ONLY DUST // Only a Post-Mortem

Posted by (twitter: @mattdivito)
April 26th, 2012 12:13 pm

Jasper Run CyclePlay the game first!

http://www.ludumdare.com/compo/ludum-dare-23/?action=preview&uid=5821

Alright, now that the dust has cleared on this LD, it’s time for a post-mortem. This was my third LD, so I was feeling a little confident and ready to go BIG with this entry – of course the theme ended up going small, but that I could deal with. The first idea I had was a fast paced arcade game where you played a little viral warrior who jumps from sneeze to sneeze killing germs in mid air. This idea, while fun, was a bit silly and I wanted to go for something a little darker and more atmospheric, as this tends to be my strong suit. So, with the a vague remembrance of the plot to ‘Honey, I Shrunk the Kids’ in my mind, I got to work.

Only Dust Intro Scene

This is the raw vector art for the intro scene.

Gameplay

I wanted to create an exploration platformer as this is a genre that is near and dear to my heart, but one that I haven’t tried yet for an LD. My initial thought was to create a more open world design, but I was worried about potential technical issues as well as time constraints so I opted for something more linear. After playing FEZ last week, I liked the idea of a game with no combat, just puzzle solving and exploration. I also knew that I could potentially use the silhouetted art style to my advantages, so I decided hidden passages would be a big part of the game. Finally, to keep things interesting, I decided to add one very lethal element to game – acid!

Intro After Effects

Intro scene with colors, effects and filters.

Atmosphere

I spent a decent amount of time working on the visual style for the game. You can see above the initial vector art and how much it was stylized for the actual game. My goal for the visuals was to create a sense of macro scale by emulating a shallow depth of field effect – which is why the background is super blurry. I also wanted to a have a ‘filmic’ vibe to it, like this was something from a 1970’s sci-fi movie, so I added some embellishments like the old film border and a grain/texture overlay.

The music was one of the first things I did, since I knew that if I waited on it I might run out of time like I did last LD. Besides intending to creating a sort of desperate, melancholic mood, I included some subtle sound effect elements so that the audio track would also serve as the ambient noise of the environment.

Finally, I decided to make the narrative a big focus of the game, having a bunch of NPC’s which you encounter over the course of the game. I was worried that some players might find this annoying so most of these conversations are optional, but I do think the dialogue in the game adds a lot to the atmosphere as well.

Challenges

  • Time – This game was intended to be a main compo entry, but on Sunday night the game was only about half done and I knew I would be unhappy submitting such an incomplete feeling game so I decided to switch to the jam. Even with the extra day I still wasn’t able to do everything I wanted and I had to upload the game with a few obvious problems.
  • Programming issues – Wasted a lot of time due to using inefficient programming methods. I’ve been using ActionScript 2.0 because, to be honest, it’s the only language I really know, but I can tell it’s also holding me back and forcing me to rely on bad habits. My goal for the next LD is to finally get my act together with AS3, or try something else besides Flash for once.
  • Unhealthy perfectionism – Spent a lot of time on little details some of which are so small I don’t they’re even noticeable – for example the characters that you meet are actually animated so it looks like they’re breathing, but they are so small that it barely registers. In retrospect, my time could have been much better spent on more important stuff.

Conclusion

Overall, I’m happy with this game – in a lot of ways it feels like a culmination of all the things I’ve been working on over the past year or so, whether that be programming, art, or music. Despite whatever progress I’ve made though, it’s obvious to me that if I want to take my games to the next level, I need to get serious about expanding my programming knowledge. This experience was also a reminder that if I want to make BIG games I need to put more time into game development outside of Ludum Dares!

Anyway, thanks to anyone who has played or rated my game, I appreciate it! And if you haven’t played it yet, here’s the link:

http://www.ludumdare.com/compo/ludum-dare-23/?action=preview&uid=5821

 


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