***Spoiler Alert*** Enjoyment of playing Red Planet comes from the ‘Twilight Zone’ ending; If you haven’t played it yet, don’t read on, it will ruin that bit by doing so.
I visualized the end first- an astronaut stepping out onto the newly green Martian surface, no space suit, slowly fades away into the green waves of the new life form… An ode to the feel of an old EC Comic book. From there I just went backward. The AI came from needing dialogue, eating and showering simply connect you, as a player, to the life of your little pixel friend. I put it all out on paper in the form of thumbnail sketches and a timeline.
I think I may have had some tea and dimmed the lights before I recorded. I pictured myself on Mars and hit record. I recorded 2 “songs”, one, a atmospheric bland track, the second a more upbeat “chase” track with heart-beat type sounds. When implemented, the first atmospheric track plays constantly, the second fades in over it when triggered by “scare” events. I think this bit was the most successful of the project, and also the fastest to complete, weighing in at only an hour at the most.
I did sprites and animation directly into Photoshop with my Wacom. Freehand with a Wacom is not my first choice, but the alternative would not have allowed for half as many assets. I kept things simple and easy to read. I avoided adding too many frames and too much mechanical detail in the station. Some pieces are ugly, but all serve the purpose of furthering the story.
The number one complaint of Red Planet has been, “Bro, this is an interactive story.” or “Dude, where is my freedom?”. Initially I had written in a few item puzzles, (the taser gun remains as an example) but wrote them out due to being a little tough. I felt the strongest point of this game was the story, and if some folks didn’t complete the story, they won’t be seeing the full picture. I grew up playing old Sierra adventures, and I only remember the stories of Roger and Graham, certainly not the illogical value-stretching ‘put this in this and press this’ puzzles. It raises an interesting point as to where the line is between telling a story and interacting a story… I don’t think Red Planet was entirely successful at walking that line.
The text scrolls way too fast for some folks. This could have been corrected by a “Space when read” function, although that would raise the spacebar-mashing count considerably. Again, this points out the major flaw with the linear progression.
Death as an official ending. I think some people were confused by being killed as a reward to completion. I still like the idea, but perhaps could have clarified that this is the ONLY ending you can get.
Thanks for playing, and if you haven’t, try the game here: http://www.ludumdare.com/compo/ludum-dare-24/?action=preview&uid=8563.