Dropout time! (&a guide for plot-heavy designers)

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December 16th, 2013 4:57 pm

Yay! That was so much fun, though. Unlike LD25 with the team, I felt so little stress I thought I was dreaming!

NOT MY ENTRY. NOT MY ENTRY. NOT MY ENTRY. Lifted from http://www.ludumdare.com/compo/2011/08/22/post-ld-still-dreaming/ because it was (1) relevant and (2) Ludum Dare related. ^_^

 

I don’t currently intend to become the best game jam dev evar, hehe, I just had fun making something, even if I didn’t get all the way with it in the time limit, I will always have the ability to return to it and flesh it out. I love LD because of what people end up doing with the always loved-and-hated theme both during and after! :)

Postmortem and top-down, plot/world-focused game design heuristic (for those of us who ain’t so good at starting bottom-up from a gameplay mechanic) after the jump:

  • Next time, keep your eyes not only the themes with the most +1’s, but also with the least -1’s. If you narrow the pool of themes you try to come up with ideas for in advance using that as a heuristic, I think you’ve got the best chance of nailing it.
  • Personally, I’m always going to expect a theme with “You” in it to win during a winter jam. 😛
  • I’d love to try to use the approach that I did this LD in future LDs that aren’t during the winter season! It didn’t devour the entire weekend, and I had so much fun–and don’t even need to “take it with a grain of salt”!
  • Really need help figuring out what’s a good resolution to use in the future, as explained in some points below this really shot me hard in the foot to not’ve planned from the start. Smaller boxes probably are the best, as most other games are likely to show, haha. But glad I embraced the web player.
  • Continue to utilize 3D modeling software (and lighting the scene and capturing a render to create a 2D sprite from) and improve at speedily developing simple meshes, materials and textures with them, if I’m going to be using something high-level like Unity that’s so compatible.
  • But in the future, try to balance out how much work goes into one model over another–if one stands out, it raises the bar for everything, as I saw at the end of last night:

 LudumDareScreenshot1 LudumDareScreenshot2 The one on the bottom has balanced complexity between its 3 models,
but the floor of the top screenshot looks extremely out of place.

  • Unity2D greatly simplifies a ton of the tedium of spritesheets. Like, holy crap. But having said that, beyond all those niceties, you’re still forced to work with all of Unity’s quirky ways of handling things, for better and worse. I was able to pull a lot from my previous Unity experiences to put together a title screen and menu system fairly quickly, but in the above screenshot, that screen quickly falls to pieces when you resize the thing at all or play in a lower resolution. It’s certainly fixable, but it’s such a time-sink to dabble in those details prior to establishing your core gameplay. So to the future me I would posit jumping around the OnGUI() stuff and just slapping down a static image with that dialogue. Would’ve saved a good hour or two.

LudumDareScreenshot3*thinks about doing #nokill, ends up interpreting it as exploring suicide* >_>;

  • Definitely keep eyes peeled for music that both sounds awesome to me (because it keeps me wanting to debug and hear it again lol) and fits well with the theme. The two BGM tracks I had ready to use were the following:

    LudumDareScreenshot4http://ccmixter.org/files/7OOP3D/29126
    http://ccmixter.org/files/duncan_beattie/7116

  • I do think that I did a far better job of forcing myself to keep first to one level, and tried to apply a design heuristic that a friend and I (actually a co-dev of a game over on Steam Greenlight which I’d love everyone to check out and support if they like it) were able to come up with to help me, because my mind is naturally inclined towards a rather full plot–which does not beget a 48/72 hour game by any means. Italic bits are just what I came up with for LD28, feel free to skip!
  1. Create a world that revolves around your game:
    I imagined a world in which the main character of the game literally just pulled the trigger on himself. Before him appears a figure that gives him the Cinderella-like chance to use his death to save other people, because he has already shown his resignation and cannot turn back. He is sent to a hospital full of the sick and dying, and meets up with two more who, like him, have already chosen to take their lives. One, by a cyanide-rimmed version of her favorite drink; the other, just a simple noose about the neck. Each of you carries your namesake item. Going by Gun, Cya, and Noose, they gather in the waiting room at the entrance of the facility. When the clock strikes the designated time, they have the option to re-complete their deaths, and their bodies will appear as though that’s where the events actually happened. Much like a pin toy you would press your face against to make a metallic imprint of it appear on the other side in pin-form, their deaths are allegedly to act as one chain-linked crater shoving all the pins currently sliding from life towards death back fully into life. It might be bull, but being more or less already dead, the consequences of it being a lie aren’t much, and the gains are important.  The players begin to wrestle a little with whether they really want to die… again, and in the same way… But what ends up happening is that Noose and Cya do die, and even you leave behind a corpse, but you’re still “alive” in the same state as you were at the beginning of the level, whereas they are not. You are pushed on to work with bigger and bigger groups of suicidees like you, trying to save more and more people as you live on, but your allies are gone forever. The game’s finale occurs when a couple from the “life” side of the pin toy indirectly oppose you and your forces, by instigating a massacre within proximity of your group, causing a crater to push your group towards life once more. You two face off in the end, wherein the identity of the massacre’s growing amount of instigators and the figure behind your strange half-dead state are revealed to be, respectively, your former allies (the original two being Cya and Noose) and the designer of the game (me! I have a bad habit of explicitly breaking the fourth wall, because I explore topics in my plot and like to interact explicitly with characters like that, heh).
  2. Concentrate on the one thing that stands out to you as innovative/defining/awesome in that world. Got it? NOW SHOVE EVERYTHING ELSE ASIDE. This is the core of your world from which you will form your game. There can even be multiple “cores” in a world! For example, Star Wars at certain points in time focused on the Jedi vs. the Sith, and Halo concentrated on the Spartans. But then later on, they found a new core and new directions within the same world, by focusing on the less powerful beings in Republic Commando and Halo ODST.
  3. Develop that core. It can be via a genre you’re privy to, for example, or in the likeness of some form of inspiration you see in another game or outside the gaming medium. For “YOGOD: You Only Get One Death”, I was primarily researching up the methods of construction demolition. In step #2, I got this visual of a bunch of people who’d taken their lives trying hard as they could to save as many people as possible (even if that’s not really what they were doing~!) by in a sense “detonating” themselves and creating this chain-link effect that, well, acted much like the way a building implosion is carefully planned out and then almost majestically can execute (though with extreme hazards at times) as seen over at implosionworld.com. From there I drew these rules in a puzzle-like format: first, the “crater” pin toy effect happens only if there are witnesses around them (I was thinking using raycasts in a circle around the sprite in Unity, basically). Second, Gun (you) has to be the one to start the effect. That is, there needs to be a line from Gun, through someone he “saves”, to say Noose (and then so on from Noose to say Cya)–else only Gun triggers a rejuvenation-radius effect. The others die without benefiting the “rescue count” at all. At a lower priority I came up with: being “dead”, unlike NPCs, you cannot press buttons to enter elevators, you must go up a floor at a time via stairs. But passing through staff NPCs (indistinguishable visually, didn’t have time to justify it in the plot yet ;p) will enable you to temporarily get through keyed security doors, many leading to stairwells.
  4. Design is complete, now get cracking on development! 😉

A lot of the people involved in game dev are way better at starting from the bottom-up with a mechanic, whereas I’m of a more top-down inclination. That’s why this worked and works so well for me. Feel free to use it as a heuristic if you’re at all like that, too!

Thank you all so much for all your hard work, and good luck as we come down to the jam submission deadline! :)

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