Greetings all! A week-and-a-bit after the fact, here’s a mini post-mortem of our LD 25 Jam entry – SUPER Witch Hunter Pro.
Overall, the Jam was a fantastic experience for us both. It’s the first time we’ve worked as a team on a finished indie game, and has whet both our appetites for more of the same. At the very least we’ll be taking SWHP to a further finished version after LD judging is completed.
Overall, things went quite well.
We made good use of our first hour with a focused discussion about how villains can be interpreted in various media, and the different approaches to playing as one. It wasn’t long before we settled on subject of history judging once righteous/heroic actions as villainous or unseemly. The most compelling villains are often well-intentioned, and history often decides where villainy lies. Our scenario – What if 17th century European witch burnings were today widely perceived as good and heroic deeds, and how would they have been realized as a series of hit arcade games? We were both inspired by this, and it energized us both from the offset.
- General design & Scope
Since subject matter and history were quite “heavy” – what with women being burned alive at the stake (and worse) – we decided a simple arcade gameplay treatment would help lighten (or conceal) the tone, as well as forcing us to boil down a complex situation into basic elements. Those elements became Pyre, Wood, Witch and Fire. We looked at Game & Watch titles as an example of the sort of “plate-spinning” gameplay we wanted, though we decided to take it a step further, with many small simple loops operating in a single screen layout. We set ourselves a gameplay goal that wasn’t too ambitious, but suitable for LD. It was important to us that we could realize something relatively final, without too many obviously unfinished elements.
We both knew exactly what we were doing as a team, and where our individual strengths and responsibilities were. There was little to no downtime during the Jam due to this. We prioritized tasks that were dependencies for each other, so that there was no waiting for one another.
Implementation per design/plan went without too many hitches or serious bugs. The Pyre object acted as a nice anchor for much of our gameplay events, which helped concentrate development efforts.
- Art, 2.5d Approach
We decided early to go with 2.5d, largely sprite animation due to the short dev time and classic arcade inspired gameplay. A fixed camera allowed us to exploit a lot of time-saving tricks, and provided the game with a strong visual style. This choice allowed us to very quickly test and finalize character, gameplay and level assets.
- Scoring & General Feedback
Although we certainly could have had more, we were both pleased enough that we managed to address most important game events with visual and aural feedback. A decent variety of text dialogue/copy lent the game some added character. Scoring with combos and a basic rankings system being intact helped us get closer to our arcade game goal. These things went a long way towards making our entry feel complete.
Though not our collective strong suit, it was great we managed to get in as much as we did – ensuring no screen was too aurally empty and key events had sound. As well as boosting the final presentation, ranting about burning heretics for the VO recording was a great way to release some pressure during rapid development.
We’re planning to add all of these and more in a future (post-LD) version.
- Difficulty curve
Though we had several avenues for adding a difficulty curve, and it being fairly necessary; we knew we wouldn’t have time to properly adjust or test it, or to make It obvious enough it was in effect. We left it out so that everyone that played the game once would at least be exposed to all it had to offer.
- Victory Conditions
You can’t technically “win”. Though this is true to the arcade and game & watch references, it’d still have been nice to provided round/levels for a greater sense of progression and encouragement. As we didn’t include a difficulty curve, however, there was little basis for inserting this (and not enough time).
- Pyre score feedback
One important feedback layer we didn’t have time for was the score earning display which would appear at the pyre on “Burn Complete”. Unfortunately, though the combo (Serial Burn) bonus multiplier is working in the final game, it’s not really something the player is aware of due to this feedback not being there.
- Gating, Rain, Cauldron Bombs…
Evolving level design to include dynamic blocking and slowing volumes, rain clouds which slow or reverse fire growth, wood thieves, witches flying overhead with cauldron goop bombs, other stuff to set on fire… all the “next step” ideas that you gotta drop due to time
- More Power-ups!
To go hand in hand with more hazards, a greater variety of power-ups would have exposed further gameplay depth.
- Piety loss feedback
Since this is essentially player HP, more obvious feedback is needed – especially when failure was imminent.
Play the game:
Song of the Entry (I still have this stuck in my head…)
As happy as we are with the game, I think the biggest positive for us was our proven ability to work well as a team, and under within the time constraint. LD has really empowered us to push harder at making indie development a personal reality. So – thanks LD!
from Ben & Jerry
@JerryVerhoeven | @benjkers