Minima Postmortem

Posted by
May 8th, 2013 9:15 pm

Here is a run-through of what went right and what went wrong in the creation of my game entry, Minima.

Minima is a simple game of dodging fast-moving enemy spaceships with the cursor or W, A, S, and D keys.  The original game was made for Windows using C# and SDL.NET.  It has since been ported to Flash for the web.

The Good

This was my first time competing in Ludum Dare.  Two days is an incredibly limited amount of time to produce anything game related, so I’m glad I finished it at all.  The contest was fun, and I now have something to add to my game development portfolio.

I felt well prepared for the challenge, partly because I’ve been writing business software for many years and I’m accustomed to scope management and tight deadlines.  But I also got a lot of good advice from a Ludum Dare survival guide, most of which I followed.  I got plenty of sleep, ate sensibly, and didn’t overdo the caffeine or sugar.  I took frequent breaks and went outside occasionally for sun and fresh air.  In some ways I lived more healthily than I do on most other weekends.

I resisted the urge to refactor, optimize, or maintain clean code.  This goes against every instinct I have as a developer, but 48-hour dev contests are the exception to the rule.  When you’re the sole programmer on a project this small (and a deadline so short), you can keep everything in your head.  As far as I can tell, Minima is relatively stable and bug-free.

The Bad

I decided to address the “minimalism” theme with a specific game feature, and that was my first mistake.  Games made in two days can’t have “features”.  For the most part the core game mechanic is the feature, and everything else gets cut.  As a result, my game is somewhat bland and uninspired.

Going into this, I thought I knew my toolset pretty well.  I use Visual Studio and C# every day.  The problem is that game libraries are just as important as the core language.  A lot of time was burned reading the SDL.NET docs and generally stumbling around the library.

I didn’t really think people would mind downloading an executable and double-clicking on it, but it turns out that when you’re trying to rate dozens of games, downloading stuff is annoying and gets in the way.  Therefore, I learned Flixel and ActionScript and ported Minima to Flash as quickly as possible.

One almost-disastrous mistake was waiting to test on a non-dev machine until last minute.  Of course, when I tried it the first time the game crashed immediately, and I spent the last two hours of the contest figuring out which files were missing from the package.

I wasn’t prepared at all to create a soundtrack for the game, which is funny because I’ve composed a lot of electronic music in the past.  I downloaded some sequencing software and fiddled with some samples, but it just wasn’t coming together.  In the end I wound up downloading a free sample loop and playing it repeatedly in the background.  The effect is decent.  Next time I will be far better prepared.

Overall, I enjoyed my weekend and I’m inspired to create more.  Thanks to everyone who makes Ludum Dare possible.

Play the game!

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One Response to “Minima Postmortem”

  1. john9 says:

    Very good article

    For movie reviews and ratings visit http://tinyurl.com/n9h6gd2

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