Crisis Culture – Post Mortem

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August 31st, 2014 12:23 pm

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Okay, I’ve let this sit for a while, and I think I’m ready to unpack how this jam (and my entry, which you can play here) went.

What went right:

Execution of style

DandySmileWhen we decided the plot of the game (which I’ll talk about later), it didn’t really take much discussion to find out how we wanted the game to look. Our pixel artist, Gordon, has a very distinct, angular, heavily-stylised look to his illustrations, perfect for a game that is heavily about style and doesn’t take itself too seriously.

The artwork I produced for the game was a bunch of photomontages. For a game about bringing separate realms together, I liked the idea of my pieces being all kinds of stock photos smashed together and those montages juxtaposed against much cleaner and precise pixel art.

The hexagon motif kind of just… emerged. It started when I made the graphic for the item window, which was initially square until I started using that rad hexagon font for the text. And soon it was everywhere. Even Akachi’s wallpaper at his house is made of hexagons!

More of this post under the cut.

Coding aims

This is the most complicated Visual Novel I’ve coded yet. While a lot of people who played said that the game is rather simple (or at least straightforward), the inner workings was actually a lot of new territory for me.

After my last game, Thought Police, I wanted to learn more efficient code than the hackjob I did to get some parts of that game working, and new concepts, like map screens and inventory.

The inventory ended up being a hyper-simple system designed to only hold one item at a time, and the map screen had no sound effects, but they were a solid start that I can build on in the future.

 

What went wrong:

Time management

This is partly unavoidable circumstance, partly my fault. Because our artist was overseas, communication was entirely limited to when we were both online – and even then our connection wasn’t great (and that lead to us not having all the graphics ready for the official Jam entry).

On my side, I actually took a large chunk of Sunday off to entertain guests, which I could have used to do much more complex pathing. One idea was to have the conversations with each character have their own branches, that increased/decreased relationship values. And then at the end of the game, that would dictate what ending you get.

As things stand, conversations don’t branch (although the characters all have something new to say if you ask them the same question twice), and you just choose the ending you want. That kind of downsizing is definitely not unusual for Ludum Dare, but I was pretty bummed out over not making that system work.

Minority factor

I make a (rather strong) point of having characters in things I write be diverse – mostly because that’s the only way I can see people of colour and people of different sexualities/genders in my gaming at the moment.

We, uh, sort of managed that. Manuel is the character that I had the most involvement in designing and writing, and people who know me well could probably tell that easily.

That rad dress-suit is by Jean Paul Gaultier, by the way.

That rad dress-suit is by Jean Paul Gaultier, by the way.

He’s the only character who even vaguely flirts with the (gender ambiguous but with a West African name) main character (and since the dialogue is linear, Akachi reciprocates). But it could also easily be misinterpreted as being platonic, and I ain’t really about ‘will-they-won’t-they’ romances.

On the other hand, we got a good mix of genders and races up in there, so I can’t be too hard on myself.

Plot concept

Okay, that’s harsh, the plot worked out pretty damn well. But I can’t help but be a little mad at myself for making a game about space. After turning my nose up a little about all the underwater/underground games in the Beneath The Surface jam last time, I figured I could do better than that. The plot was also decided upon three-ways, which is not a problem inherently (with a team size so small it would be shitty if someone didn’t get a say!) but it meant that a lot of ideas were more neutral that I would have liked, or sounded like they’d be a nightmare to work in properly.

As you might guess if you’ve played the game, the GALAXY CAT is one of those latter things. I think it was at the point we had that in the game, I decided to write the game in a SCUMMVM/LucasArts way. Ridiculous and off-beat with no fail state. A rollercoaster ride more than a hedge maze. This gave the game a very unique tone (which I’m definitely happy with), but I’m a little sad that I didn’t get to write something more intimate and personal.

Oh, and typos. Typos are the bane of my life. (And because there’s a lot of incidental and hidden dialogue, some parts were consistently skipped over. Shit.)

Future goals:

I always can push my skills in Ren’Py further. I do recognise that most other LDers tend to diversify in the platform and genre they work in, but I’m the kind of person who likes to hone a single skill (and I never want to have to deal with things like collision detection because hahahafuck that.). I’d like to make a more complex inventory system, and maybe a beastiary-style menu.

I got a tablet for this LD, with the intention of doing more in the way of digital art. It really helped make the photomontages better and faster to produce, but that’s about all I did with it – I shall have a more hands-on approach to drawing next time.

I want to learn how to use a basic music program, too. Kevin MacLeod has saved my bacon for three games in a row, and it’s time that changed. I’ve heard that Famitracker… exists, and that Frooty Loops is good for arranging building blocks of riffs like that old PS1 game, Music, but other than that I dunno what would be a good fit for a not-especially-musically-trained beginner.

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