Pincers post-mortem

Posted by (twitter: @ggiraldez)
September 2nd, 2012 7:19 pm

First of all, the end product :)

Download and rate Pincers

This was my first successful LD (and the second I participate in). I have received a lot of positive feedback, I’m quite happy with the results and most of all, it was a lot of fun.

Last time, for LD23, I started out but quickly ran out of steam and had to abandon. That experience was useful nevertheless, since it allowed me to learn the Löve framework, which I have used this time too.

The inspiration from flOw should be obvious as that was my starting point. I’m also fond of RPGs, so I put in a progression system based on those. Your body is composed of different parts (segments) and each of them improves to a maximum level 6. You have life, energy, speed, friction (or inertia) and attack strength, and those are updated from your segments types every time you level up. After a certain number of level ups (depending on your size), you grow a new segment of a type according to what you ate until that moment. There’s no goal. It’s an exploration game. But it allows for different play styles, depending on how you evolve.

Quick stats rundown: the game is about 1400 lines of Lua code, it runs with the Löve framework version 0.8, graphics were made with The Gimp and all 7 sound effects were cooked with sfxr. I estimate I put in about 18 hours of development time (assets included).

Title screen

What went right

  • First and most important, I completed a game, which is an important milestone for me.
  • The idea was simple, which I think was essential to be able to implement it. Sure, there are a lot of things left in my backlog, but I was able to reach a point where the game is playable and is fun.
  • I’m satisfied with how the game plays, and that it allows for different play styles.
  • The AI is almost non-existent, yet their behavior feels natural (but see below).
  • I think the game is balanced with respect to progression speed and the different stats. Leveling up doesn’t take too long, yet you can die very quickly if you become overconfident.
  • sfxr is godsend. The effects are pretty basic, but the game wouldn’t have sound if not for it.
  • Live code reloading helped in keeping the development dynamic. Even the simple approach I took (I know there are better techniques) worked very nicely. Trying new code without having to start again from the beginning is awesome.
  • I’m very happy with the resulting code base. It’s simple code, with few explicit optimizations. It’s something I can continue to work on without too much hassle.
  • From very early in the development I made a script to build the distributables. That’s one thing less to worry about when nearing the deadline.

What went wrong (or rather not so well)

  • Lack of discipline and stamina. After finding out about the theme at Friday 10pm, I went to bed at around midnight, but then I woke up Saturday at 1pm, and all Saturday I couldn’t really focus on the development. Progress was not that bad, but I could have done a lot better. I need to work on self-discipline if I want to build something bigger next time. Also, while I worked in short bursts (like I normally do), I ended up Sunday completely burned out. Having submitted one hour before deadline, I didn’t even try to keep on adding stuff.
  • Keyboard controls are not good, and mouse control takes a bit getting used to it. That’s the most recurring complain I got from the comments. I should have probably removed keyboard controls altogether. I play tested using the mouse and I think this should be played with the mouse after all.
  • Energy is unused, but there are items to replete it and it’s in the UI. I planned to implement a skill system (depending on your composition you’d gain a new/improve an existing skill every X levels) but it fell out of my schedule. The fact that the UI and in-game elements are there make the game look unfinished and unpolished.
  • No music. It would have added a lot to the mood of the game. Learning some composition is high in my priority list for the next LD.
  • AI is dumb. Creatures have two basic rules (stay near their “zones” and try to eat red pills when life drops below 70%), and the rest is random movement. Again, lack of time, and lack of motivation at the end.
  • While I think the leveling system and progression speed is ok, it’s not really clear what’s going to happen when you level up. There’s a small indicator of the next type of segment you’re gonna get (right next to the level progress bar), but I don’t think anyone would know what’s its purpose.
  • No endgame, no bosses. While I love exploration games, I feel that a boss here and there adds to the challenge. And gives the player a sense of accomplishment when she defeats it.
  • While I’m quite happy with the graphics, the desaturated and bright palette results in dull graphics. In particular, screenshots are quite bad, which make for a bad first impression on the game. Somebody also commented that the initial grey background looks wrong. I couldn’t agree more :)

What’s next

I’ll definitely keep working on this game. I have a long list of things to try/add (better AI and skills are the most prominent items). I’ll try to post updates here.

All in all, I had a great time. Right now I’m playing and rating other people’s games. There’s some awesome stuff  in here. In any case, I’m looking forward to participating in the next LD.

Till next time, and thanks for playing!

 


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