This was my third Ludum Dare. In each one, I’ve challenged myself to come up with a different interpretation of the theme than I thought would be typically done. For the Escape theme, I decided to go with the idea of psychological escape mechanisms, or avoiding painful thoughts and memories. This turned out to be a rather artsy, narrative-driven playable story of sorts. This is very different than anything I’ve developed before.
I spent about 27 hours on this entry. Friday night when the theme was announced, I spent three hours in the typical initial panic of trying to come up with an original interpretation of the theme. I settled on the psychological escape mechanisms concept, and that it would have something to do with words on the screen representing thought fragments. I was still unclear about the specifics beyond that.
On Saturday, I spent a couple more hours playing with ideas in my head, and settled on a design. I then spent about ten hours writing code and debugging. It took me much longer than I anticipated to get text with variable alpha per character working in Flashpunk. Probably five hours on that alone. I also spent a few minutes making the “art” for the game (the one stick figure) for a total of 12 hours on Saturday. By this point I had most of the basic functionality of the game working (moving a box of text around the screen and having the words fill in when over the character).
On Sunday, I spent about an hour getting Reason and my keyboard set up, and coming up with the short music loop and “thought complete” riff. I then spent several hours trying to come up with a decent story. I discovered that telling a story through first-person thought fragments is very difficult. When I started entering the text for the thoughts, it just wasn’t coming together. I also discovered some bugs in the way Flash renders text, so I spent a couple hours debugging and working around that. I finally gave up on the story I’d come up with, and about two hours before the deadline, I came up with a very different story that came together pretty quickly. I also wrote some more code for the title screens, ending screen, etc. That made a total of about 12 hours for Sunday.
The end result isn’t exactly a “game”, but I’m satisfied with what I came up with because it’s very different for me, and pushed me in a different direction. I like the overall feeling of the play. I’m thinking of developing something like this a little further.
Like my previous two LD entries, I created things as stand-in content (the stick figure guy, and especially the very short, repetitive music loop) so I had things to write the code around, but they ended up being the final content because I didn’t have time to do “real” art or music. The difference this time was that by now I’ve learned that when I create them, that’ll probably be the case. Ludum Dare is always a great exercise in game development (and a lot of fun) because it forces you to be ruthless in cutting features and calling things “good enough”.