A week has passed since LD48 and it’s a good time to take a deep breath and reflect. Rub our sore muscles. Think about what’s next. Weep uncontrollably. Whatever you need. In my case, Mass Splitter went out the door without a hitch! Well, rather, it was well under the maximum number of allowed hitches. It was within hitch tolerance. In truth, there were three hitches: I didn’t get in a main menu, I didn’t get in a tutorial or at least an instruction page, and there was only one level. But all these hitches pretty much have the same cause, that of running out of time, so how comes I haz runs out?

What Went Wrong

Architect hat mostly unworn

I spent a bunch of time trying to get some view components working with HaxePunk. HaxePunk handles origin a little differently than I would think it should work, so I spent a few hours on my View class, getting the Scale, Origin, and Position components to all work together. Great, they now work together.

I did this because my game has orbs in it, and the active orb has a tube spinning around the outside edge of it. You hold the spacebar to shrink the active orb and start growing a new orb on the other side of the tube. After I got the tube spinning at the right radius around the correct center point I then went to add the new orb. This new orb also needs to be placed at spinning radius from the center, so how do I get the true position of the edge of the tube?

Well I can’t. The tube’s actual position is derived inside the view class, so it doesn’t exist at the component level. So now I’d have to either hack into the View objects to get this information (which horrifies my MVC sensibilities), or just calculate the orbital position myself, which I did. Well gosh, that was easy. And now that I’ve done that I can position and rotate the tube using the same logic, so the tube stops scaling along with the size of the active orb, which is a better look I like anyway.

In essence, I looked at just one next thing to do, rather than the broader landscape. Without putting on the architect hat, I spent a few hours going down a rabbit hole I didn’t need or want. On the other hand, I’ve got a cooler View class now.

Failed to take the time to split up complicated classes

I didn’t universally fail this, but I could probably attribute a few hours of wasted energy because of failing to do this early or at all. In particular my firing system is doing several things rather than breaking it up into different systems. See Ash Entity System / What Went Right.

Not putting more of my personality into my game

Friends often tell me I’m funny. Even fine, up-standing strangers — if not calling me that — have in the least called me irreverent. I try not to listen to other categories of people whose job is to be offended by everything. Anyhow – you wouldn’t know these things about me from playing Mass Splitter. Sure, I don’t have to make humor a central aspect of all my games, but a) it’s clearly desirable in a competition where there’s a category for it, b) there are many kinds of humor besides pratfalls and puns that can serve a dramatic cause. Heard of irony? Sarcasm? Deprecation? Pathos? Impudent contempt? Not that Mass Splitter is a deep example of erudition (it’s not), but it’s better for one’s self esteem to believe your personality is a strength. And if it’s not … well, you should work on your personality. Are you trying to tell me I should work on my personality? Stop staring at me like that.

What Went Right

Ash Entity Framework

Richard Lord’s Ash Entity Framework is really good. It’s an entity component system. I used the Haxe port maintained by Dan Korostelev. It was really fun to learn how to use an entity system and put it into practice. For those who don’t know, apparently those folks at AAA game houses have been using these things for years. The idea is to eschew traditional static object hierarchies for a data-driven composition approach. Richard has some great articles about it on his website.

Everyone seems to approach an entity system differently; in Ash the entity is a fairly generic object. You create a new Entity instance, optionally give it a name, add components to it, and add it to the engine. Usually it’s the job of a factory to create the entities with the components you need, but that’s up to you. Components are simply data-holders that you create, with little if no logic in them. Ash components do not need to derive from any base class, any object could be a component. All the behavior for your game goes into the systems you write, derived from the System class and added to the engine instance driving your game. When you call engine.update(time), all your systems execute in the appropriate sequence. Although Ash provides a signaling capability, Richard recommends you use boolean flags or components as markers to indicate when events happen, so that a component event (such as “this changed”) is only responded to by a system when it executes. Using engine.getNodeList(MyNode) a system fetches a list of entities from the engine that are relevant to it. Nodes are classes that contain one or more components; only those entities holding the components you specify will be returned.

I enjoyed using Ash quite a bit and encourage you to look at my source on Github if you’re interested in seeing one possible way of using the library.

Think smaller

Last compo I thought I picked a small idea but apparently it wasn’t small enough because I couldn’t get it done in time. This one was doable — juuuust barely. :)  I tried to get a playable prototype as soon as possible; I would have liked to go to bed on Saturday night with it playable.  Now, that didn’t work.  Pthbth. The prototype wasn’t playable until Sunday afternoon, but imagine if I wasn’t striving for earlier! Suck-sess.

Toolkit practice

I’ve had previous practice with HaxePunk, and I started messing with Ash in a previous game I attempted to complete for the 7-day Roguelike. Even though THAT attempt was a failure, it gave me crucial practice that made this submission possible, and also gave me base code to pick at for Mass Splitter. Of course, more practice would be better, so I shouldn’t wait four months for my next game…

BFXR

This audio tool is available in several forms; the one I used is BFXR. Sooooo convenient. Sure, all your sounds do tend to sound video gamey retro screechy crunchy if you don’t post-process them, but a lot of people go for that, and damn if it isn’t quick to pump out some placeholders.  (… that wind up being the final sounds when you run out of time)

Shut up, good enough, it’s playable

Shut up, I say! It’s good enough. It’s playable. I’m just happy I got out a game. Would I have liked to get those extra things I conceived of? Of course. Over time, with practice, I’ll be able to meet the goals I think I should be capable of. (I’m a damn perfectionist. I’d be faster if I wasn’t always trying some different way of doing things.)

I finished something playable in time that some people actually liked. Next time I’ll do even better.

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