SURVIVE – Post Mortem

Posted by (twitter: @Ragzouken)
August 29th, 2012 3:45 am

This was my first Ludum Dare, and I really enjoyed it! From what I read, it’s traditional to do a little write up of what happens, so here is mine for SURVIVE:

SURVIVE win screen

What went right:

  • Framework: I learned love2d a while back, then I started a warm-up game before TIGJAM UK 7, and made a game in it there too. This left me with a pretty good understanding of the framework, which made programming it a breeze. The only thing that could have gone better here is if I had tried the HardOnCollider library before Ludum Dare; it made collision detection so easy post-compo, and really improved the game.
  • Idea: Regardless of  anyone else’s opinion, I thought the idea was strong; which meant I was quite motivated to make it. Originally I didn’t know how I would turn the simulation of these organisms into a game; I had some ideas, but none were very good. As often happens, better ideas emerged as I played around with game and developed the other aspects, and lead to what I have now.
  • Visuals: The game practically started as a screen-saver. It looked pretty, and that was really motivating. When it came to the point that the gameplay just didn’t work, and I had some horrible changes ahead of me, I decided to make the start/win/lose transitions for the game instead. This was a nice distraction: fun and rewarding – the game felt more like a game, even if it didn’t play very well.

What went wrong:

  • Sound: This was a complaint from a lot of people. I thought I could make the game a little more interesting by throwing in some sounds that related to what was going on – a sound where the higher the pitch, the better the event was for you. In theory this sounded okay, but in practice sound is not so simple, and I should have picked the sounds more carefully. I ended up with lots of  dissonant bleeps and bloops that really annoyed people. This wasn’t helped by a bug that the each loss added a looping warning sound to the background!
  • Playability: The game was difficult to figure out, even with instructions (especially since some people will ignore them – I know I often do). It’s a frantic game and near the end death often results in gaining control of an organism that’s about to die soon too. This leaves your camera jumping about a lot with no real way to get back into the game – very frustrating! Someone suggested the level should start with fewer organisms, you have a chance to work out what’s going on – this is probably a good idea, but I’d have to put in some controls to stop them winning before the difficulty kicks in!
  • Organism behaviour: The AI was not very smart, which was one of the main causes for the bad playability because you find yourself taking control of organisms that have practically committed suicide already! I didn’t have collision detection in place and I really should have tried to do it – post compo I added it in just a couple of hours, and it made a vast improvement. Firstly it stops too many cells occupying the same space, which makes it easier to see what the hell is going on. Secondly, it made it much easier to detect nearby organisms in code, which meant I could improve the behaviour a lot – in those same couple of hours I added behaviour for the organism to try and create their babies in relative safety, and to attack closer enemies with priority; this really improved the game!

Overall, it was a very positive experience, and I’m left with a game that both looks great and is something I’d like to keep working on. I definitely will participate again! Please give the game a try. Rating it would be great, and comments are greater! If you like my game, there’s a post-compo version with improvements to organism behaviour.

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