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Post Mortem: viviDNA

Posted by (twitter: @https://twitter.com/Gama11_)
September 6th, 2012 2:13 am

Guess I’m a bit late to write a Post Mortem, but why not?

LD 24 was my first LD and even the first game jam I ever participated in – so I probably did tons of rookie-mistakes. Also went for the 72 hours right away because a) I didn’t have much time on saturday and b) I can’t compose music (ended up getting something from the NG audio portal).  When I saw the “Evolution” theme, I was kind of shocked – no idea whatsoever. So I decided to just jump right in and let my game evolve as I code it. I basically started off with the demo-swf of a simple trail-effect I created the day before – I figured I would just do a little, real simple avoider-game (where you upgrade over time) with it. I hated the idea of something that unoriginal, but I didn’t have a better one, so..

I would describe my entry viviDNA as “avoider-game meets snake”. You’re this white square with a rainbow-DNA-trail and have to hit the borders of the game screen whenever one changes color to level up (gain speed and DNA). There are enemies around you, that evolve, as well. You can either play offensely or defensely – if you attack enemies by bumping into them, you lose DNA, which is risky, to keep their numbers low. You can also focus on avoiding and use your trail to deflect enemies and “create a little base” to shield yourself from enemies. You have to survive as long as you can and level up as fast as possible in order to rack up a highscore.

What went right:

  • Tons of accidental “discoveries” that lead to cool gameplay mechanics. Examples: I replaced the trail image of the demo-swf above with a rainbow-colored, 1 pixel high image. Due to the rotation, it looked like a DNA string!  Another thing: When there were no enemies and you could only steer your character, bumping into walls seemd kinda fun. So that’s actually a gameplay-mechanic now!
  • Communicating and getting feedback early. I was in the #flixel IRC channel the whole time, and it really helped, not only when it comse to fixing little issues like weird bugs, but also improving the game. Near the end, someone who played the game said that “The trail is boring, it doesn’t do anything”. That is the sole reason why enemies are deflected by the trail now, which is in my opinion a core-feature of the game. It’s what makes the game unique and differentiates it from other avoider-games, makes it unqiue.
  • Choosing a simple, easy-to-code game type. I’m not the most experienced programmer and doing something huge in only 72 hours is beyond my abilites. I focused on gameplay rather than an enormous amount of content, and it seems like it sorta worked out. At least I was able to finish the game.
  • Choosing to use the most simple graphics possible (pretty much different-colored cubes only, there are only 3 .png files used in the game. The rest is drawn with flixels makeGraphic-command) and using the rigth tools (FlashDevelop + flixel)
  • Getting sound effects from freesounds.org / Bfxr and music from NG.
  • The title screen. Like how it turned out.

What went wrong:

  • Not having enough time on Saturday.
  • Throwing good programming practives over board. I basically coded as fast as possible in the beginning and totally regretted it in the end. If I had written cleaner code from the start, it would probably have taken me less time in the end, simply because it caused so much stupid bugs and confusion in general.
  • Not getting enough sleep. Yeah, I’m not very productive when tired.
  • Probably overusing the trail effect – I imagine the game lags pretty badly on older machines because of that.
  • Not working with an artist – I was going for the jam anyway, so that could’ve improved the visual quality of the game a lot. Plus, not working alone makes things a lot more fun.
  • The theme – My game doesn’t fit it perfectly if you ask me (very few games do, but still). There’s something that sorta looks like DNA, and you and the enemies “evolve” / level up, but that’s pretty much about it already.
  • Not having a real idea of what the finished game should look like from the start – I know this is something I wrote in “What went right” as well, but it has pros and cons. While it worked out this time, it surely won’t always, I just “got lucky” I guess. Doing at least a bit more planning won’t hurt for the next game jam.

So yeah, LD was a rather fun experience overall, though exhausting. Apparently, (according to comments here on LD) some people even think my game is fun to play, which is just awesome. I’m looking forward to participate again in the future!

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