Wall of Fingers Post-Mortem

Posted by (twitter: @LTP_ATS)
December 18th, 2013 5:41 pm

So Wall of Fingers has been done for a few days now and I’ve been slowly gathering all of my thoughts on it, so I felt it was time for a recap! This was my first LD, and third game jam (I recently participated in 1GAM and TAG).

four pages of rough concept stuff:

plans_01_COMP

 

 

What Worked:

Scope – I needed to make sure I could actually create the game I was planning in 48 hours. I’ve been wanting to make a game like this for a while (wall-of-death platformer) so when I saw the theme I figured it would work well for a sadistic game like this ;).

So I kept it simple: 5 levels, 2 masks,¬† choose 1 mask per level, 1 life for the entire game. For sound I decided to do a song for each level, and sound effects for all basic movement, death, level completion, pause menu, etc. because I am insane and regurgitate sound and music. Overall this was a modest scope and I thought I had control over it (more on this in the “What Didn’t Work” section).

Sound – I had a blast working on sound, doing sound for games give me an excuse to nerd-out on random theory junk. Since I was doing one song per level, I decided to make the timing for each song sequential from 6-10:

LEVEL 1 – 3/4 (6)
LEVEL 2 – 7/8 (7)
LEVEL 3 – 4/4 (8)
LEVEL 4 – 9/8 (9)
LEVEL 5 – 5/4 (10)

Art – It was weird and kinda creepy and the color palette was obnoxious so that’s win-win-win for me.

What Didn’t Work:

SCOPE!? -I left out a lot of things in the initial planning stage that I ended up adding slowly throughout the game’s development. Not the best idea. For instance, I wanted to have sounds for many different aspects of the player’s movement. A bit into the game, I decided on having sounds for jumping, landing, wall jumping, and flying. I had all of the sounds recorded, but the landing sound was never implemented. This was because I kept having to troubleshoot other issues, and I was worried that focusing on something minor like the landing sound could hurt progress on something more important.

Ultimately this wasn’t a huge deal, but if I planned out the sounds in the early stages I would have at least been able to confront this issue earlier on and decide what to prune before things got out of hand.

Another thing I didn’t really establish in the conceptualizing stage was what other assets / platforms would exist in the game. I guess at first I assumed there would be none¬†(which I should have kept it at) and the whole game would be centered on running / jumping / wall jumping /flying. Though for some reason I was feeling like I needed to add more “stuff” to the game to make it more interesting in the last 1/3 or so of the jam.bounce_SHOWOFFDISA_ANIMATEDMAGNET_ANIMATED

So I decided to add bouncy platforms, disappearing platforms, and magnet platforms. I made the art / sound effects for them and scripted them into the game, only to realize that I would have to reshape a lot of the levels simply to allow these new platforms to be used properly! This would’ve been a lot of extra work and in the end I decided to keep only one of them (the bouncy ones) and that was for a specific reason (which I go over in “Know how you intend the player to play the game”).

Adding junk to the levels AFTER they have already been designed – This goes along with scope, when designing a level I should know exactly what assets will be used any how: is this the first time the player is using this asset? If so then I need to introduce it properly, if not then I need to slowly introduce new / more difficult ways of interacting with it, etc. Because of the platform fiasco, I added a lot of unnecessary stress later in the game’s development.

Difficulty Curve – Huzzah, six games under my belt and I still suck at designing difficulty curves! It’s okay, this is probably my current biggest flaw as a game designer so I know it will take a while before I get it. The game can be beat in about 3 minutes, though some who played the game played it for a least 20 minutes. This makes me happy knowing that some people were willing to put that amount of time into my game, though for every individual who has the patience there are probably several who will most likely quit and rate it after the first or second death. The latter are the people I need to reach out and appeal to.

Another complaint I received is the “You Only Have One Life for Five Levels” aspect, which kinda breaks my heart but I totally understand why people don’t like it. Right now my games tend to have this “if you can’t play it then oh well” attitude, which I’m trying to avoid. I like hard games and I want my games to appeal to like-minded people, but what if someone want to like hard games but can’t get into them because the difficulty curve is too steep? Or what if someone thinks they hate hard games until they played one that had a strong difficulty curve that allowed them to get into it?

I’m learning that being accessible and being “watered down” are not necessarily the same thing. That by properly introducing my game I can appeal to a wider audience, while still allowing the more “hardcore” fans to appreciate it (more on this in the “Future Changes” section).

Bugs n’ Stuff – I’ve had a report of the player going through the world after grabbing a mask, so yeah, that’s not good XD. It seems to be a pretty rare occurrence too, which is bad for a bug because that’s means it will be difficult to recreate and just a difficult to know if it’s fixed. Luckily I may have an idea of what’s causing it, so I’m hoping to avoid this in future installments.

What I Learned:

SCOPE!! – When I’m planning I need to plan EVERYTHING and how it will be used. Know what needs to stay and go BEFORE actually working on the game. Don’t plan on adding stuff later on because I think I have the time, get what was planned DONE before ever considering this (THIS IS IMPORTANT).

Know how I intend the player to play the game (and how I will teach this) – I like giving the player choices to make in a game, it gives them an excuse to play it again if they enjoyed it. That being said knowing HOW to present the choices to the player is just as important as providing the choices, because if they don’t know they have a choice, is it really a choice?

After implementing the mask mechanics into the game, I thought it would be cool to eventually allow the player to make three choices: mask A, mask B, or no mask. Choosing no mask to beat the level is essentially “hard mode.” This choice is possible on the last two maps. Since I thought of this after the initial level design I altered the levels a little bit to make it possible to beat with no mask. The bouncy platforms really helped with this.

That being said, how did I make this choice to player apparent? Well, I didn’t really. On every level leading up to the 4th one the player needs a mask, so why would they try to beat it without one? In a future installment, I’m thinking of making this choice more apparent through the level design: At the start of a level have an upper path that is hard to get to that leads to the two masks in the level, and a more accessible lower path that leads to a one way drop that forces the player to continue the level without the masks. This will hopefully introduce the idea that it is intended to give the player the option of playing without the masks. If a level NEEDS to be beaten with a mask, have the mask in a location that forces the player to pick it up to continue.

So what I picked up from this was to understand how I want the player to play the game AND how I will teach the player to play the game (this also involves teaching the player to understand their choices, and teaching them how to recognize when they do and don’t have choice).

Future Changes:

To manage the difficulty curve:

~I will increase the number of levels (most likely to 5 groups of 5)

~When the player dies, they will restart in the level they died in, not the first level

~After beating the five levels, there is an optional “challenge mode” unlocked for that group. This is where the player must beat all five levels with one life. The player can complete these challenges to unlock new levels or level groups.

~I will most likely avoid all platforms, unless I go for more levels. I want to have a lot of time to introduce new mechanics to the players and not rush them into it too much. This way I can be a bit more confident that they can handle more difficult levels eventually.

To the sound:

~The music can go in a couple directions. If I’m going to have 25+ levels, then I need to ask myself if I’m willing to make 25+ songs. Granted they will be pretty short, probably under a minute each, but there are alternatives. I could also do one song per group of levels, with each stage playing a single instrument of the song, and the final stage playing the completed piece with all instruments, but that requires more planning.

I will probably go with one song per level for now, since it will be fun practice and I may be able to find ways to make each level visually different in some way to pair with the music. We’ll see.

~I will get that landing sound in there!

~I want to sync up the song length with the length of the levels better. Right now they are somewhat close, but figuring out a basic formula that will allow me to determine how large a level needs to be to finish when the song does should help a lot.

Misc:

~I’d like to fix any current bugs that exist

~I’d like to (eventually) tweak art and animations a bit.

~Maybe have some collectible objects that give the player incentive to replay a level with different masks / no masks. These could be used to unlock more levels or other stuff.

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Thanks for reading / skimming! Thanks for the feedback! Thanks for having game jams that make me less lazy! This was an awesome experience and I can’t wait for the next Ludum Dare!

You can play the game HERE!

You can hear and download the soundtrack HERE!

More games and stuff HERE!


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