Spectrum PostMortem

Posted by (twitter: @akilladakeith)
December 20th, 2013 5:03 pm

Game Overview

A colorful puzzle platformer.

You are a small white orb trapped inside a mysterious test chamber. A floating colored portal can be seen in the distance but when you touch it, nothing appears to happen. Your goal is to find a way out of 5 increasingly difficult test chambers.

  • Absorb the color of lights in the environment.
  • Mix colors together to match the color of portals, switches, and force fields.
  • You ONLY GET ONE COLOR at a time.

Team Makeup

Art, Code, and Design by Keith Evans and Matt Krystek
Music by Michael Krystek

We were lucky that either of us could tackle any of the design, code or art related tasks on the project.  After our initial brainstorm on Friday we split the game mechanics up into separate tasks and signed up for what we wanted to work on.  This allowed us to co-develop the game at the same time as neither of us were sitting around idle waiting for content from the other person.  When we started to build levels we both worked from a shared package of prefabs that contained all of the different level components.  Not only did this save time, it also helped us maintain a consistent visual style.  We also didn’t waste a lot of time when it came to cutting features, if one of us wanted to simplify a mechanic or cut something we made the decision immediately.

Working Remotely

Before the Jam we made an attempt to setup proper source control.  Attempt is the keyword here as we ended up failing good and hard.  We both thought that the lack of source control would be our achilles heel.  Luckily it turned out to just be a minor annoyance.  We were able to work entirely through dropbox, googledoc, and an open steam chat.

Let’s hear it for the cloud!!!

On Friday our goal was to meetup in person but it just didn’t pan out.  Instead of getting discouraged  we took our brainstorm session into a Google doc that we live edited together.  It functioned like a pseudo chat-room/evolving design document.  We would quickly drop in reference images, create bullet lists and cooperatively participated in creative exercises ( i.e word associations).  Looking back at it now it reads like scramblings of a mad man, but in the moment it worked incredibly well.

Mad Libs Brainstorming-A quickly assembled list of words/ideas that we assembled from the theme.

We had chewed through a ton of ideas and felt like we were back at square one.  At around the three hour mark of brainstorming this simple concept mockup locked our theme.

The color based puzzle platformer idea felt like the best choice for a number of reasons.  Chief among them, was we could instantly picture the gameplay and start thinking up a long list of puzzle possibilities.  This following puzzle was mocked up during the brainstorming session and ended up making it almost verbatim into the final build.

On Saturday and Sunday we would text back and forth (usually one of us was away with family obligations) informing each other of the latest changes and would upload incremental drops of the game.  We would then perform our merges at night when both of us were online and sort out any issues immediately, using Steam to instant message.

Not the most elegant solution, but it was working and that is all that really mattered.

At the 11th hour we were settling on having terrible music made by us or no music at all.  Miraculously we were able to add a last minute team member, Matt’s brother Michael was available to come on and whip us up a nice track that really fit with the look of our game.  It was a great addition and really helped bring the project together.

The One Phone Call

Everything was going smooth…until  Monday morning.  When we finally got to the point of building levels Keith had setup a template for both organizing the level and setting up the progression.  I was incredibly tired Monday and as I set out to spend the next several hours building content I wanted to be 100% certain that I was doing it correctly.  So Keith called me… and the first thing he said was “You broke the streak!”   I had him walk me through the setup process and then we ended the call.  For the rest of that we went back to IM and were able to merge all of our content together without any major issues.  I dont know if this process would work for every team, but it worked well for us.  Google docs ability to allow editing in real time was invaluable and allowed us to iterate incredibly fast.  Steam IM kept a history of our chat which allowed us to have conversations even when one of us wasn’t around.

Future

When we completed Spectrum on Monday both of us felt a huge sense of creative accomplishment.  To start this process on Friday without really knowing what we would be able to complete to being able to walk away will a solid polished prototype is amazing.  Unity worked really well for our development and I see us continuing to use the platform.  We are going to (and already have) made some small tweaks to the prototype based on feedback, but we both feel that the controls would need to be overhauled if we were to move forward with this.  The only thing for certain in the immediate future is that both us are probably going to be doing another Game Jam.

We would love to get as much feedback as possible before this process is over.  If your interested in checking out our game and leaving a rating you can check us out here.

http://www.ludumdare.com/compo/ludum-dare-28/?action=preview&uid=25189

Thanks, now back to playing and rating as many games as possible!


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