Midnight Minigun is a top-down shooter where you fight the rising tide of Zombification in a small-town community. This was my third Ludum Dare and I only had 24h in which to create my entry … on the whole I was pretty happy with this one, I hope you like it!
What went right
1. Preparation – I knew I’d only have a single day in which to create my entry, so making sure emy tools were sharp in advance was vital. I stripped down my last LD entry to base code and was ready to hit the ground running. Preparation also meant treating my family well and bringing everyone on board in a team effort – the Zombie noises were provided by my 6-month old daughter and slowed down in Audacity
2. Tiny scope – dawn til dusk is not a lot of time and I wanted the game to be polished – that meant avoiding feature creep at all costs. The main feature I cut was a mechanic where humans would follow you. You could lead them to the fenced area in top-centre of the map and they would be “saved” and un-killable. It broke the flow too much so I cut it early. However the game is very simple as a result and could benefit from another feature or two… 8×8 pixel sprites was also the right move for my limited art skills!
3. Two phases: core then juice – I watched the “juice it or lose it” video linked by a previous LD48 poster and this really cemented “polish” for me. Polish is what makes a game shine and without it your game will always be dull. The biggest win is SOUND, so I grabbed the free music from Franklin Webber early on and made sure the gun sounds were bang on. Other additions to juiciness are the screen shake, darkness vignette and particles. Without these the game would be shallow and dull.
What went wrong
1. Struggles with art – I knew this game needed fun animations and readable sprites and environment. I really wanted a gorgeous colour palette to unite the elements but this proved elusive so the result is a bit of a mishmash – the dark vignette hides many evils! Creation of the environment tiles was really tough for me – I had plans for a school, shopping mall, carparks, cars etc … I just didn’t have the skills to pull that all off so the environment ends up feeling a little sparse.
2. Lack of reliable excitement curve – Ideally games should start with a hook, feature periods of tension and release, before a climactic finale (see e.g. Jesse Schell’s Art of Game Design). I think I have the first two but it is quite possible for the game to fizzle out / become a bit of a dull trudge to mop up stragglers. I would really have liked some kind of key event like a boss battle to provide an exciting conclusion…
3. Missed opportunity to add story – I kicked myself here as I really intended to get the player to drop some one-liners etc when you died/respawned. This sort of thing really lifts the experience and adds humour and character – alas, I chose to just “ship it” and regretted this afterwards. The ending is also a bit un-rewarding. Something tied into the fiction of the game would have been better, with a custom win screen with some nice art assets picturing your triumph or whatever.
I had such a blast making this game, and I’m pleased with the result. I really wanted to convey the feeling of mowing down hordes with a minigun (rather like the jungle scene in Predator…see below!) and people seem to dig firing that gun! It’s a simple and short experience that doesn’t outstay its welcome, and I think there is plenty of scope to add features for version two.
The comments and feedback I’ve received have been humbling, thank you Ludum Dare!
Or watch Predator here: