Entity: Post Mortem

Posted by (twitter: @leafthief)
May 5th, 2011 7:08 am

[Timelapse here]

Upon starting this Ludum Dare competition I was, like many others, surprised. But only for a short moment. The thing being, I believe you can pick really a lot of different “themes” or “words” or “sentences” – and distill something out of them.  When I read the theme I wanted to try to make a mechanic that would “read: “It’s dangerous to go alone. (Take this)”.I believe this is possible and that someday we will be able to pronounce it through games and play.

So this was my main goal for this Ludum Dare: Try to build a mechanic that feels like (or incorporates) an interpretation of the very theme-sentence.
And honestly: this took me a very very long time. It took me so much time that I was (often) at the point where I saw, that this would fail. Fortunately for me, Ludum Dare is a 48 hour competition and with a little bit of determination you will pull it off anyway, in a way where it doesn’t matter whether you can submit the game or not. Certainly that’s what we tell ourselves during development but in the end it makes all the difference. We can learn from both. But while one variant is hard and painful, the other one is rewarding and encouraging. I’m sorry for all who weren’t able to finish in time.


My Ludum Dare concept started out as a stealth game. The reason why it was dangerous to go alone in the first place, was that the player character was different – but not in the sense as it turned up in the final piece. At first, the avatar was something like a thief. But she should’ve looked like the rest. In one of my notes it says: ‘like blending in AssCreed‘. That was essentially what this game would’ve been. I wanted to design the rules in a way that you’d have to switch between moving crowds and you would only have a small time window to switch from one crowd to another. Then you’d have been spotted and – well [insert punishment here]. But after half a day I still wasn’t happy with that and in the end I was glad I changed everything (if only by little).

What went wrong:

1) I had no plan. I had tools but I hadn’t checked that everything would work fine. I.E. Since the last time that I had used flixel a lot of stuff had changed and I forogt how to do other stuff. Bottom Line: I wasn’t prepared – at least not coding-wise.

2) Ever-changing core concept: As I illustrated above, I tried to interpret the theme as a mechanic. But I never actually got around writing everything down. I knew roughly what it should play/feel like but never set clear directions for myself. This cost me a lot of time. Time that I should’ve invested into building everything in an according size.

3)  Tilemaps: I said before, that I had not worked with flixel for quite some time and therefore wasn’t sure (I never really knew) how tilemaps in flx work. My bad. Again. Should’ve checked the engine out before. In the end i hardcoded the borders of the levels. But then again – I’m an artist not a coder (so I wouldn’t even call it a hack).

4) Visuals: Jumping into the production of graphics too early made me develop a character, and a style, that was too expensive resource-wise. I even had a walk animation for the character. So much wasted time. I never fell in love with the character and the visual style I was about to enforce on this project. This most likely had to do with the lack of fleshing-out the main concept of the game.

5) Audio-stereo: Upon waking on the 2nd day I had this great (at the time) idea of measuring the distance between player and a soundsource and then adjusting the amplitudes of left and right stereo channel. I never did that – but sure enough I wasted time on it.

Some things went right as welland I’m glad they did:

1) Visuals: During the failing process of my first art-attempt I discovered a black-and-white character which was much smaller than the one I developed at the time. And it worked perfectly. This lead me to rethinking everything. I don’t know how and when I came up with the new concept. Looking at the character now, she looks like a negative of Chell’s jumpsuit (I didn’t play or possess Portal 2 but it was in the media lately) + I like to have other ethnicities in my characters + white for contrast + a hairstyle I personally find very interesting. The remaining visual style was really a lucky accident that came about after realizing that the dominant green of her jumpsuit didn’t fit the colors of the environment.

2) Music: I did all the “composing” in Logic Studio, which comes with a huge library of Software Instruments. Although the look proposes something 8bity I decided to go with some more-real-sounding instruments. Bass plays a very important part in my pieces (I used to play bass in the past) and it is my belief, that this instrument can support a lot of emotionality. Instrumentation is in fact a key aspect I try to think of. E-Pianos and Pianos have this deep melancholy to them. You can do so many amazing things with that. Basses can span from cool to confident-melancholic – which is it’s role in my ambient track. I think pad sounds provide sort of a transcendent quality. These are all things I didn’t learn but hear from other pieces of music. At the time I was listening to a lot of Tortoise and Mogwai – hence probably the focus on bass. The composition came out of a variation of bass patterns AND the . I really like how the track turned out.

3) Finishing: Although I found it hard to submit such a short game in the beginning – I  realized that I had implemented the core gameplay I wanted to have in there. I think the mechanic has the potential to expand on it. The comments suggestet that the game
was too short and that the mechanics could’ve been conveyed better with a certain length and I absolutely agree.But finishing some game and achieving my main goal – if only in part – was quite something.


Lessons learned?

1) Never constrain yourself to do something other people can enjoy lightheartedly.I know I was never that kind of guy – and boy did I try. I obviously can’t make “fun” gameplay? My understanding of “fun” is broader than the term suggests. Deep down I probably am a mess. But resigation and melancholy have a unique aesthetic to them – and I think we should embrace that.

2) The lack of clarity in controls or mechanics can be backbreaking for a game.
I hope some of you could enjoy the game. If you haven’t played it yet I would appreciate if you’d take some time and play it once or twice HERE. I am very thankful for all the comments Entity has received and am glad for every single one of them. Thank you organizers and staff of Ludum Dare. It was a great experience for me. I hope I’ll be able to participate again. That’s it from me – take care everyone – LeafThief


My thoughts or rules behind the design of Entity (spoiler alert?):

1) You strive for independence – some may call it individuality as well.

2) You can not go alone for long. It is dangerous not to have social contacts.

3) A majority of people are not really interested in you. They wear a mask and won’t open up to you.

4) If you become independent from that social pressure people will take their masks off and open up to you ( this feature wasn’t implemented – you could’ve turned masks into people without masks who’d provide you ).

5) If you depend too much on a society that is not interested in you, you will become one of them, thus putting on a mask yourself.

6) Memories can content your social needs. They can help you build up your independence ( this feature wasn’t implemented).

Tags: , ,

2 Responses to “Entity: Post Mortem”

  1. Manuel777 says:

    Loved this game, i have totally forgot to search for it on the abyss of submitted games (glad you posted this hehe)

    Oh, the PostMortem was quite nice too, tipical issues when making a LD entry, i guess.. thats where the fun lies! 😀

  2. Striking the balance between accessibility and depth is extremely difficult, and scales with the more obtuse or abstract concept we try to convey.

    I think you managed to get it, and a lot of what you were trying to convey came across in the result.

    Great work, and thanks for posting this.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

[cache: storing page]