Lessons learnt while making SnakeFormer

Posted by (twitter: @tolicious)
May 19th, 2014 6:58 am

This Ludum Dare I made SnakeFormer, a short puzzle game combining Snake with pseudo-physics platformer mechanics.

Turns out that lava is pretty hot.

If you’d like to, you can play it here.

Like just about every game, some lessons were learnt, and I thought I’d write a small piece about them. It’s 12 hours before the judging ends, and nobody has time to read through a novel, so I’ll keep this short!

Game & Level Design

If a level has the right difficulty for you, it’ll be too hard for everybody else.
I swear I’ll remember this lesson one day, haha. That doesn’t necessarily mean “make it easier”, because in a level-based game, there is another approach:

When in doubt, make more levels.
Easier levels, preferably. I should’ve spent a lot less time on the menu and instead made more transition levels. Which brings me to:

Don’t introduce more than one mechanic per level.
Level 2 introduces: Lava, falling stones AND growing the snake. That’s, uh, a bit too much.

Even if you think the goal is clear, it might be not.
So – better make it clearer. The goal in my game is to exit the screen to the right, like in most platformers. Some people thought that they had to eat the whole level though, which is a more Snake-like goal.

Put instructions in the first level.
Some players don’t read the instructions before starting the game – but once they are confused inside the game, make it as easy as possible to re-read them.

Art, Sound & Music

Glow is freakin’ cool.

Homemade sound effects can be quite entertaining.
Any game needs sound effects, and since I’m no good at making them digitally, I tried to use my mouth for most. Turns out that’s a lot of fun to listen to, and I actually had a few people praise my sound design, especially the eating- and the end-of-level-sounds.

Abundant Music (music generator) + GXSCC (a MIDI chiptunes-like renderer) are the best team.
I’m no musician, so I had to use generated stuff. Those two are PERFECT. It still took very long to find songs that sound well together, but that definitly was time well spent.

Cheery music for hard and punishing gameplay.
Gnhihihihi. So much fun while watching streamers.


Trust in the process and stay open for new ideas.
The concept I started out was a lot more boring, but then I asked myself “Okay, so those stones fall – what if gravity affects the snake too?” – and then SnakeFormer was born. So even if your initial idea isn’t perfect, go for it anyway instead of giving up, it might evolve into something great later on!

If your idea comes late, don’t worry! There’s still time!
I started development 12 hours after the start of the compo – 8 hours sleep, 4 hours pondering. Contrary to all expectations, I’m still alive and the game is playable.

ToDo lists are great to maintain focus.
Always use a ToDo list so you won’t lose track of your next tasks. Workflowy works best for me.


Thanks a lot for reading! I hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Maybe I made you a bit curious about my game too? If you want to, you can play SnakeFormer here – and I don’t think I have to mention how much I like comments and ratings, do I?

I’m done here.


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6 Responses to “Lessons learnt while making SnakeFormer”

  1. joe40001 says:

    Personally I really liked your game and didn’t find it too overwhelming. No offense to the populace at large but I think these days games are over-coddling the player. Maybe space out the mechanic introductions a small bit, but honestly I think if you aim too low with difficulty it will suffer in a worse way. IMO try to make a game that works on multiple levels (challenge wise) but in the end be driven by what you find fun.

    • TobiasW says:

      Well, I’m not necessilary talking about making it easier – I wouldn’t want to scrap the levels I currently have. What I would do is insert more interesting levels to ease the difficulty curve. Beating the game would still be as hard as it is now, but I think even people who are less adept at puzzles than you are should be able to beat more than 2 levels in a game.

      Additionally, levels in SnakeFormer are really easy to put together. I really have no excuse for having only 4 levels, haha.

  2. Crefossus says:

    “If a level has the right difficulty for you, it’ll be too hard for everybody else.”

    I think you got the difficulty right for this short of a game, but not for this audience. Because we are trying to rate many games, we often give up too easily. Ironic because we’re supposed to be “hardcore” right?

    Really this is a planning and puzzle solving game (plus a bit of trial and error!). It was REALLY satisfying to finally solve the last level. Make it too easy and you’ve lost part of the experience.

    Having said that, I do agree that too much learning was going on at the same time, or in my case I sort of just zipped through the first 3 levels and got stumped on the 4th for a bit, so this could have been paced differently/ensured that what you’re trying to teach is learned – for sure.

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