What Went Right or The Awesome Things
The schedule I laid out for myself worked very well. Before starting I decided to set very general time slots for when I would work on what. These were split into two segments: first 24 hours and (you guessed it) second 24 hours. Knowing that gameplay and mechanics are the glue that hold most games together (there is the rare game where this is not the case) I decided I would reserve the first 24 hours to having a completely playable, beginning to end prototype of my design minus art, music, story and sound (those 4 things were to be worked on in the last 24 hours. The question needs to be asked, if I thought gameplay was so important, why did I set so little time aside for it? The answer is because it was my first Ludum Dare. I didn’t know how much time it would take me to upload everything, how much time it would take me to randomly scribble on my computer until I got something that could maybe somehow pass off as art, nor how many takes I would need to record on my cello to get serviceable sound. So yes, my schedule wasn’t perfect, I did end up with some free time on the last day, but the point is that my game was complete. It wasn’t a great game, but it did what it set out to do perfectly, be a simple story based puzzler.
The music was something I was surprisingly capable of doing well. I had the idea set in my mind from the very beginning that I would do all of the sound for the game on my cello, because I thought it would sound cool, and because I thought it would save time and allow me to focus more on the other aspects of my game. The thing was, I hadn’t played my cello for a good 2 and a half years, having given it up partway through my eleventh grade of highschool. Luckily my 7-8 years of training flooded back to me and I did a job that I’m proud of, even though I couldn’t get the looping to work perfectly.
The sound efects were something I struggled a lot with at first, after recording all of the music I decided to test sound effects by randomly playing them over the looping music tracks. This sounded absolutely HORRIBLE, like stab-myself-in-the-ear-with-my-cello-bow bad. At first I thought it was because the sound effects were note-based as was the music, and the dissonance was causing it to sound terrible. So I decided to try an experiment, I went online and watched a bunch of videos of classic games known for having great music (Super Mario Bros., Legend of Zelda and Sonic the Hedgehog are the three most recognizable ones I watched) and found that there sound effects weren’t much different from mine in that they were off-key, out of time and just generally clashing very much with the music. But they sounded good. But then I turned off the monitor and re-watched (listened?) the videos. And they sounded terrible. So, I concluded, that when you know that a sound effect is coming, when you know what it will sound like and what causes it, the brain is capable of filtering it onto a different track then the music, making them separate entities. Basically, you are capable of listening to the tune uninterrupted in your head, even though what is really coming out of the speakers is a cacophony of unspeakable ugliness. So I kept my sound effect as they were.
The mechanics and gameplay worked well, and in my opinion, were fun to use. I don’t really have much to say about this, as the best way to find out about them is to play the game yourself 😉
What Went Wrong or The Things That Sucked
The level design was hindered by the coding. This was my biggest failing and the one that could have most easily been avoided. Before the competition I was set on the theme of Self-Replication and a Legend of Zelda-like game where your character only lived for thirty seconds and then respawned, leaving the world as it was when he died, needing you to go back over and over again to set up the world to be conquered in thirty seconds or less (or whatever amount of time). When the theme of Escape was announced I was thoroughly unprepared. I had, gone through the list of themes and made ideas for each of them, but the theme of Escape was one of the few (along with Espionage, Castles and others) that didn’t have any idea to its name. So I tried to adapt my Self-Replication idea to the Escape theme and started coding a whatever you would call a Legend of Zelda style game. By the time I wizened up and decided to go with my final idea, so much base code was written that I wouldn’t have time to rewrite that I was severely limited in mechanics I could add to my puzzler. The “engine” I had created did not allow for dynamic npc objects, something that could have been implemented into my level design had I had more foresight.
The art sucked, and it sucked bad. I am not an artist, I have tried to teach myself, to practice and to improve. However, I have not (though I’m not giving up (: ). I knew my art would be bad coming in, but I thought with enough time I could slowly make something that looked good. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to, I ended up drawing base shaped and using all kind of effects on them so that they looked like they were well drawn (but in an abstract style). Luckily, however, I came to the realization that I would have to except defeat very early, allowing me to at least make the concession of only including two-frame animations, in order to lower the work required.
The typo. I wrote wan’t instead of want. That is all.
In the end, I found this Ludum Dare to be a great experience that came out of the blue (noticed it mentioned on the Minecraft site when I was downloading the game) and was a fun learning experience that I got to share with 599 other people. I’d like to thank all of the organizers of the Ludum Dare for offering this experience to people. See you next time!