A post-mortem of ❏♥❀ (Square Heart Flower)
Please do play our game and give it a rating!
Here’s a timelapse of us making it:
Unity is brilliant, and easy to use! We’ve used it for a couple of games, and although we could still improve the way we organise our code/prefabs/scenes, it lets us put a game together very quickly! It’s also robust enough that we don’t have to worry about crashes or rendering problems.
Minimalism made the art easier to create! It would be easy to think that a minimalistic theme would allow us to create bad art and pass it off as minimalist. However, we spent some time thinking about minimalism, and came up with an art style that looks great without requiring detailed texture work! Using Blender’s Inset Faces tool with a group of faces selected, an outline could be created in the geometry of the model itself, and then a black material applied to the “outline” polygons to suggest the edges of the object in the white game environment.
Objects are reduced to the minimal graphics needed to represent them, but you can still tell what they are.
Minimalism made the dialogue easier to write! There is no text in the game – we explored the concept of reducing language down to symbols. It’s part of the puzzle, but we find it interesting that players can figure out what’s going on even though the characters they meet and the dialogue interface only convey a minimal amount of information.
We pushed ourselves to make something new! We are all programmers by profession, so it is unusual for us to have a go at making an artistic game. Violence provides a variety of game mechanics that are easy to build a game around, so it was a challenge to create a non-violent game for a change!
Having only one Unity scene meant we couldn’t all work in parallel. Unity scene files are binary, which means they won’t merge properly if there are conflicts in the source control. At the beginning of the weekend we were working on separate scenes to test individual systems, but at the end there was a lot of work to pull everything together, and it could only be done by one person.
We didn’t get the story working completely until the end of the third day. It took us a long time to create all the content, including the AI behaviour. This meant that the story we implemented, although a complete story, wasn’t as elaborate and non-linear as we were hoping.
We didn’t make use of all the features we’d programmed into the dialogue system. By having a minimalist dialogue system, we envisioned that the player would be able to say anything they wanted by constructing the sentences from symbols. That is present in the game, but because of limitations in the graphical dialogue interface, we removed the ability for characters to respond to every piece of information you give them. Also the code allows for much more complicated logical rules – to change what the characters think and do – than are present in the final story, but again the GUI is limited in what can be reasonably displayed.
Our external source control system was slow. The Mercurial repository was hosted on bitbucket.org. I had hoped that this would be a good way of enabling us to continue working on the game together after we had all gone home, but it meant that pushing to the repository took up to several minutes. “We’ve wasted, like, hours of the competition, pushing to this repository” said Dunk, who has no concept of the passage of time, and who liked to commit huge MP3 and WAV files.
In the UK, the competition started and finished at 3:00 AM. Technically that would give us more time, because we usually sleep through the theme announcement and start when we wake up on Saturday morning, then stay awake on Monday to work through to the competition deadline – an extra hour this time compared to the usual finish of 2:00 AM. However working that late is a recipe for introducing bugs into the game at the last minute, so we decided to create a stable build, submit it and go to bed even though we could have stayed up longer to add more features.
We’re very pleased with the game we’ve made in Unity! It fits the minimalism theme well, and is playable and fun. We can always think of more that could be included, but it’s a time-constrained competition. Please play and rate our game!