SNAP – post mortem

Posted by
January 6th, 2013 6:59 am












“You are the villain”. My immediate thoughts revolved around men in diabolical capes with greased back hair, big nose, moustache and evil cackling laughter. Railway tracks. Ladies in distress. Cartoons…

I put those thoughts to one side.

What I like most about the pressure of 48 hours is that allows one to take big creative risks. This, for me, is the most satisfying part of Ludum Dare. When I play other LD48 games what I most want to see is originality – a spark of brilliance born of panic and enthusiasm – a glimpse into a gaming universe which no sane gaming studio would seriously explore.

I wanted to create a game which, rather than shrank away from the grotesque possibilities of “you [the player] are the villain”, embraced it with perversion and panache.

The (admittedly obvious) theme of initiating a mass shooting grabbed my attention.

During day one of LD, as I progressed with my design, news came over the radio: a massacre had occurred in Newtown, USA; a massacre of mostly young children. A sad day for humanity.

I decided to pursue my current game idea regardless. But the tragic events at Newtown helped me focus on what I considered important to such a game concept.

There was to be no romanticism, and the game would itself accuse the player of being a coward.

The visuals would be abstract, a representation of a cold calculated killer. Killing shapes is easy – killing people not so.

There would be no screams from the victims, nor graphic spurts of blood, nor spasms of death – figures would simply fade, as if fading from memory, fading from consciousness.

The gun would not let out a satisfying “BANG!”, but would be a simple muted “click”.

All of this would help distance the player from the act, but the fascinating twist is that I wanted this abstract interpretation to represent a very literal interpretation of the mind of the killer. What you are seeing in this game IS what the killer sees. This is the only way the killer can shield him/herself from the awful truth.

There is also a simple blood overlay with opacity and movement changes which reflect the players current health. It begins to obscure the player’s vision as health gets critical. As the veil of blood descends, it fogs the player’s vision… disorientation… panic… a sense of inevitable death… and finally, an urge to die.

The only tenuous thread connecting the player with reality would be the background noise – a blend of street sounds and general panic. These sounds represent encroaching reality – the thin line between  the killer and victims – and would attempt to worm their way into the ear.

I am happy that most people seemed to pick up on this idea, with many comments reflecting upon these stylistic devices.


Did it work?

The fun challenge here as a game designer is to make this style work, while trying to embed the mechanics of a fun game.

I think I succeeded, in that if you take away the cosmetics, you are still left with a game. That being said, definite improvements could be made.

There are a couple of interesting mechanics used. The first, is that civilian targets score more than police targets, even though civilians can not defend themselves but police will fire at you. Presently, a civilian scores 10 points, while a police officer only scores 5. A miss costs you 1 point to discourage mouse mashing type play.

The second game mechanic is the suicide mechanic. There are many ways the suicide score calculation could work, and originally I wanted it to oscillate a little. But in the end I used this simple formula:

suicideBonus = Math.floor(health/4) + 10


There is an annoying bug somewhere which makes the shooting collision tests a bit iffy.

More graphic feedback for player health would be better. For example, the player foreground sprite dims/flashes when damaged/low health. I am a little disappointed I didn’t include this obvious idea in the original, as I think it’s a small addition that would make a lot of difference.

Some floating score indicators could help too, appearing when you shoot a target.

More graphic variety would is also an easy thing to add.




Play the game here.

Tags: ,

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

[cache: storing page]