Post Mortem – Where Is My Bone?

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April 30th, 2014 6:07 pm

SO!

I entered Ludum Dare #29 this weekend.
For those who don’t know about it, it’s kind of a contest where the goal is to make a game in 48h, all alone, from scratch. All graphics, code, sounds— everything must be done from scratch, following a theme.
The theme this time was “Beneath the Surface”.

You can play my game, Where Is My Bone?, here.

This was the second time I entered a Ludum Dare (and a game jam, for that matters), and the last time I gave up after like 8 hours… so this one was my first successful one.

So, here’s a post mortem of my experience. This will be divided into 2 parts.
This first one will be about the “technical” part, and the second one, which will come later, will be more like personal rambling about life, goals and stuff.
(Of course, this might contain spoilers, so if you want to play, go ahead! It shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes of your time, and they’re a walkthrough if you’re stuck.)

WHAT WENT WRONG?!

Obviously, plenty…

– First, and most importantly… the sound. Or lack of.
I did wanted to include sound, but – it’s obvious isn’t it? – I lacked time for it.
I have absolutely zero experience in sound or music making, so I was… rather scared about it, I guess, and thought I’d keep it for the second day. It was a mistake, but a lot of people have been complaining about the lack of sound/music, and… well the goal of the Ludum Dare is to learn, so I kinda failed here. Next time, I’d better try to make something beforehand so I know where I’m going and how long it can take.

– The Theme. Oh god, the theme.
I’m french, so the theme was announced at 3am. I figured I’d wait for it, then go to bed so I could think about it overnight, and while running some errands in the morning.
By 4pm on the first day, so more than 12h in, I still had NO IDEA of what I’d do.
I knew I didn’t want to go with an obvious game about going underwater or digging in caves… but I really had no idea. I thought about dogs digging for stuff, then the smelling idea… and since I had nothing better, I went with it.
Believe it or not, the whole storytelling behind the game was designed in the last 3 hours.
Nothing that can be improved here- and it’s stupid because I love thinking about ideas with themes picked up randomly… But here I just had a blank. Maybe it was the stress from the whole thing itself, but… Oh well.

– I had no planning. At all. Seriously, I just… went with doing the game. I didn’t plan anything, didn’t know where I was going, even if I knew more or less I’d have enough time to produce something I wasn’t sure why or how. That’s part of why I didn’t have sound: I didn’t plan ahead to have time to do it, kept telling myself “I’ll do it later”, and… well. *cough*

– A dog? Really? Hell why did I have to go with a dog as a hero?
I spent the last 2-3 years refining my pixel art, learning and mastering various things… and what I do feel confident with are humans. Animals? I think that’s the first dog I’ve ever drawn in my life! I was super uneasy about animating it, and I’m still not really happy with how that cute little puppy cub looks like…
And to think that at first, I thought I’d offer the option to chose different dog types as character (the code is all here, ready for it… I just lack art)… God, I can be rather silly sometimes.
So next time, better go with things I feel comfortable with…

– I think I made a mistake with the game genre. I mean, I’m really proud and happy with how it turned out, but I’m pretty sure I’d have a much more refined game if I went with a gameplay-focused game rather than a quest.
Because, doing a quest requires a lot of assets, specific code, and so on… If I went with a single, more repetitive gameplay, I would have had more time to refine it…
I mean, when you do an endless runner, you don’t have to work on -specific- assets/code, you know? You have a base gameplay that works, and you add stuff depending on your time. But when you go with a questline, you have to think carefully about how to make it long and compelling (okay I’m using big words here considering the scope of my game, but you get the idea) but yet it needs to fit in the time you have… And if it doesn’t fit, you’re screwed.

 

WHAT WENT RIGHT!

– TIME! God, okay, OKAY, I didn’t have time to put in music and sound… but I DID finish the game in time!
Alright, it miss sound, it miss a proper ending, a title screen, some bug fix… I had to make all the items obtainable an unlimited amount of time so the questline couldn’t be broken… but I managed to fit all I wanted in the game in time.
And I had a very casual approach about the jam- I slept normally (actually slept in ahah), took long breaks, ran errands… Yet I knew how I was handling my time, and knew by the beginning of sunday that I would be able to finish it in time.
So yeah, even without planning and when I had to put sound aside, I handled my time properly enough to finish all what I wanted.

– The art… Well, I know what I said about chosing a dog…
But yeah, as said I spent the last few years doing pixel art as a hobby. And… all the work I did for the past years was made specifically to improve my skills in making -game- art.
That worked out pretty well! I knew what I was capable to achieve, and in which time. I learned to work more quickly, got confident in my skills… Just wish I remembered that doing dogs was a bad idea, hah.

– Studying. I spent the previous weekend using Game Maker to make a very, very short project just to learn a couple things, and refresh my memory about how that software works. And I spent part of my friday evening looking up for tutorials about generic things.
All in all, I didn’t overdo it, just… took off the rust, you know?
In the end I knew what I was able to do in Game maker, and what I wasn’t, so I didn’t lose hours looking for tutorials or examples about things I would never be able to make work within the time allowed.

– Prototyping. I spent the first few hours building a prototype, both to set the bases of the game, but also to check I was able to achieve whatI wanted to do. And, well, it’s a very important part, because it’s what help you see where the struggles will be, and basically tell you “okay, you should be able to do this in time” or not.

– And finally, last but really not least, friend support.
I did this Ludum Dare with a friend – not together, but we were working on our own project while talking about it, showing each other our progress…
That was probably for me the most important part. It gives so much motivation, you know? Having someone who cares about helps a lot. I’m pretty sure without that, I wouldn’t had been able to finish this game.
So… Kyari? Thank you very, very much. <3

THOUGHTS…

– Food is both a very good and very bad thing to have around.
I bought shitton of junk food, cola to keep my caffeineted, snacks, sweets… Also pizza for dinner because it’s quick to prepare. And my wife made brownies on sunday! Weee!
I don’t know about you, but when I’m focusing on work/code/whatever, I feel like nibbling all the time. And it keeps you awake and gives you energy!
The very bad side? Man, you’re gonna get super fat from this.

– Music is an important thing, too. I listened to Luxendarc Kikou (which is the, errr, Bravery Default concert, veeeeeeery sentai stuff here) pretty much all the time… You need good, energetic and lively music to keep your spirit high!
Usually, I listen to nervous chiptunes, like Anamanaguchi, or stuff I can sing loudly or that makes me moves without my consent.

– Study. I already said it, but study before a jam. Even if it’s just to refresh things you already know! You don’t -need- to learn new stuff, you don’t need to overdo it either… it’s just to put you in the mood, you know?

– Take breaks. Really. I know a lot of people takes jam “seriously”, and end up lacking sleep, spend ALOT of time working, and don’t stop until the deadline is here…
Really guys? That may just be me, but I really think that lack of sleep isn’t going to help. I don’t know, take breaks to calm down and clear your head, get some decent sleep so you’re not working on coffee all sunday long… You’re supposed to enjoy your time!

– Social networks are also a good way to keep motivation flowing. I posted a couple screenshots on tumblr, sent a few messages to fellow working on their own projects… and it just makes you feel good about it, you don’t feel “alone” so it’s definively a good idea to stay in touch with people in general.

– Oh, and next time, I need to make… some sort of journal or something.
Make more screenshots, write down what I achieved… like, I don’t know, every hour or so? That way you can see more precisely how long it took you to do the different part of the game, and it’d help greatly figuring out which points to improve next time.
Plus, it’s a fun thing to have after you’re done! Like a photo album or something!

 

 
Alright, that was put rather… bluntly, I guess?
I just threw in things randomly… I’m not sure if that will help people around.
Stay tuned for part 2 later this week!
It will be much more personal rambling about why I took on this challenge, and what I got out of it.

 

 


One Response to “Post Mortem – Where Is My Bone?”

  1. GFM says:

    To help with keeping a journal, you could try timelapsing next time. I started doing so after a LD that I spent so much time on stupid things that I wasn’t able to properly finish the game… Now I can see again what I’ve done and try to improve next time. :)
    If you are on windows (probably, you used GM… XD) give chronolapse a try. It’s on the tools page. =D
    And about the theme, I had an idea after a few hours, but kept changing it… Also, on my 2nd LD ever I scraped my game and restarted from scratch, with only 8 hours left… So, don’t let this bother you. Stuff happens and, as long as you have fun and are happy with the result, go for it! 😀

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