There’s Only One St. Nick Self-Assessment

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April 25th, 2014 3:12 pm

Ludum Dare #29 is upon us, and I realize I never made a review of my last game, There’s Only One St. Nick. So, better late than never; here are my thoughts:

For Ludum Dare #28, I decided to make a grid-based, real-time strategy game.  The player controls Santa Clause to manage the workshop and get ready for Christmas by hiring elves, making toys, and improving his skills.

What went well:

  • Strategy game mechanics
  • Development tools (Game Maker 8.1, MS Paint)
  • Game Balance

I decided to push myself for this Ludum Dare by making a strategic game, which I hadn’t done before.  Surprisingly, this worked very well.  I designed the “engine” to run like a wanted and be flexible to new mechanics.  This time around, the features weren’t quite as modular – I had to get a certain amount of mechanics working before the game was fun or playable.  However, once I set up the framework, I could enhance it bit-by-bit.  I had more features planned, but I managed to get in enough to make the game interesting and entertaining.

My development tools remained the same since last time, and this was fine.  Game Maker is not the best suit for a strategy game, but this actually made for an interesting challenge that I’m glad to have faced.

Lastly, the game balance feels just right.  The scoring system is a little off (see below), but the time spent on each activity (chopping wood, hiring elves, etc.) is perfect to create the fast-paced, zany feel I wanted the workshop to have.  There’s always something to do, but it never feels like much more than you can handle if you time it right.


What went poorly:

  • Interface
  • Lack of Sound
  • Scoring

Although the game’s info bar displays what you need to know, it can be hard to read and interpret, especially for a new player.  Additionally, I ran low on time at the end and had to rush to put on a title and end-screen.  This results in a very sloppy look.  I made the right choice in prioritizing gameplay, but it would have been better to have a cleaner appearance.

Again, I neglected to add sound to my project, which can be almost annoying while playing.  I would have loved to add some wacky background music and sound-effects, but I didn’t leave myself enough time to do so.

Finally, even though the game balance is spot-on, this is not reflected in the score as much as it should be.  My goal was to give the player points for every gift they delivered (this is the main driving goal of the game), as well as an “efficiency” score that rewards the player for delivering gifts as early as possible.  This means the player has to choose between upgrading their skills early to invest for the late-game or getting as many quick gifts in as they can.  I still think this system is good, but it isn’t properly tweaked and just doesn’t make much sense in it’s current valuations.


Final Thoughts:

Despite its flaws, I am proud to say that my game turned out to be a success.  It isn’t pretty, but the overwhelming consensus in the comments was that not only were the mechanics interesting, but the game was just plain fun.  And that is what I’d call the result of a successful 48 hours.

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