It’s now 26hrs post LD #19 compo end. The dust has settled, my brain has had a chance to wind down. It’s time for a post-mortem.
The Theme & My Idea
Ludum Dare 19’s theme was “Discovery”. I wasn’t a fan of it considering a year ago the theme was “Exploration”. But the bonus is it did give everyone a lot of creative leg room. On my ride back home after derby practice on Friday night I started brainstorming ideas. I settled on focusing on “self-discovery”, doing something a bit surreal, and having levels based around Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The idea would be that the player would battle through each of their stages of needs only to reach self enlightenment.
The game would play as a side-scroller / RPG hybrid. This gameplay concept is something I’ve wanted to prototype for Granville for months now.
I knew immediately that my idea was ambitious. I’ve never made a platformer with levels before nor have I ever coded an RPG battle system.
My Ludum Dare time structures are very consistent. Prototype on Friday. Build the whole game on Saturday. Polish and tweak on Sunday. This structure couldn’t be applied this time around. I had a roller-derby written test and practice on Friday which caused me to miss the first 5hrs of the compo. I got home at 11pm and was only able to to spend a couple of hours fleshing out my idea and starting to write an RPG battle system from scratch.
I knew that it was likely that I’d still be building core-content into Sunday but committed to the submission deadline and pushed to see how far I could get.
Saturday was incredibly productive and I had the core battle system running before dinner. That evening I connected the battle and platformer bits, built the first couple of levels and got the critical pieces of the game done and working well.
Sunday morning was all about finishing all 5 stages of platforming. Sunday afternoon I spent polishing and playing with the difficulty (through the various enemy and hero stats). The difficulty curve for an LD game is tricky. I only like to keep the player’s attention for 10 minutes max. With over 200 games to rate, I want every player to have a reasonable chance to finish my game before their attention wanes.
Sticking with the now familiar Flixel libraries meant little time futzing around with tech. I used some of my pre-baked platforming functions and a set of dialog classes I’d been working on. I was reasonably happy with my starting codebase and it’s starting to show that I’m slowly building up my own set of classes and functions which make new projects start a lot smoother.
The hardest tech piece this weekend was figuring how to copy the Flixel buffer for the blur effect when you enter battle! I thought for sure I was going to have to drop this feature. I wasn’t willing to invest more than an hour figuring out so I was glad when I did.
Clearly art was not my priority this time around. However I am pleased with how I worked with the limitation on time and talent. I kept the palette greyscale with the only colour being flashes to convey information during battle. The art was minimalistic but stylized. I played with the screen shake and blurs to add to the surreal atmosphere.
My scope was ambitious. Had things not have worked out as smoothly it’s clear I wouldn’t have had a submittable game by the deadline. But I would have been ok with that since the prototyping exercise would have been valuable nonetheless.
I felt more pressure than I did during LD #17 and spent a few more hours in development. But the pressure was manageable and I was able to produce a deeper game by pushing the scope a bit.
I got to do a lot of new things this weekend:
- Build a platformer with levels made in Ogmo
- Build an RPG battle system
- Use text written by my better half
Abarrane came together a lot better than I was expecting. I was able to explore some really dark themes and have a lot of fun doing it.
The Significant Other Factor
Melinda won fiancee of the year this weekend with all her support. She kept me fed. She kept the house clean. She provided feedback and emotional support. She even provided ALL of the enemy name, enemy special attack and random battle dialog text! On Saturday morning I mused “Hey if you want to help, start coming up with some enemies that you’d encounter as well as their special attack”. A couple of hours later I was handed an Excel doc formatted perfectly for a .CSV export full of excellent content.
Abarrane has 49 lines of random battle colour commentary and 67 enemies all with unique attacks. All of this was thanks to Melinda.