Brass Monkey – Post Mortem

Posted by
May 13th, 2011 3:20 am

Brass Monkey – Post Mortem
A Treatise on Simian Semantics

What happened…

When I first heard the theme “It’s too dangerous to go alone. Take this!” I sort of shrivelled up and died. I had placed this right at the bottom of my list of preferred themes. It seemed too generic, too clich├ęd; it simply didn’t grab me.

The irony here being that a tight rigid theme allows more creativity than a vague theme.

I judge a theme by how quickly they evoke images, characters and game play. Many themes like “absorption” and “evolution” gave me instant visions into doors of wondrous possibility, but the final chosen theme gave me nothing – just a mental blank page.

So, being confused by this theme, I desperately wanted to steer clear of anything predictable, and of any concepts already done. (Perhaps I get a point for this… ).

I spent the entire first day thinking, scribbling, walking, and generally procrastinating. I spun yarns in my head about a far future monkey race of beings (a la Planet of the Apes). In this context, the player could then be given an ancient artefact of any design – this idea amused me greatly, and struck me as the crux of “escaping the usual”.

For some reason, a trumpet came to mind.

And of course, what would a monkey know of trumpets? Perhaps it is a hat (which was the original idea, and it is implemented in the game; but it bounces up and down so it’s not really very evident that it’s a hat).

Some idea I had involved Pied-Piper-esque scenarios… a silhouetted monkey dancing across a barren landscape, playing a trumpet, leading a multitude of rat-like post-apocalyptic mutants to their death.

Another idea was a kind of “simple simon” musical challenge, you would have to essentially “jam” with the enemies to defeat them.

After the end of the first 24 hours I was building a civilization in my head. This was fine if I wanted to write a novel, but I was supposed to be making a game.

But I am stickler for cohesion – the back-story of a game is important to me (he says, while typing a blog entry about a monkey playing a psychedelic trumpet).

At the end of the first day I had not written a single line of code.

THIS was a mistake.

Any code, any dirty code, any spaghettified mess of code is required at the end of day 1. Something. Something to get your project moving.

Instead I had done some “asset fishing”; this helps me think, and reflect upon ideas. So I grabbed certain CC/royalty free images that inspired me in some form or another, without really knowing what the final game was going to be.

This sort of random haphazard multi-sensory work flow is fine… unless you’ve only got 48 hours.

I slept on it.

I struggled the next day too, and played with assets – graphics and sound – still without any concrete ideas.

5.00pm on day two, I write my first line of code.

Something came together over those hours. Nothing amazing, but a nice little game that can be expanded upon. The submitted version lacks pace, and “powerups” – easy enough to address.

I’ve always been a great fan of Jeff Minter (a Commodore 64 guru of psychedelic gaming), and I wanted to add some of this flavour to “Brass Monkey”.

A couple of quick words regarding royalty free images… I wasn’t sure of the “legality” of this, it seems the consensus is I am not supposed to use them. I can understand how it’s not really “in the spirit” of the competition.

I remember reading some post where someone offered the general advice: “if it feels like you’re cheating, don’t do it”. I didn’t feel like I was cheating. And the silly thing is, if I were to use a publicly available AS3 library (like “flixel” I think it is) I WOULD feel like I was cheating.

But that’s just me, and it’s a bit silly, and it’s something I shall get over… I need to explore some of these libraries.

I’m from the “olden days” (not TOO old, but technology changes so fast doesn’t it?). Cut my teeth on programming machine language, by “hand” of course, for the 6502 chip on my Vic-20 (no assembler – manual opcode lookup, split addresses into low-byte/high-byte format, poke them into memory, and hope the machine doesn’t crash!). This is in about 1981, I was aged 12. My father is a programmer, so he helped and encouraged.

So, I was around for the excitement of the microcomputer revolution. Progressing from the Vic-20, to the Commodore-64 and then the Amiga (…oh, the Amiga, how I miss thee). So, I’ve always written my own libraries for everything, because computer were much simpler back then.

BUT all that being said…
I highly recommend the LD experience to anyone and everyone!
It IS challenging, but also great fun!
As difficult as I found this one, I still enjoyed the experience!

The one big thing out of the Ludum experience is the COMMUNITY.
It is so inspiring to see the work of others, and read about their experiences and ideas. It’s also amazing to see all the different technologies – for example, I wonder what it would be like to write a game in Python? I’ve no idea… but many out there do.

There is a real sense of comradery and community here!


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