This is my most complete game for a Ludum Dare yet! It’s too easy to just sprint through, but I still have fun swimming around, bein’ all krakeny, and hunting the few different enemy types I managed to make.


From Below’s Ludum Dare entry page


Day 0:

I was really pulling for Deep Space as a topic, and I should be working on Cloudbase Prime, so I almost sat out for LD29. My wife sounded disappointed, though. I told her I was thinking of a kraken game once the topic came up and she was all for it. So I cracked open Unity and Blender and got to it. I pretty much just made some bitchin’ tentacles on the first night. They’re a line renderer that I made render some bezier curves from bone to bone, using every second bone as a middle curve target for its neighbors. Seemed like a sweet idea! But then every other joint ended up having an ugly non-smooth edge. I tried averaging out the positions after switching which bones I used as the curve target. That just undid my curve work, which was sadly obvious in retrospect :P. So I just rendered those “overlap” corners twice instead of averaging them and got the cool stripy/jointed look in the game today!


Game jams get wonderful when something goes wrong and I can just say “fuck it, I’m featuring it!” This was one of those times.


Day 1:

The main image I had in my head when imagining a kraken game was descending into the depths, dark where nothing else could see you, and coming out to strike. I never did get those stealth elements into the game (most of your enemies are submarines; it wouldn’t have made much sense for them to care about light any way), but I got the darkness and that feeling of depth it added to the game.

I did this by changing the camera’s fog color as your character’s depth changed, and also attaching a shton of colored, mostly transparent planes to the top/bottom of the player, so that looking up and down always looked brighter/darker, regardless of the current background/fog color. I then added a water ceiling to the game and spent enough time staring at the screen afterward to go and make four separate idle animations that each tentacle independently cycles through at random, at different intervals for each so that they don’t synchronize with each other incidentally too often. That made me feel much, much more like a kraken. That’s when I realized I needed separate controls for each tentacle. It’d be silly and just feel wrong to have these nice writhing tentacles and only use one or two of them! A huge goal for me in this LD was to “finish” my game before going to sleep at the end of day 1 (Saturday). I totally failed at that goal, but aiming for it made a huge difference in terms of focus and drive. I at least had my central game mechanic done before going to bed: being able to attack, grab, and throw enemies and hapless whales. I rewarded my grand progress with an early morning shower, made the music while poking at GarageBand on my couch until 4:40am, and passed out on the couch.


Day 2:

I was happy with my progress the night before, but waking up at 6:20am guaranteed I felt like total shit. Food, coffee, sunlight, and showing my wife what I’d worked on the night before got me going again. A big feature of the game is that you can hold down a key to look toward the nearest enemy. This helps the goal of eliminating every enemy in a given wave be less frustrating, and also makes you feel more like you’re a hunter that can actually sense its prey. Moving the camera while the player is also mouse-looking it is a problem I got stumped on last week for Cloudbase Prime. The game jam approach of “nope, screw that idea, that’ll take more than half an hour to try,” applied a few times solved the issue in a jiffy. Homing missiles (uh, torpedoes, I guess…) were straightforward enough, and after that, subs were up and running shortly, reusing the wandering logic I added for the whale with some extra “never ever fly off the map pretty please because then the player will be stuck forever and hate me,” logic added in.


The best bug ever:


too many missiles: animated gfycat here.

I did leave in a bug where enemies can keep firing missiles at you after they’re defeated, and while they’re grabbed by your tentacles. I tried to fix it, but fortunately decided it wasn’t worth the time since it feels pretty badass to have the enemy firing at you in desperation before you chuck it at the dirt or a whale or its sub-bro-in-arms and watch it all explode. UI, health, copy/pasting a bigger submarine, throwing it on top of the water so it’s suddenly a boat, and making it shoot half a dozen slow, fat, super damaging missiles, and I was done! Barely, at the last possible moment. The rushed, clumsy, fantastic wrapping of the project is my favorite part of every Ludum Dare.


Family, breaks:

This weekend was really, really nice in Arizona. We’re the land of 100 degree Easters and it was firmly in the 70s. The weather was amazing. I went out in the yard whenever I needed a break and watered plants/stared into space with my wife and the dog while the wind howled. My wife’s support was great. When trying to work a ridiculously long amount of time in a row, simple stupid things like not eating food or drinking coffee at the right time can make a huge difference. The meals! Salmon crepe, bleu cheese and steak sandwich, beef udon… I was downright taken care of and I’d feel silly if I didn’t feel so damn lucky.

I met my folks for dinner in the middle of LD and showed them a Vine of the game’s tentacles. They told me the clouds looked great. There… are not clouds in this game. Perspective helps.


Wow, I wrote way too much. You can check out From Below here.

Great work, everyone! I’ve been judging games for the last two nights and have been genuinely enjoying it. Ludum Dare’s an inspiring thing.

One Response to “From Below (the kraken-throws-exploding-whale game!): Post Mortem”

  1. rylgh says:

    nice write-up, thanks

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