Well, my first LD has come, and is shortly going to be gone once the results come out, and it’s been a good time. I’m already jonesing for the next one, but I feel like I need to document what I’ve learned so that the next time, I can look back at what I did right and what I did wrong. Without further ado, let’s take a look back at JLP.
Setting goals. I didn’t expect much from myself for my first game dare, but I always had a goal in mind. The obvious major goal was to finish, I simply wouldn’t let myself hit the time limit with code and assets strewn about. Beyond that though, I was always setting up goals on my whiteboard, hitting them one at a time. This gave me a visual reminder of my progress, even if the thing I was working on couldn’t be seen in my game.
Having a clear beginning and end. I often find in my side projects that I start adding features and shiny things without a clear purpose for how it’s taking the player to the inevitable end. With JLP, I knew you were going to get from the ground to the moon, and dodge junk in between. There were no if’s, and’s or but’s about it, and that kept me focused. I was able to add some frills such as the hats that get put on the player at the different height levels, or item drops, but that was only after I had the basic implementation down.
Variety. While I love so many of the LD games out there, the biggest problem I see is a lack of variety. Of course we have constraints, but when you lay down the basic framework for the game, it’s not hard to add some variety. I knew from the start that that would be the death of my game, so I very quickly laid down the groundwork for having stuff fly at you from the sides, then adding the jets and space ships to keep it fresh. Admittedly, this left little time to actually balance the additions which caused some players to find exploits, but for the everyman, it kept the game interesting enough to reach the end.
Duct-taped features. The speed ups in my game were implemented in such a hacky way that collidable things would stop showing up at a certain speed. I had a good feeling why it happened, but didn’t allot myself enough time to fix it. Which leads me to my other issue,
Time management. I mean, I didn’t totally drop the ball on this one, but there were some areas where it shone like the previously mentioned. Some features I had swimming in my mind had to be cut because I overslept, and some times couldn’t resist the allure of Reddit or the very friendly LD IRC channel. I definitely need to be more diligent next time.
XNA. I love this framework to death, but being Windows only with no way to play on the web, and the download requiring dependencies really didn’t work in my favor. Many friends and family couldn’t play because of this, as well as, I’m sure, many people who would have rated and commented. Next LD, I’m probably going to go with Java or Flash, if I ever get around to learning the latter.
Music, or lack there of. I knew this would be a big hurdle from the start, but it hit me harder than I expected. Right after I finished, I started to look in to Linux MultiMedia Studio, and I’ll be working on that for a while. Music is a huge component to games, especially one like mine where in the time between things being flung at you, you don’t have much to do. I’ve never been a particularly artistically inclined person, as I’m sure you can guess by my game’s artwork, so this one will be hard to get around.
Things for Next Time
Recruit a friend! The best parts of LD were when people showed interest in my game. I’m shy enough to admit I like when people take an interest in or admire my work, and I’m sure most people out there feel the same way. Working side by side with someone will allow us to keep each other going by keeping each other in good spirits.
Use a web-deployable language/framework. I already went over this earlier, but it’s really important, so I’ll mention again. The correlation between number of rating and ease of access was easily seen.
Write a warm-up game. It had been a few months since I worked on an XNA game, and I was rusty for the first 4 hours. I had to look at my old work just to remember really simple thing. I need to give myself something like 4 hours before the LD to write a silly Pong clone or something, just to get ready.
Anyhow, thanks for reading. Hopefully you could relate to some of my issues, or some of my ideas helped you consider a strategy for the next game jam. Until then, I wish you all the best. Good luck with the ratings!