Colorful post-mortem and post-compo

Posted by (twitter: @suvepl)
December 25th, 2012 6:19 pm

Signing up for Ludum Dare 25, I was a bit sceptical. It would be my first LD and second jam/compo ever, so I didn’t really have any experience in, uhm, rapid gamemaking. The tips and articles you might read here and there might give you a general idea, but it certainly won’t replace experience.

After the theme was announced, I had a few different ideas. Some of them were good, but too complicated for a compo. Some were possibly a bit to vague. After thinking for a little while, I realized that an old project of mine could, after modifying the scenario a bit, fit into the theme. And since I really wanted to bring that old idea into life someday, I thought – why not? Having the general idea for the scenario and gameplay, I rushed into action.

The next 48 hours were… interesting, definitely. Constant keytapping, sometimes interrupted by drawing some pixels. The code was hastily glued together will little concern for style or readability – as long as it works, nothing else matters! I actually had to do one redesign because of this, since at some point treating every in-game entity, as, well, an entity proved to be too abstract and I decided to write different processing loops for mobs, enemy bullets and player bullets.

At first, I didn’t really care that much about time – 2 days for the idea I conceived was quite a lot of time. The first day I actually went with a friend for a run and, later, to the gym. By the end of the first day one could move the hero, there were a few basic enemy types and the sound worked. Oh, and I had done the intro. The second day was, thus, spent mostly on writing game room code and designing the rooms, along with some minor tweaks or mini-features added here and there.

I must confess I underestimated the amount of work left, as with only a few hours remaining I still had quite a lot to do. At some point I kind of panicked and, well, it’ll be sufficient to write that as the amount of remaining time decreased, my keytapping speed increased accordingly. Some of the maps were thrown in at the last minute, tested only to see if the doors opened correctly et cetera, without actually checking if the amount and distribution of enemies doesn’t make them too hard. I actually completed the game for the first time after submitting it. The outro was drawn quickly and desperately, as ┬áthe timer mercilessly raced towards zero. It’s kind of funny when I think about it now, since the outro is actually the only part of the game that explains its connection to the theme.

So, time for a summary, I guess. What went good?

  • I actually managed to finish the game, yay!
  • The game takes (well, for me) about half an hour to finish, so it’s quite big.
  • Retro-stylization allowed for really simple pixelart, reducing the amount of work needed.
  • I didn’t assume any advanced features, so there wasn’t really any moment when the development was stalled because I definitely and absolutely had to implement a certain element.
  • Code structure and object inheritance turned out really simple. My last few projects died or were severely stalled because of chopping the functionality too much, leading to lots of classes and general dependency hell. Temporarily disabling one class could render half the other non-functional.

What went bad?

  • As I had already stated, too much haste near the end. I should either scale the game down a bit or well, not be as relaxed and easygoing on the first day as I was.
  • Not dividing the to-do list into less and more important things. (Yes, I’m referring to the last-minute outro.)
  • No boss enemies. The game ended up with the strongest enemies being energy generators, whereas originally I wanted every colour artefact to be guarded by a boss. I could even settle for a single boss, as an extra end-of-game challenge. But nope.
  • Some problems with tools that could be avoided by checking everything before the compo.
  • Too much time wasted chasing simple bugs or flaws in chain-of-thought.

Ludum Dare definitely proved to be an interesting, rewarding event. I was really happy and even a bit proud when I submitted my entry. Although I can’t resist feeling a bit silly when I think that this is my first complete game project in nearly three years. Oh well, I can only hope that the joy of releasing something will give me motivation towards finally completing my older, stalled projects (or maybe creating something new?). I am so in for the next Ludum Dare.

In case anyone would be interested, today I released a post-compo version of the game. The main change is an added save/load feature, customizable key bindings and a short tutorial. ┬áSince the game is quite hard (at least that’s what the comments say – personally, I think it is nowhere near the Nintendo-hard level) grabbing the post-compo version may be recommended for some people, as they will be able to save and continue later when they become fed up with constantly dying.

So, if anyone’s interested, check it out here.

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