A bit late, but here’s the postmortem of our 3rd jam game together: Erase
Sorry for the bad English, we are French.
Design vs Code :
The major problem with our team is that nobody has high knowledge in coding, the game designer has had to take on the programming task. In addition to making something in accordance with the subject, we had two limiting objectives.
The first one was to do something you can do. Obviously, the topic was an open door to an abstract gameplay. The problem is that even though we have the ability to imagine it, it was impossible to code it. We have chosen a simple base (a platform game) as the foundation of our game / topic interpretation. The platform game advantage is also that it’s known by all of us, and allows a rapid progression in the subject.
The second challenge was to make a game really Gamee. We don’t like things auto-claimed Indie in which players are completely inactive. We love indie games, but we love the game over all, and it’s important for us to produce something with a challenge to both brain and skill.
If the game is only a reflexive object, we don’t need to do it in video game (a card or board game is the same) which is why the address aspect is important for us, it’s a unique component of digital game. Conversely, if the game is just a skills game, it no longer carries the whole topic.
Among the list of potential topics, Minimalist was the one we liked the least (more relevant to the compo than for the jam we think). A priori, minimalism is a trend to remove all of the work that isn’t necessary to the core idea in avoiding unnecessary emotional or sensitive element.
Quickly, we’re start on the idea of staging the iterative removal of unnecessary elements of the game. The idea was to realize a platform game composed of a series of little level /puzzle with several features and decorative elements that the players have to destroy in order to solve the riddle. However, it was easier to find the idea than to done it, and the concept of clean-up the asset at maximum curlicue was actually very difficult to achieve.
In addition, the theme interpretation makes sense when the game is done as a whole and when you arrive to the final level without assets, with few sounds and a character without features.
The first night served to the basis codec implementation (the character and features, feature deletion, camera, collisions etc.). As we used Construct 2, this implementation was pretty fast. Meanwhile Mathilde and Alexandre were able to reflect the visual and audio aspect of the game.
Unfortunately, the game design work couldn’t be done quickly (efforts was concentrated on the code) and thus clear explanation of the game principle documents was missing, and therefore until the second day, the creation been difficult. Therefore the following days were more devoted to the creation of assets, levels and integration.
From a graphic design point of view, for a long time the results weren’t enough satisfactory and concepts were thrown away or converted without success. It was difficult to find a graphic charter in agreement with the theme, graphic and minimalist, which has evolved through the levels to represent the character life cycle and depending on the level design. For reasons of time constraint we had to start to make assets without being satisfied with the result and the guideline was found while the levels integration had already begun.
In the initial audio concept, was to form melodies which are decomposed over the levels outcome; however it was rather difficult to achieve an atmosphere both pleasant and minimalist. Communication between the sound aspect and the rest of the game for more than half the Ludum dare was almost nonexistent, which gave us a too late visibility of the total project, due to poor organization. Thus, inspired by Steve Reich on “Music for 18 musicians”, the audio is a music track that mix evolves through the levels. The sound integration hasty made at the Ludum Dare end, which didn’t allow us to do something up to our ambitions (a number of songs weren’t included).
From the game design point of view, there were a lot of things to balance without having the time to do it (notably find a compelling collision box for the triangle character). It was paramount for us that Character is pleasant to manipulate (as Easy-fun sense). It was important to gain momentum (especially the jump), and Dash feature inspired by Rockman X or Sonic in which the feature isn’t fundamental for finish the level but brings dynamism in control, the goal is to push the player to use the exhilarating but dangerous non-core features (the dash is required just in Level 4). But the fundamental interests of the number of features comes with the Erasing and self-Erasing feature. As a first step the player clears level elements to solve the riddle, but from level 5, player has to self-destruct its own features (Jump, Dash or Shoot) to finish the level which requiring a strategic choice in the level course.
Where we failed to use the self-destruct feature is because we don’t have enough levels to a slow difficulty progression and establish levels in which the destruction choice is a real dilemma. In other words the time devoted to the level design was too short and therefore the level is far below the potential that allows the erasing and self-erasing features combined with the three features.
This is the 3rd jam that we did with the same team and we met some difficulties we had never encountered before such strangely more stress and lack of sleep than in GGJ for example. Nevertheless we are happy to have finished on time a version of our game, a game that far from being perfect, who despite the lack of polish, shows anyway few good ideas and quality realization.
What went right?
1. Mechanics coding: construct is a powerful tool for jam.
2. Graphics: Because lot of people congratulated Mathilde’s graphic design.
3. Game is realized in time (but with few bugs), and it looks nice.
4. The erasing and self-erasing mechanics could be used through lot of level, the idea could be developed with better (and harder) level design.
What went wrong ?
1. The theme was pretty hard for a team with a graphic designer and without a real coder.
2. Coordination on the theme interpretation
3. Resource integration time.
4. Graphic research, it was difficult to realize different assets for the different levels, keep a graphic style and represent the life evolution of the character with abstract shape.
5. Time devolved to Level design.
6. Not enough time to test.