Geez, Tim, you didn’t make a game AGAIN?

August 25th, 2014 10:53 pm

Technically, there is an entry with my name on it, so I could say I finished a game if I wanted to. Systeme, my teammate Finnbar’s entry, was originally to be our game. But given what has actually happened, it’s really only his game. And with respect to him, I’m really, really disappointed in it.

Unlike the last two Ludums, I didn’t lose this one entirely to lack of motivation. So that’s a plus. Rather, I lost it to bad planning and bad team management. So let’s go over what’s happened, shall we?

The First Night

Ludum Dare starts Friday night at nine o’clock here on America’s east coast. I was teaming was Finnbar, like I said, who lives in London, where it was 2 a.m., so I had to do brainstorming on my own, apart from a little chatting with a friend. Finn was supposed to be the music guy and help a little with programming, while I was the main programmer.

So, the theme was Connected Worlds. Now, my first thought upon hearing that was Space Elevators. Haha, Space Elevators. Funny, right? I moved on, though, trying to come up with a real idea, but honestly, I wasn’t very focused. I stayed up quite late trying to get something good so Finn would have something to do in the morning while I was asleep, and I finally sent him three ideas. I didn’t really like any of them, but I told him he could pick one or come up with his own and I’d catch up with him in the morning.

We Rise At Dawn– Er, 10 o’clock

When I awoke, I was first met with what seemed like pretty good news. Finn had picked the Planet idea, and had already completed a prototype!

The Planet Idea: “Make your own planet to music. Very much like our old game, Song of Sparks. Add cool stuff to explore to it, or things that can kill other players. At the end, fly around and explore others’ planets.”

I wasn’t sure if I even liked that idea. I mean, exploring other players planets? That meant networking. And there were just so many parts to it. But I liked the “Make a Planet to Music” part. That sounded fun. And Finnbar chose it over my other half-hearted ideas, as I’d expect, since it involved music. He’s a music guy.

To my surprise, though, our good friend Michcioperz offered to help out with the network code, offering us a server he’d paid for! Wow! So that could work after all. And Finn already had a prototype where you could edit a planet and it would spin and stuff… but wait, what? All the code is based on rotating graphics– none of it is class-based, which meant that none of it could really be salvaged for a final product. Either he wanted a proof of concept or he likes instant results more than code that will actually be useful in a final result. I’m not really sure.

So, we talked about where to go next. I specifically said I wanted to create a planet class just before I went off to lunch. When I got back from lunch, though, I found that Finnbar had already started making a planet class. Uh, okay, I guess he can do that… wait, he’s using Moonscript?

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with Moonscript– it compiles to Lua, so it was perfectly compatible with what we were doing– but I don’t know how to use it at all. He had picked it because it has built-in classes for object orientation, which we needed, but I already had a library that could do that in Lua! But Finn didn’t know how to use it, so he picked Moonscript. And honestly, I had no idea what he was doing. He kept assuring me it would be fine, but I searched his code, and to me the whole thing seemed like a mess. I was still getting the impression that he was going for instant results instead of anything useful. So that’s what I told him.

There was nothing I could really do. I was supposed to be the code guy, and here I was without be able to work with any of the code. I told him I had half a mind to scrap what he’d done and start from scratch. But I didn’t, for a while– I let him keep going and I hoped that maybe it would start making enough sense for me to step in. (It never really did.)

So I had a lot of time to think. I kept thinking about how hard the idea was, and how it wasn’t really going to work. It needed to be simplified. I searched through my first ideas– blah, blah, Space Elevators, blah… Hm. Space Elevators. Wouldn’t it be funny to have a shmup game about defending a Space Elevator from space pirates and seeing how far you can get it? And hey, what if the game was played to elevator music? That’d be hilarious!

Wait… why hadn’t I thought of this to begin with?!

The Stone That the Builders Rejected

So, now, Finnbar was going to bed, and I had options: do I try to work on this dumb planet game that I don’t really like, or a game about Space Elevators that actually sounds doable and fun? So that’s what I did. I worked on it that night. I worked on it the next day, starting around 1:30 because I had to go to church and eat lunch and whatnot. And I was making decent, if slow, progress.

Finn and I had decided that we were now making two games at once, me helping a little on his and him helping a little on mine (we’d hoped he’d do that elevator music). It was a dumb plan, but he wanted to finish Planet Game and I wanted to do anything but finish Planet Game, so it seemed like a logical course of action.

But I wasn’t having it easy with Space Elevator, either. I got some decent stuff done, but it wasn’t going fast, and there was some fundamental stuff I couldn’t figure out. And then, I lost a ton of time.

I took an hour break to eat dinner. Then, when I was ready to get back to work, my mom came and asked me to help her with setting up a website. She’d made a lot of mistakes, and it was really stressful trying to fix everything for her, especially since I was losing development. That took an hour and a half. Then, I took another hour and a half trying to recover from that stress. At this point, I had lost four hours, and all my motivation to work on the game.

I did a little more work that night, but I wasn’t in the mood anymore. I was just too tired.

Epilogue

Could I have made a comeback on the third day? Probably. But it would have had to be with a completely different game that was easy to develop in that time, and I was too tired for that.

Finnbar cut back on the scale of the Planet game. Some was harmless, like making the travel to other planets random instead of a controlled flight section. But other things were more drastic. There was no musical creation of the planets anymore, the player just drops items on the floor and calls it their own. The musical creation was the only part I liked. There’s no goal. If anything, the music reacts to the planet’s size and the items on it, which Finn likes.

I ended up helping package the final game and test it for bugs a little. It’s called Systeme now. I don’t even know why it’s called that, or how to pronounce it.

So, what could we have done differently?

  1. I could have woken up early instead of staying up late. That might have bought us more time. Finn could have taken less breaks.
  2. Finn could have started working on the music first so that I could have at least begun the programming that first morning from scratch.
  3. I could have actually focused on coming up with good ideas the first night. If I’d enthusiastically tried to come up with things, I might have invented the Space Elevator idea to begin with, or something better. (I also could have been stronger and taken over all programming on Planet Game, but yeah…)

So, I’ve discovered another way to do the Ludum Dare wrong. That’s okay, though. I’m learning.


One Response to “Geez, Tim, you didn’t make a game AGAIN?”

  1. SnoringFrog says:

    If you’re learning, you weren’t doing it wrong.

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