Neath (Post-Mortem)

Posted by (twitter: @metkis)
May 18th, 2014 12:44 pm

As the end of the voting period looms, I decided to write a postmortem for my Jam entry, Neath. This is my second Ludum Dare. I had some troubles coming up with what the game would be going which led me to miss the competition deadline, but eventually completed it, with a short playable section, for the Jam. I focused on creating a great mood, simple gameplay, and creating a visually striking game in the time period I had. You can play it Here. In the spirit of my first entry, Crew, I’ll be listing some of the things that went right, some of the things that went wrong and what I hope to do differently next time around.




What went right:

  • I finished the game in time for the jam I lost some sleep on this one, but made a concerted effort to get enough sleep and remain vigilant in working on my game.
  • I decided to use Unity last time around I utilized GameMaker: Studio for my entry. This time I told myself I would tough it out and Use Unity for the first time to complete a game. The things I learned in the process were invaluable and it helped give me more confidence in the engine, which I wanted to move to full-time for any game development.
  • Polish I spent a lot of the time implementing features that really didn’t need to be there, but made the experience classier. I also implemented some features that were there just so I could learn how to do them. For instance, despite having only 2 letters in the game, I created a system for handling any items and any letters with variable text. The same is true for the simple dialogue system in the game, which is triggered and custom, and displays text via script. The motions of the paper swooping in, the flickering of the flashlight on, and etc. were all fun to finish and see in action and I think added a lot to the game.
  • Atmosphere I spent more time than I’d care to admit on the sound alone. I am no sound designer by any means, but wanted the game to have a lot of atmosphere and a heavy mood. Luckily, it wasn’t in vain and a lot of people actually noticed how much work went into the sound design. I had initially planned to finish by the Compo time, so many of the sounds are self recorded, but when the time passed I decided to include some snazzy royalty free stuff to boost the level of quality.
  • I didn’t overstep my abilities Last time around I messed around with random generation and in the process created a sort of broken game. This time, I kept it simple for the most part and tried a lot of new things that I needed to know eventually. It made me more confident when I figured something out, and it kept me going until the end.



What went wrong:

  • Ran out of Compo Time As the competition ended a sigh of relief came over me. I was a lot of pressure and I missed the gate because I was too hung up on what the game should be. Admittedly, the game kinda came out incrementally. Instead of having that grand vision in my head like my last game, I was confused about what the game was trying to be. As a result, a lot of the game occurred naturally, which was fun, but also lead to a shorter and kinda plain game-play experience.
  • Brevity There wasn’t a lot “too” my game, but it also was a quite brief experience. If there’s anything people remarked about negatively it would be this. In its briefness, the game did feel more like a mini-demo  or a “slice” of game-play than a full experience, which is interesting. I don’t feel too bad about this, being the sole developer and having it be my first time going full-sail with Unity.
  • Lack of Interesting Mechanics I wanted the game to have a mechanic that related to the theme of “Beneath the Surface”. Unfortunately, I just didn’t think of anything clever enough to get the pass from me.

What I would do differently:

  • Spend Less Time on Prep Last time around I told myself I should have spent more time on prep, but after struggling to come up with an idea this time around, I realized things would have gone smoother if I had just taking a shot at something. I think this part is going to depend on the theme and the options that I’ve come up with, but overall just jumping into something helps grease the wheels.
  • Gameplay First, Next Time! I want to do something interesting with game-play. I think adventure games are a hard sell during Ludum Dare and it’s not the most fun to see in action either. For Crew, I hated myself for trying to do something I knew I wasn’t insanely good at with random generation. This time around, I felt like I tried hard and learned a lot about Unity to go forward and make something more interesting to actually play. Next time I think I’ll focus on creating a simpler, but more fun game.
  • Create a post-comp version? To be honest, I dislike post-comp versions. Not only because when I’m done I just don’t want to look at the game anymore, but also because I think – at least within the voting period – that it’s against the spirit of Ludum Dare. Some post-comp versions I’ve seen have completely changed some aspects of a game or added more levels that weren’t there initially. For anything but game-breaking bugs, a post-comp version is disingenuous to me, but I understand its place in the Jams. Next time around maybe I’ll work on a post-comp version just to see if it’s worth it and if my opinions have changed on it.

Final words: 

Like my previous jam, I got a lot of kind words and some coverage from sites like Warpdoor and IndieStatik. This time around it was a lot more positive because the game worked, hah! It was once-again fun to commit my time to this and helps me realize more and more that this is what I want to do with my life. Thank you!


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