Life: The Cynical-Hipster-Tetris Version, A Post-Mortem

Posted by (twitter: @TKaldor)
December 16th, 2013 11:40 am

Life

If your interested play my game so that you know what I’m talking about.

The Bait

This was my third game jam, second Ludum Dare and each and every time it has been a rollercoaster, which I love. When you make the decision to put everything into a project (sounds cheesy, but 48 hours single-minded attention and little sleep or social interaction is a big sacrifice) you set yourself up for the full gamut of emotions. I don’t know if others of you work in the same way but I don’t so much think of ideas as get struck by them and then dragged unconscious into their lair. To illustrate, I woke up (LD starts on Saturday Morning in Kathmandu) and thought I want to prove to myself that I can make a simple game feel really ‘juicy’; I planned out a nice workable boring shmup and was all set to begin. FlashDevelop was open and I was trying to work out what to name my file (big decision) when I saw tweets about “You only get one life”. Yeah everyone will be doing that, Roguelikes etc. then I thought, ‘you really do only get one life’. Lets face it, when I play a roguelike, I play it over and over again, the whole 1 life thing only serves to raise the stakes and provide a regular fresh experience (which I love). What they rarely do is mirror real life where we are stuck with the mistakes and random chance from when we were learning how to go about things and they get in the way or become useful to our endeavours in the future (think Diablo II). So I still wanted to make my shmup because its fun to make shmups but I couldn’t dislodge this idea so eventually I succumbed.

The Trap

Once I have an idea I’m excited about, my mind races and it seems every single other idea has to jump on board like a crowded Tokyo train, and I’m the conductor with the white gloves pushing them on, thinking ‘this is going to be so great’. I know this phenomenon has a name, ‘feature creep’, but I have never experienced feature creep. Creeping is what spiders do, you only see it out of the corner of your eye, what I experience is a feature stampede. This is the point in the Jam where I am high as a kite, I may sing, I may dance, I will pace around the room to try and control my excitement and tame my mind. However I don’t raise this as a time-management problem but a problem of lack of focus for the finished game. The original idea whether it’s interesting or not was lost underneath the extra layers I heaped on, in this case prioritizing different aspects of your life and my somewhat interactive commentator.

The Agonizing Demise

With all the features to add you move in to the panicked/depressed/miserable part of the game jam, where you are convinced your idea was rubbish, you aren’t going to be able to make it in time and what you have made is poorly executed. The only thing keeping you going is stubbornness, embarrassment about withdrawal or the 25 hours you’ve poured into the game already. I felt this in all three jams and each time it’s lasted right up until the end, in fact each time I have believed my game was an embarrassment until I started receiving positive comments.

The Silver Lining

Finally after all the pain and tiredness and misery you reach this stage of Ludum Dare, some people have made positive comments about your game and you start to see it in a fresh light, the things you did well and interesting ideas. The great thing about Jams is that people are very happy to overlook morass that is lack of polish and what would otherwise be gamebreaking bugs to see whatever gems may be hidden beneath. You can also see your pain and frustration as lessons learnt and contemplate whether your game deserves to go beyond the alpha stage. The big takeaways for me from this Ludum Dare are firstly, keep focused on your core idea, extra features should take a back seat and be used only to highlight your primary vision and secondly, I really love the rollercoaster that is Ludum Dare.

Please tell me what you think of the game, the good, the bad and whether it is worth polishing for wider public consumption.

Thankyou and now Im off to play all your games.

@TKaldor


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