Also, check out the Post-Compo review of PRIOR to see where the game has gone since LD19 <3
You know nothing
This was my first Ludum Dare, and to be honest, it really kicked my ass. I’ve done a 48-hour game challenge before but not solo and nothing on the scale that I worked towards in LD 19. That being said, it was an awesome experience and I am truly proud of the product that I ended up creating.
PRIOR is a 2D platformer built in Adobe Flash, in which you find out the answers to all the questions in your head – who am I, where am I, why am I here, what’s going on – etc. Throughout the game you must piece together the history of what happened by reading scraps of paper, and learning from certain events. There are three endings to it, and about 15-30 minutes of gameplay per ending.
Now, on review of PRIOR’s final build and the development thereof…
KNOW YOUR SCOPE. I would like to clarify what I mean by that. Obviously it’s important to keep your project’s scope manageable, but note I did not say “keep a small scope”. I knew that my scope was very large and ambitious, especially for only 48 short hours. However, it was clearly defined, and I had an excellent workflow established early on, which helped me deliver.
KNOW YOUR SKILLS. I am not an artist, by any means. I have a basic understanding of how to create visual assets using Flash, and a ‘very’ basic understanding of Photoshop. Knowing these limitations, I decided on a stylized and abstract visual theme, rather than beautiful and proficient art. I could achieve this. Also, I knew my core skills were in level design and programming, which is what I focused on. Honestly, almost all the art was done after 4:30 PM on the final day.
I could go on about all the little things that helped make this game, but those were easily the two most important things I kept in mind. I didn’t worry about character art or animation – the player is just a little block and animation is limited to his eye and a slight stretching as he falls. I didn’t even really focus on the story – that came out of sheer dumb luck. I had vague ideas of what I wanted the story of this game to be, and from the beginning I knew “The player will know nothing off-hand, and will have to DISCOVER everything that’s going on.” But the story as it is just grew as I developed, and happened to grow into a self-contained, full story that not only spans between several different lives, years, and nations in the game world, but fits together perfectly.
(Yes, there IS a zero-sum, written-out & perfectly explainable story to this game. However, you must figure it out for yourself in-game!)
WHAT NEEDED WORK
KNOW WHAT YOU NEED. I made the mistake of trying to implement features that were both non-mandatory to the game as a whole, but I didn’t even know properly how to program. For example, my game had a CONTINUE option, which let you continue from the last room you were in. It would’ve been very useful, but wasn’t necessary for my project given the time constraint. I nearly went over-time trying to implement that feature, then eventually just removed it. (Really: my last submission was at 5:59.)
PLAN OUT YOUR STYLE/ATMOSPHERE. PRIOR was always supposed to be a creepy, mysterious game, and it is. However, if I had planned out what exactly I wanted to ultimately deliver, I wouldn’t have lost 45 precious minutes trying to find and implement sound effects. And it could’ve been much worse – I have a pretty big sound library available, and finding the sounds was no problem. I could’ve lost upwards of 2 hours if I had to search for those sounds online. In the end I decided to have just music, and the game seems much better for it. I wish I’d realized that sooner!
In the end, most of this seems like it could’ve been avoided with more planning, and pre-production time is not very abundant in a Ludum Dare. That said, I’ll keep these things in mind on my next project, and maybe you will too