I appear to be afraid of making games.
My LD26 submission was an immersive world with graphics and audio, interactions and special effects, challenge and progress. It was clunky, confusing, cheesy, and short, but it was a game.
When LD27 rolled around, I looked through my feedback and made a plan. Graphics and interface were the biggest complaints I received, so I focused on a clean interface and smooth graphics. In that, I succeeded… but at the loss of a complex goal, and immersive interaction. The comments indicated such, but I didn’t get the hint.
LD28 added back some of that interaction, and gave the player a means to manipulate the ways they interacted with the game. It added back a challenge and goal, but lost the graphical and auditory polish, and it required content to really shine. Most of my time was spent on the upgrade interface, which was lauded, but the game suffered for it.
I didn’t feel too bad about my LD30 submission. I mean, it was missing 90% of my desired features, the graphics got skipped again, and I didn’t have enough time to playtest it well, so it’s statistically unlikely you’ll complete even a single objective… but that’s Ludum Dare right? 600 lines of code later, the inventory system works, the random goal and automatic goal-checking works, the random resource generation and base-color modification works, and the entire backend ties together in a bug-free manner. There are simple particle effects, some moody ambient audio, and a few hurried attempts at humor… It’s still a moderately successful submission.
The comment that really kicked me in the gut was, “Nice GUI Demo”. I know they didn’t mean it maliciously, but really? The worst part is, I can’t argue with it. I watched my timelapse, and I spent almost the entirety of the Compo mucking with the GUI. You don’t interact with the planets (yes, those were supposed to be planets), you push buttons. Everything is a button. You don’t live in this world at all. It worked for Adventure Games, but I guess we grew out of those in the late 90’s.
Immersion is hard. And evidently important.
Amidst the complaints Elder Scrolls Online receives (yes, random neuron firing here), one is how they focused on a nearly GUI-free experience. I’m beginning to understand their decision.
My goal for Ludum Dare 30 was to make a game that didn’t disappoint me. Instead, I think I discovered one of the issues holding me back. Just as good, I’d say.