(-o^_^)-o <3 Post Mortems!

Posted by (twitter: @RecursiveFrog)
December 19th, 2011 11:06 pm


I personally consider it a victory to have completed a game at all for my first Ludum Dare, much less one that’s actually kind of charming. So without further ado, let’s have ourselves a post-mortem!


The Good

The Concept:  Thankfully the idea for this game came quickly, but it was not the first idea I had.  I threw out two other concepts before settling on the Hug Monster.

The first idea was a game where you’re a zombie who just wants to make friends because he’s lonely, but invariably when he makes a new friend he eats them.  While I liked the idea for its humor value, I wasn’t convinced that the gameplay would be much fun… or rather that I wasn’t sure I had the time to make it fun.

The second idea was one in which you play a shoplifter who tries to steal as much as he can from a store while avoiding the watchful eyes of the clerks.  While it fit the theme, I didn’t really have any great ideas on how to turn it into a fun game.

That’s when the Hug Monster came running through my head.  I figured that most people would choose to make their games about avoiding the state of being alone, so I would flip this on its head and make the game about becoming alone to seek safety.  I find the particular emoticon that the hug monster is made of to be really cute and compelling, and I liked the thought of it wiggling its arms as it chases you around.  I thought that if I stuck with the ideation that I might come up with a better concept, but an hour and a half had passed already and this game concept seemed just viable enough to have a shot.  This turned out to be a great plan.  The idea was solid and the execution was just as cute as I’d hoped it would be.

Unity3D:  I’ve been a fan of the Unity tool for almost a year now, and this game proved that it is sufficiently versatile to handle both 3D games as well as 2D games on a short timeframe.  I still believe that Unity, being a 3D engine is primarily best at rendering 3D.  There are certain idioms and assumptions that Unity uses which make perfect sense in a 3D world, but which sometimes get in the way when you’re thinking in 2D space.  That said, Unity does offer you the ability to “break out into the 3rd dimension” if you want to with ease.   Top it off with a nice, sane language like C# and you have a real winner of a tool.

The Art Style : I’m not saying it’s perfect.  There’s a lot I want to clean up in the graphics for Hug Monster, and it’s certainly not on the level of some of the incredibly beautiful entries I’ve seen from others such as morganquirk, but it works to reinforce the lighthearted feel I was going for when I concepted the idea.  I don’t think a “realistic” or even a “cartoonish”  Hug Monster would have nearly the same charm, and a protagonist with any detail might take away from the real star of the show, the monster itself!

Wingdings : No kidding, the Wingdings font saved the day here.  The character’s standing pose is actually an 8px sized rendering of the skull and crossbones icon with no aliasing.  Now that I’ve told you this, you can probably see it if you look at the main character hard enough.  Of course, at the 8px scale, it looks more like a daring little guy… one who is very easy to animate, as it turns out!

ALL OF YOU GUYS : I don’t want to sound cliche, or like the end credits screen of an old Nintendo game, but the Ludum Dare blog itself was a huge inspiration and a motivating force to help keep me focused.  Just knowing that there were dozens of other people doing this at the same time helped keep my head in the game, and if I had a moment to breathe I could look at the progress other people were making as well.  I even played a demo or two along the way.  Additionally, posting my own progress got me some nice feedback from the community regarding what I could do to improve the game.  I wish I’d had more of this actually!

The Ending Rocks : Even though the ending took about 3 hours to make, with all the precise fiddling I did to make everything timed just right, I think it’s worthwhile.  I would love to add more movie sequences at various mid points in the game as I expand it over time.


The Bad

Sound Design was a big time suck :  I have no experience designing sound.  None.  Why I thought it would be a great idea to hang out on a sound generator website and try to make sfx and music for this game I have no clue.  I’m sure I wasted at least 3 hours playing with sound effects that didn’t really work, and that I didn’t even quite know how to form into what I wanted in the first place.  I could have used that time to better balance my level design, or give people clues about the properties of the game world (for instance, make some levels where Hug Monster plows through blocks early, just to show you that it can, before you find a level in which it actually needs to happen.

Level Design was a big time suck :  And I still didn’t fully express all the ideas I wanted to.  I was hoping to have more novel behaviors for switches, such as opening pitfalls or dumping rocks down to block passages.  I was also hoping to have more environmental hazards, such as falling Wingdings, and possibly motorized platforms.  Even what I have really isn’t perfect.  When the game started coming together I knew it was begging to be a puzzle solver, but the problem with this is that the puzzles need to be challenging and at the same time actually solvable… and with the Hug Monster’s AI being a bit on the dumb side, that wasn’t so easy to accomodate.

Hug Monster’s AI : It’s not that the AI is really “bad” but it’s very simple, and I feel its lack of smarts is somewhat of a hinderance to game and level design.

Unity3D : Or rather, the physics engine in particular.  It wasn’t all bad by any means (after all, it’s prominently listed as one of the good things) but I found that while it bought me a lot of time for other things in not having to roll my own full physics engine, I still lost some time fiddling with Unity’s built-in physics which can seem somewhat opaque.  I’m sure this will come more naturally in time.


I’m sure there’s more to be said about the game’s good and bad points, but right now I’m just spent.  I think I’ll go rate some more of you guys’ work!


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