“Winter is Coming . . .” Postmortem

Posted by
May 2nd, 2014 9:27 pm

Alrighty, then. Time for my first postmortem. This was PixelFeet’s first Ludum Dare, and we entered the game “Winter is Coming . . .” into the jam (and for the sake of SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION, you can play it here). We are a group of high school seniors who, more than anything, wanted to participate in something that would force us to make a game instead of just talking about it. We went into this almost completely blind: I barely knew how to write code in Haxe, our “producer” went on a road trip, our graphics design guy joined the team because he was the only person we could find that didn’t not want to make sprite art, and our musician wasn’t even on the team until Sunday when we realized, “Crap! We don’t have music!” Fun, right? Here’s our story.

 

We started out as little seedlings, or some such figurative nonsense. View more images here.

 

 

It’s a Good Thing We Didn’t Plan on Pepsi Consultant.

 

Because we had such a short period of time to complete the game, Zack and I wanted to come up with an idea for our game as early as possible. That meant looking at the final round of voting and asking, “How can we use each topic to make a game?” The first idea we came up with is too good to share; we’re going to make it some day, but it didn’t end up fitting the chosen topic. Then we asked, “What can we do if ‘Break the Rules’ wins?” We come up with “Breaking Rulers,” a spoof of Breaking Bad made by people who have never watched the show. That didn’t really seem to work either. So when we saw what the topic was, we thought, “Let’s do a plant simulator-strategy-puzzle-y thing.” And that’s what happened.

 

The Universe Didn’t Want Us to Make a Game. Seriously.

Friday: Zack stays up until 1:00 PM listening to me wrap my head around two-dimensional arrays in Haxe. Then I go to bed.

Saturday: Most of the day goes swimmingly. I write code that would make my professor cry, and not because it’s so beautiful. I make it possible to place tiles of wood, currently represented by a brown square, anywhere. Then I add the seed. And restrict placement of wood blocks. I do the same with leaves. Later on, Zack calls me so we can discuss the game mechanics and where we’re at. I add resource counters to the game. Then I try and change the text color. It doesn’t work, and I proceed to unintentionally break my installation of HaxeFlixel, and in attempting to fix that I break OpenFL and Lime. We almost give up, but we fix it. I proceed to change the text color. This time I succeed. After adding all of the counters, I go to bed.

Sunday: Now that the base game is essentially finished, it’s time to add things like water and nutrients and resource generation and resource costs and graphics and sound and a title screen and a win condition and at the very least the facsimile of balance (which you can read more about farther down). So many things yet to do. However, I get through most of them without a hitch: water and nutrients work fine with the root system, I implement Matthew’s graphics, and I add a timer. This is where “winter is coming” originates. The big problem here, though, is that I don’t have the foggiest idea how to procedurally generate resources, but I “get around” it (again, more on that later). The rest of the game goes smoothly, and we bring in Jonathan, our music guy. He also ends up being our primary tester, and is the reason the score counter presently exists as it does. Eventually, the game is “finished,” and after some more testing we arrive at what would become the version of the game we submitted. That’s a problem. Zack is supposed to take a final look at it and see if he can work out some of the balance issues. That’s the plan, anyway. Then his car doesn’t start. He arrives home a couple of hours late. No big deal. But his Internet is down. We have school the next day. Crap. I submit the game and hope for the best.

We Did This Wrong.

  • The code is so messy. I know. If you looked at it your brain might melt. I apologize for that in advance.
  • The game is pretty slow to start. A number of players have suggested a speed up time button. Personally, I’d rather balance the game in such a way that players won’t want to have that functionality. Much of this is down to our method of procedural generation, but there are plenty more reasons on the side, I’m sure.
  • We don’t know how to procedurally generate resources. Instead, I used the FlxCaveGenerator add-on to spawn water. Then I do the same with nutrients—except I don’t place them if they’re over water. This is far too inconsistent. In one game, players may have a balanced arrangement of resources, while in the next there are only about eight blocks of nutrients.
  • Resources don’t regenerate. This was a major oversight that we didn’t really pick up on until after people suggested it.
  • There’s no reset button. It seems trivial, but with such inconsistent procedural generation, it’s actually a necessity.
  • There’s no leaderboards. But there just wasn’t time. Furthermore, our goal is not just to let players post scores, but rather to post their entire trees.

But Hey, I Guess These Things Went Okay.

  • We had a pretty great idea. It’s just marred by inconsistency and bogged down by imbalance.
  • We actually made a game. It’s about time.
  • We could find at least two positives. That’s a positive, right?

Onward!

So where to now? We’re going to expand “Trees.” Yes, that’s what we’re calling it now. But it’ll remain “Winter is Coming . . .” for the duration of the competition. We’ve got so many great ideas, so much more time, a wonderful community, and a lot of motivation. Sounds like fun.


One Response to ““Winter is Coming . . .” Postmortem”

  1. drnick says:

    Too little shameless self promotion, that I can almost say it’s actually shameful. I had to look a lot for the link, next time make it bigger, add it in the end of the post and in capital letters, please.

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