Postmortem – Kill or Kill: There is no die

Posted by (twitter: @JeremyMcCurdy)
May 1st, 2014 4:30 pm

Click to play

Introduction

This was my first Ludum Dare, I’ve taken part in other game jams before, but never one that was 48 hours. It was intense! I sat at my computer chugging beer right up until the theme was announced, and then I started work immediately.

In the first 20 minutes I figured out roughly what I was going to do. My quick brainstorming ideas were as follows:

  • Shark sim
  • Mining game
  • Something to do with skin
  • A game about psychopaths

Once I go to the last one, I dropped all other ideas immediately. In hindsight, I’m really glad that I did. There are many submissions that the first three ideas cover, but only a few about being crazy.

I started sketching the main character and started thinking about game mechanics that would have lots of uses. The biggest mechanic I used was the ability to drag things. Being able to drag things meant I could drag dead bodies and other things too. Then it hit me, I could drag garbage bags and do other menial chores!

From there, things fell into place, and I worked constantly right up until I submitted the game. I had more grandiose features in mind originally, but I’m happy with what I have.

The main gameplay loop can be summarized by:

  • Do a mundane chore and get a quest to murder someone/thing from an inanimate object
  • Kill the person/thing while avoiding cops
  • Drop the body off at a disposal area and resume chores

Tools

  • Unity
    I often call Unity my “one true love”. I don’t get to use Unity in my day job much any more, but man is it fun and easy to work with. Really though, I’ve yet to find a game engine or development tool that rivals it in both ease of use and power.
  • 2D Toolkit
    This goes hand-in-hand with Unity. Sure there’s now built-in support for 2D, but man is it weak compared to 2D Toolkit. If you’re planning on seriously making a 2D game with Unity, go straight for 2D Toolkit, and you’ll have a MUCH more enjoyable life.
  • Adobe Illustrator
    I have professional artist friends who look at me like I’m crazy when I talk about how much I love Illustrator (they prefer Flash). I’m not great at drawing, but I can see things in my head fairly clearly. The vector drawing tools in Illustrator let me draw and fine-tune shapes until I get something that resembles what I imagined.
  • Adobe Photoshop
    I used this for the intro and end screens. I also used it for cutting up the tile sheets I drew in Illustrator.
  • Magix Music Maker
    I call this “Fruity Loops for idiots”. I have next to no musical talent, but I understand when something sounds okay, and when it sounds like garbage. Magix lets you take pre-made music loops and slap them together with some simple editing tools. The best thing is that the loops they provide having timing information, which it uses to auto adjust to match the song’s tempo. So if you find a sick guitar track in an unrelated pack, and Magix will try to figure out the timing to make it work with your song. It doesn’t always work, but I’ve yet to get terribly stuck with it.
  • Bsfxr
    It generates 8-bit sound effects. I think most people use this, or some other variant of sfxr. I would have preferred to edit sounds from Freesound.org, but the competition rules seemed to not jive with that.

What went right

  • The tone of the game – From the outset, I wanted to make something dumb. Mixing up happy-go-lucky feelings with horrible murder achieved that.
  • The humor – I relied a lot on references to things¬†and meta-humor. It’s low hanging fruit, and generally funny stuff. I also love American Psycho, which was pretty clear to most people ūüėÄ
  • The art style – I went for very simple things that didn’t take a lot of effort to draw, and it resulted in a ¬†silly but clean aesthetic. I kind of went for a different aesthetic entirely for the intro and lose screen art. That’s mainly because I was trying a bunch of things in photoshop and found something I thought looked cool by accident.
  • The music – A lot of people seem to really pick up on the music, the best part is that I spent maybe two hours making it. Magix is a godsend, seriously, you should get it.
  • Dialogue on everything! – I put in a dialogue window after deciding to make the random objects for your chores be your quest givers. In the last couple hours I decided to use that simple dialogue system on everything you could interact with in-game. It led to a lot of extra content with very little extra work.
  • The controls – Arrow keys and the space bar do everything. Simple and easy to pick up on short order.
  • Being able to kill everyone – Okay, some people don’t like this. I do. I grew up playing games like Fallout 1 & 2 where you could kill EVERYONE¬†if you wanted to, you didn’t have to, but you could. I think for a small game like this, it’s a fun little side thing to do.
  • The title – “Kill or Kill: There is no die” is both a play on a Yoda quote, and an attempt to make a title that looks like a poorly translated Japanese game name. It also coincidentally sounds similar to Kill la Kill, which is just a funny connection to make if you know anything about that.

What went wrong

  • Collision boxes – Man oh man they went wrong! There are two bad decisions that make the hit detection really bad:
    – I used iTween to move NPCs around, this meant physics updates weren’t syncing with character positions. This means you can walk through people and sometimes mess up a kill because you couldn’t hit a person. The player uses a Unity character controller, and every character really should have.
    – I rotated stuff 90 degree when they died, the hit boxes didn’t always play nice with this. I fixed most of them, but people really have trouble with that damn cat…
  • The view area – Your field of view is super limited, this means you can’t tell if a cop is coming nearby unless you keep a constant eye on the minimap.
  • The camera – The camera often has to play catch up when you move fast. I wanted smooth movement instead of a teleporting camera, but I should have made the camera move WAY faster.
  • Eagle eyed cops – Cops can see you pretty much as soon as their gun is on screen and is facing you. I really needed to reduce¬†the range on the cop vision. On the bright side, it does make for the occasional jump scare :)
  • Not enough objective arrow updates – Each quest has only one location for the quest arrow to point to. This means that all kill quests leave you guessing where to go after you kill your target. People often don’t even realize that they have to drag the body somewhere to get rid of it.

Next steps

  • Make a full game – I want to take the general idea of what I have, and make it work as a full PC game that I actually feel proud of putting up on Steam. I think the game concept will work with some major changes to the mechanics and presentation. This means that most of what I’ve made will end up getting ditched, or entirely re-written. This is why I didn’t put out a bug fix build or anything, because I don’t plan to keep much of the original codebase.What follows are my rough plans for the full game…
  • Level based structure – I want each “day” of chores to represent a level in a different area. For example: in a shopping mall, at the grocery store, working a desk job in an office.
  • A focus on stealth gameplay – I want to make a “Metal Gear Solid Lite” style of stealth system, with leaning around corners, going prone, and enemies that hunt you down.
  • A crime scene cleanup mechanic – Players should leave a mess if they kill someone in a brutal manner. NPCs should freak the hell out and alert the police if they see it. I want to add a system in place for cleaning up after yourself so that you can prevent trouble. This also means you might get caught while cleaning up a crime scene and have to kill the witness.
  • A way to do clean kills – I’d like to have things that would make your kills less noticeable. This could be a tarp you lay down, or choking someone out with rope. These methods will likely take longer put into place, meaning you might miss your kill if you aren’t on the ball.
  • A “chaos” system – As you kill people, and the police take notice. I want NPCs to act more cautious and paranoid. This could also mean the NPCs yell and draw attention. Eventually, if you let chaos build up too much, the cops will put out an APB and hunt you down. Your goal will be to keep a tidy quiet crime scene whenever possible.
  • Less linear levels – I want to give players a list of mundane objectives to complete, and a list of targets to dispose of. I want them to be complete them out of order if they want to, and are able to actually do it.
  • Improvised weapons – At times, I want you to have to grab whatever’s nearby to achieve your kill. This will likely also require a durability system to prevent people from exploiting a single overpowered clean kill item repeatedly.
  • Insanity effects – You will still be crazy, and things will still talk to you, but I want to take it further. I want the main character to flat out hallucinate, both with visuals and sounds. I want the players to second guess what they see and hear at times. A game like this needs to be completely weird.

If any of this interests you, please follow me on Twitter:
https://twitter.com/JeremyMcCurdy

Say hello! I’m always up for making friends in the game dev community! I might also reach out for help if I manage to make good progress on the game.

Thanks for reading!

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