Time Surge: Post-Mortem

Posted by (twitter: @Dahold)
August 31st, 2013 6:41 pm

Shameless Project Link!

 

With a larger team than our first LD Jam, we decided to get a bit ambitious. Maybe a bit overambitious, if our frantic final hours of development are any indication. We used LWJGL and Slick-Util, and the engine and assets were all built during the 72 hours. However, due to our lead programmer undergoing Oral Surgery the day before the contest started, the assistant programmer losing his laptop charger and having a working weekend, and a heated controversy about mops as game cursors, we lost a lot of development time.

 

Battle of the Century

 

Out initial concept was actually very different than the finished product. We started talking about a Medieval Fantasy Village, where you played as a meddlesome local spirit, and had a 10-second window to freeze, rewind, and fast-forward in time, rearranging items in the town to make people fall in love, or catch on fire, or whatever your horrible heart desired. Though it would have been a fun sandbox, we figured the gameplay was lacking, so we instituted a crisis you had to avert in order to win. Then, the setting was revised to a Space Lab, both because Our First LD Project was fantasy-themed, and so we had more stuff to work with.

 

It’s far easier for things to explode and go horribly awry in Space than it is in Ye Olde Timey Village.

 

We struggled for a while on what kind of puzzles to introduce into the game. At first, we were going to go with just Adventure Game Style puzzles, which involved making the crew members do certain things. Puzzles like “the door is broken and needs to be repaired by the Engineer. The Engineer is busy being macked-on by the Lieutenant. You had to teleport the Captain there to shout at them both to get back to work, in order to progress.” We had no idea how to make that happen in 72 hours, much less convey it to players in a way that made sense… so we dropped that angle, and instead went for simple item-placement puzzles. We eventually added in another layer of Pipe Dream style puzzles, with the wall circuits that opened doors and allowed you to progress.

 

Speaking of the Circuit Puzzles, I have mixed feelings about the puzzle design on this project. I wanted to make them challenging, but I’m a little worried that the difficulty curve ended up as more of a difficulty cliff.¬† The first room made a great introduction; you could see what was happening, and with a bit of experimentation figure out the bit with the fuse, without any kind of tutorial. Teaching the game through gameplay, without tutorials, has always been one of my favorite parts of quality game design, which the Youtube series Sequelitis touches on in a bit more detail (great videos for prospective Game Designers, BTW). On the other hand, the second room was probably one of the hardest in the entire game… at the very least, one of the most complicated ones. I was hoping to introduce mechanics like the room hazards, circuit fuses, and having multiple solutions per room a little more gradually than that… but time constraints sorta tied our hands on that one.

 

In order to win, you had to revisit and resolve the 1st puzzle 4 times.

 

As far as graphics, music, and general presentation are concerned, I’m really happy with how the game turned out. The time dilation and time reversal effects are some of my favorites (especially since the particle explosions remember where they happened, and can accurately un-explode as time rewinds). The run cycle on the main character came out pretty well too; since one of the major effects used in the game was slowing down and reversing time, I wanted to make sure there were a lot of frames, so he’d keep moving even when significantly slowed down. Since he was mostly brown, I was able to just animate 1 leg, clone it, and reposition it. It actually came out looking pretty nice, if I may say so myself.


We were hoping to do a semi-animated intro as well, which did a better job of setting the stage; watching the Time Rift explode in a shower of glass shards from the Reactor Core, and then freeze, with the glass particles suspended in mid-air. We ran out of time for that, though… barely managed to even implement animated explosions. You can see the explosions we managed in one of the above screenshots, but my original concept actually looked something more like this:

The explosions are made of a cloud of particles which are generated over time, and each of which “age” through their animation separately.¬†Each particle is colored so that the darker edges share colors with the inner part of the next frame in their animation; that way, when the newer particles overlap the old ones, they’ll look like a continuous sprite. The idea was to generate a large, closely-packed cloud of bright particles offset slightly from an origin point, and give them a random vector. As the first particles animate and fade toward red, slightly fewer new particles are generated on top of them. Then, as the first particles become a large cloud of smoke, and the later batches have become a cool cloud, only one or two bright new particles generate, until all of them fade into smoke.

Even if we couldn’t pull that off, I like the sprites well enough. I might use a similar effect on a commercial project I’m working on right now. Suppose the graphics could also make a decent Flamethrower or Rocket Trail too… hmm…

Anyway, this will be our second LD, as well as my second real game. Definitely going to be trying this again, hopefully next time this rolls around. Thanks to those of you who tried out our game. I hope it’s as fun to play as it was to make!


One Response to “Time Surge: Post-Mortem”

  1. hitchh1k3r says:

    WHY DIDN’T YOU DRAW A MOP CURSOR!?!

    Come on. How’s the Janitor supposed to reach the ceiling wires? Seriously?!?

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