Postmortem of Blockhead Can’t Escape

Posted by
August 25th, 2011 7:30 pm

In case you haven’t played it (you probably haven’t, with 599 entries) this was mine

This is going to be a very brief post mortem; almost as brief as the game. Making a game with a baby, and a job, is no easy task. Nuria must hate me, for having put so little of the weekend into actually creating my entry.
So Thursday and Friday, I tried to come up with simple but interesting ideas for all of the possible themes. I never thought of anything for evolution, adaptation, or genetics. Good thing those weren’t the theme!
Friday night the theme is announced, and I already have a good idea what I want to do, so I start drawing a tileset. It’s very simple. A brick wall, and some border pieces for the top. I play around with that in Ogmo, get it displaying in the game. Then I spend about an hour trying to animate a guy walking. Eventually I get frustrated, give up, and draw a blockhead. Then I go to sleep.
In the morning, I have to go to work. I don’t get more time to work on the game until six in the evening, and I have an eight-month old to deal with. I make an enemy, whose just a red version of the player, and I give him a fine mustachio. I also write a quick hack to make it easier for the player to move into single-tile passages. You probably don’t notice it while playing, but it took navigating the game world from ‘frustrating’ to ‘intuitive’. By time I go to bed, the enemy can tell if it sees the player and even patrol in paths.
I get up at about ten am and make breakfast for my wife and I, and then I take the trash to the dump, and then around noon I can get back to work. I figure out how I’m going to handle multiple levels, and get a couple working. I add locked doors and the gold keys. I add the text popups. Then I add spike traps, something that wasn’t in the original design at all. They take about ten minutes to make and become an integral part of the game. It’s now about four pm, and the ludumdare website is slow as I’ve ever seen it. Plus, there’s a giant thunderstorm outside and my power has already flickered once. And PoV hasn’t yet announced his plan to extend submissions, or I hadn’t seen it, so I packaged up what I had and submitted it while I still could.

What went right:
Using flashpunk. This is my first AS3 game ever, and I’m amazed by how much I accomplished by using Flashpunk. I decided on my tools early, and spent the week before ludumdare learning about actionscript3, and flashpunk, and the Ogmo tilemap editor. This preparation, and the simplicity of working in the language, really paid off when real life got in the way.
Planning for possible themes in advance. When the theme was announced, I didn’t have to brainstorm; I could just get right to work.
Keeping the scope small. Because of my inexperience with flash, I was able to keep myself from expanding the game into some huge monstrosity; I only knew how to do simple things in the language, so I had to keep the game simple. Flashpunk helped as wall, because while it’s a powerful piece of software it also encourages you to do things in a simple manner. Don’t setup a system of collision response callbacks, just call collide(…) in the object’s update function and do something if it’s colliding; simple things like that.

What went wrong:
I knew in advance I wanted to go with small, pixelated graphics, so why didn’t I practice with the medium before hand? If I had, maybe it wouldn’t be called Blockhead Can’t Escape, but instead Pixel Dude Can’t Escape.
Second-guessing the time limit. I was afraid I wouldn’t get to submit at all, so I submitted too soon. I could have used that time to create many more levels. The website worked fine all night, and I never lost power for more than five minutes at a stretch, it would have been fine.. but, once I submitted, I lost all drive to work on the game. I could have polished and re-submitted before ten, but, I didn’t.
I should have gotten Saturday off. I never plan for these things far enough in advance.

I’d like to expand the game; or rather, rebuild it; with more levels, a unifying theme, and better graphics. The feedback I’ve gotten has been positive, but for one thing – it’s way too short! – so people seem to like it. Maybe I’ll do that, but for now, that’s all I have to say about Blockhead Can’t Escape.

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