Back Against the Wall – A Postmortem

Posted by (twitter: @michaelpconsoli)
May 8th, 2011 9:17 pm

Is should note that I’m developing my entry, Against the Wall, into a full game. You can check out my progress on the game’s new site. I’ll post a non-compo webplayer there in the near future.

Now for some self-analysis: On the Friday evening of the competition, I initially tossed around a number of ideas that in retrospect look like the ramblings of a madman. The best one was about a herd of cattle that get telekinetic powers and rampage through a city. Not wanting to do the animation for that, I eventually settled on something simpler: a 3D platformer where the player must climb something by using a special item that forms ledges. I was hoping for something Mirror’s Edge style with the platforming, but the eventual hasty execution of that game mechanic left something to be desired.

I made a bunch of boxes, wrote some C# code that made them react to the player’s input, and limited this input by requiring the acquisition of a special item. What the item was, I had no idea at this point. I was wavering between a tk glove or a magnetic device before calling it a magic wand and moving on.

Saturday began with a texture hunt. I grabbed a digital camera and took pictures of some marble and granite surfaces in a nearby park. Other elements photographed were a blue bath towel, a bookcase, and a random metal box. I applied the stone textures to the boxy models which I created the night before with Blender.

For the procedural world, I bit off more than I could chew. The number of bricks that would exist on even a small chunk of the wall would quickly add up into the thousands, causing my PC to chug. I spent almost all of Saturday on this feature.

Sunday started with mesh creation. I made a model for the quest giver and faced him away from the player’s starting point, so that the player may initially think it was a human silhouette in the distance. I pinned a note to him (that pops-up and goes away far too quickly) that quoted the theme of the competition, and placed the wand in front of him. I crafted the city-ledge high above the player, made fake walls for the unplayable areas, and scripted some code that would trigger the player’s “winning” of the game. Problem is, I didn’t test it. The blocks that I had placed in a gap under the city that were supposed to be movable were prevented from moving due to a glitch. Imagine my surprise when I found out that my compo entry couldn’t be beaten!

The take-away? Primarily, I need to budget my time better. I spent almost all of Saturday on my ambitious procedural generator. Placing the bricks by hand would have been well enough and would have taken less time. I should have focused more on the platforming gameplay and level design. Second, I should have set aside the last few hours of the compo for testing my game. Instead, I left everything to the last moment, resulting some major bugs. Third, I went into an eleventh-hour panic when I couldn’t log into my server and Dropbox was my only alternative, then panicked because I did not load it in the right compression format, then panicked that I didn’t initially put up a webplayer, ending-breaking bug, etc. In other words, I need to chill out.

The competition was a fun challenge, and its constraints forced me to think outside the box and make something unique and interesting. My objective now is to flesh-out the game world with some story, add a variety of gameplay mechanics, and form this mess of hastily assembled code into a game.

Please take the time to play and criticize the compo entry. If you like what you see, you can follow my progress on Against the Wall ‘s site.


One Response to “Back Against the Wall – A Postmortem”

  1. Mikhail Rudoy says:

    Best of luck. When you finish please post here on LD! I was very excited by the idea when I saw it first, and frankly a bit disappointed by how uncomfortable it was to play the final result :(. I really don’t mean to insult, and in your defense, I’m sure that this was a result of the 48 hour constraint. And now that you have removed that time constraint, I would be VERY interested in the result.

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