Cave Runner Post-Mortem

Posted by (twitter: @DecsterB)
September 7th, 2011 11:41 pm

The Idea:

When ‘Escape’ was announced as the theme I was stuck for ideas. I had my heart set on the theme being ‘Evolution’ and it was hard to shake my ideas relating to that theme.  To fit ‘Escape’ I decided I wanted to do a side scrolling game but I felt that it needed a twist to keep it interesting and differentiate it from being an “Advancing Wall of Doom” game.

I ended up settling on what is essentially a cross between BIT.TRIP RUNNER and HammerFight. The general idea being that in order to succeed the player needed to be able to focus on two mechanics at the same time: dodging randomly placed hazards and using a physics-based attack to fight off bad-dudes:

Visual representation!

 

The Art:

After coming up with the idea I then set about contriving a situation for the setting of the game and drawing the main screen. In retrospect drawing the main screen first thing was not a good idea, it was time consuming and considering the time restraints  was a bit of a waste.

As I wanted multiple endings depending on how well the player did this was not the last time I ended up making this mistake. Drawing separate screens for winning and losing was far more time consuming than I had anticipated and the actual gameplay sprites suffered as a result.

The bouts of drawing were a welcome break from coding though and I did enjoy putting references to things in these images:

Not very subtle!

The Coding + Design:

Implementing the basic systems such as the running and jumping was relatively easy, I did get a bit carried away with the boomerang sword though. The sword did teach me a lot about how game physics can work though and previously I hadn’t experimented with anything similar in my other projects.

Code-wise I regret not using abstract classes  and deriving level objects from them. I spent a considerable amount of time re-writing functions and properties for each object I could have used to polish the game. This also made the source quite hard to understand and make changes to.

With only about an hour left I was frantically trying to find out why quitting was sometimes throwing an exception. Turns out I had a game-breaking bug that involved the game not disposing of game content properly. Luckily I had set aside some time before submission to find these sorts of bugs.

One of the main things that I wish I’d gotten into the game was a proper sense of speed. The way the background scrolls and the obstacle speed is far too slow as many have pointed out. I considered changing it towards the end but it was a bit of a nightmare just trying to get all the mechanics balanced, trying to change the speed would have meant changing a lot of elements. It seemed like a better idea to have a game that is more fun to play than one that seemed speedier.

Things I learned:

  • Don’t get too attached to your initial ideas.
  • Know the scope  of your game.
  • Prioritise gameplay over art.
  • Have base classes.
  • Always reserve some time for balancing, play-testing and bug-fixing.
Despite all these things I’m happy with how Cave Runner turned out, if you want to try it yourself you can play it here.
To wrap this up I’d just like  to say I had a lot of fun being part of this Ludum Dare and that you guys are awesome.

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