy with a gun, and use the impact of the shots to push the creeps into tiles that would convert them into towers (enemies as weapons), and pushing more creeps into the same tile would slightly change the turret depending on the type of the creep (evolution). My second idea was a cave crawler, where the player had two weapons- a flashlight and a gun, fighting trolls, which would encompass darkness, claustrophobia, hidden depths, and anachronism.

Basically, the theme was announced, and I realized that I really didn’t want to make the tower defense game. The cave game sounded much more atmospheric and interesting, so I went with that. I threw away the gun from the design, and put in different types of enemies who reacted differently, that the player had to use as tools.
The story of the game was one of the last things I came up with. What would be at the end of the cave? A damsel in distress? A rare artifact? Nothing? Once I decided to use notes as a storytelling technique, however, the current idea (and ending) just jumped into my head, and I liked it.

Making the Game

The actual creation of the game went pretty smoothly. I created the player, the fog/flashlight, then the enemies, and by the end of the 24hrs I had pretty much every class I would need finished. The second day was designated to finishing the details- the story, the level design, and the art. I got plenty of sleep each night, (5-7 hours), but I made up for it by taking very few breaks- even at meals I had a notebook with me, doodling and scribbling ideas. The only notable break was when I went out with my family to the Renaissance Festival, which did a brilliant job of clearing my mind.

I spent a lot of time on optimization, which ended up being overkill, since the .swf ran ~2.5x as fast once ran it outside of flashdevelop.

As the time counted down, I still had a ways to go. Eventually I only had 5 hours to finish everything up, and it wasn’t very polished. It wasn’t until 2 hours from the deadline that I had someone else test my game, which was a terrible mistake- I learned I had to fix a ton of bugs, make a bunch of tweaks, and clarify a lot of the gameplay, with not much time to do it.

I didn’t spend much time evaluating the gameplay. In all honesty, before I submitted my game, no one had even played it from beginning to end. As a result, I wasn’t sure if the game was any fun. I’m still not sure of that. But whatever, it was a great experience making it.
I plan on tuning gameplay a bit based off of feedback, fixing some bugs, and adding sound/music, after which I’ll release a final version of it somewhere!

What I learned

-I can make a game in 48 hours
-Have someone else playtest for bugs as early as possible
-Frameworks help a lot
-Autotiling is awesome
-Breaks and sleep are important
-Test early and often to fine-tune gameplay

Thanks to everyone who played my game, especially to those who gave me feedback in the comments!

4 Responses to “illumynate post-mortem”

  1. sfernald says:

    I have a question. How are you getting the Mappy FMP files converted over to XML? Is there a utility for that or something?


  2. Zillix says:

    I used a custom export script by Titch, which can be found here: (the script is about halfway down the first page).

    There are tilemap editors that natively support this (like Flan if you’re using flixel, I think), but Mappy was the only one I could find that had a free version that could be used commercially.

    Hope this helps!

  3. sfernald says:

    Thx so much. That solved my problem!

    Btw, hope u don’t mind I’m using your source code to make a little game, the first game I’ve ever made in flixel. I just want to spend about 6 hours on the game and I wanted to upload it to kongregate, so I needed something flash. Anyway, saw your game and thought it was perfect for what I wanted to do: a super pixelly topdown zombie game where you can’t attack. Your only defense is to draw the zombies into bystanders and run past them while they feast.

  4. Zillix says:

    Go ahead, and good luck!

    If you’re interested, I updated my sourcecode to include a few fixes I’ve made in the past few days, though it may not make a difference for you.

    Send me a message on kongregate (name: zillix) when you’ve finished, since I’d like to check it out!

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