And the Moment Is Gone (post-mortem)

Posted by (twitter: @MikeMezhenin)
May 19th, 2014 11:43 am

So, here’s a long-overdue post-mortem of my LD29 entry, And the Moment Is Gone. The idea behind the game was to combine themes from two separate jams that were held during the same time – Ludum Dare and Russian GamesJamGAMM – in one project. Given the themes (the second one was “Phobias”), the subject became apparent – I decided to make a game about social anxiety, evoking frustration and humiliation emotions from players.

It was an old idea of mine to make a game about a person who thinks over different scenarios of an important conversation in his head over and over, never actually starting that conversation; this was a good fit for the theme, so I’ve decided to make a game about a lonely boy on a subway (I like those very much), who desperately wants to meet a girl, but just haven’t got a clue how to talk to a stranger. Main inspirations for the mood became my all-time favourite Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and this comic. This is how it turned out:

The game was done in less than 48 hours, since the second jam ended before LD and I had to wrap it up much earlier. I couldn’t enter the compo though, since some of the assets weren’t done by me (sounds and phone icons that I didn’t have time to draw myself and plugged in at the last moment). Also, the boy’s head (not the body!) was drawn a long time ago. :)

Anyway, most of the time I spent on experimenting with the gameplay; as I usually do, I sketched out some GUI prototypes to help me with the thinking; all of them are combined in the picture below. In the first version, the anxiety was a monster with eyes and hands (Don’t Starve, anyone?), but I abandoned that idea quickly and decided to go with the bubbles. I wasn’t satisfied with any of my gameplay prototypes, so I’ve spent most of the Saturday drawing the subway and the characters.

I’ve been struggling with bubbles’ design and behaviour until Sunday, still not having gameplay with ~15 hours left. That’s when my wife said that maybe I should make a game based on frustration, like Super Hexagon. After that I’ve ditched all indicators of the phrases’ mood (like icons or colors) and settled upon plain text bubbles to make it less game-y and more intimidating. Somewhere around this time I’ve stumbled upon the right-click mechanic and the game finally “worked” for me, so I had around 10 hours to actually implement the logic and write all the text (thanks to my wife for the ideas!). The last two hours were really hard, but I’ve managed to make most of the stuff I’ve wanted.

So, the good:

  • Game is finished, and plays much better than my game from GGJ.
  • I made a good choice for the theme, with many people noting how they can relate to the game.
  • All of the gameplay experiments payed out – people seem to compliment the gameplay innovation and how it works with the story.
  • My programmer art skills improve with every game – although somewhat simplistic, the art does its work effectively and differs from more trendy but generic 8bit-pixelated style.

Bad:

  • I completely failed to communicate the idea of the game being inside the boy’s head – that both ‘bad’ and ‘good’ endings are just his scenarios, and he never actually speaks to the girl. This probably could’ve been fixed by additional text messages or some animations on game restarts.
  • Although many people related to the game’s story, lots of people thought of it as of “harassement simulator”, not something I intended to make. This is partly due to the first bad point, but also this probably could’ve been avoided by making the “pick-up” lines to be the wrong ones all the time, and making the game restart with a humiliating thoughts after every wrong choice (although I’m not 100% sure about this).
  • The game has been criticized for the girl character, or rather for the girl without anything resembling character. This was partly intentional – firstlt, to have different conversations every restart, and secondly to avoid having a universal path of phrases that could “win the girl” every time. And again, this can be justified the girl’s reactions are just the boy’s anxious fantasies.

Anyway, I’m very pleased with how the game turned out. Most of the reviews were positive, and my long-lived life goal of getting a feature on IndieGames or IndieStatik was accomplished. The game even attracted publications in French and German, something I never expected. The game sparked a discussion about its theme, and it’s good to hear people out, even if they actively disagree with your point. So, thanks for playing!


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