Post Mortem: The Lion’s Song

Posted by (twitter: @leafthief)
September 8th, 2014 5:42 am

It was about 5 o’clock in the morning when I awoke and checked my phone. Scrolling through the twitter feed of the past few hours, I finally found the theme: Connected Worlds. Well that certainly wasn’t something I voted on. I went back to sleep, pictures appearing in front of my eye. Disappearing. Re-appearing. Not letting me sleep.

The picture of a split-screen. Two people conversing with each other, the telephone a connection between their fundamentally different worlds. That was all I had.

Two weeks later ‘The Lion’s Song‘ is a thing. It’s playable – kinda and was mostly well received by the Ludum Dare community. What I didn’t see coming and am super proud of is that some gaming sites picked up the game as a story and wrote a few words about it. I’m happy with my creation overall and I know it was damn close. But why? Why’d I miss the 48h compo mark? Again? Well there are obvious answers and some less obvious ones. Let’s have a look now shall we?


What went right


When I started working on my entry, I already had a picture in my mind. I knew I wanted to do split-screen. So I started with a basic sketch that elaborated quickly. But I felt that it could easily go overboard at any moment so I started reducing the color depth fairly soon – with great results. The sepia-esque tone the reduced palette gave to the imagery inspired the next moves and the story. The animations worked okay and there was just enough there to convey emotion.

TLS mockup


Although I wasn’t super happy about the theme (like most of us most of the time ;)) I found something I wanted to do quite quickly. The theme resonated in the split-screen and in the idea to depict a world in which the telephone was something new. A thing of which people couldn’t begin to realize the influence this device would have on their lives. I wanted to depict that influence. The bridging of long distances that shrunk the world and didn’t at the same time.



For once I made the absolute right decision regarding the tools I used. Adventure Game Studio has everything I needed: excellent dialog support, easy-to-implement GUIs, etc. And best of all: I was fairly familiar with the tool, which helped save a lot of time. Where AGS excels in some aspects, in other aspects it is very limited. But that limitation can always also spur creativity.
The major drawback is that it only builds Windows executables, which wouldn’t normally be a problem, but in this special case, for Ludum Dare, it’s generally better to have a Web build.


What went wrong


Well this one’s hard. Of course the sound effects can be made with bfxr/sfxr but the music?! I’m using Logic Studio 8 to make my music but all the software in the world won’t help you when you’re sitting there like an uninspired sponge pressing buttons on your keyboard. Nothing that really sounds like anything.
Well I spent hours like that. I had one theme, discarded it. Came up with another one. Integrated it at some point. Oh well. It’s not the worst I guess. But I lost valuable time doing it.



Well here it comes: I had absolutely no idea what the story of the game was until very late in production. While that isn’t a problem when you’re building something that’s very mechanic-centric it is a problem when you’re building a story game. And that’s what I set out to do.
I mean, the whole thing started out as a 1910 Alpine Thriller where there’s some sort of hidden, devastating truth with you there in the cabin and together with the other one on the phone you’d discover it.
Well that didn’t turn out as I planned. I spent hours thinking about how to justify Wilma being there in the cabin, or was it a mansion?
One time I even had the idea that she was the caretaker of some old, deceased man who would return to haunt his mansion. But rubbish rubbish rubbish all the way down.
I finally took a stroll through the old town of Vienna, had a coffee and a cake and there it was. Why not show the world a little bit of Austria. Alps. Classical compositions. Pre-World-War-1. A fertile ground for an adventure game story.



For me, this was the biggest problem. I completely underestimated the time that goes into writing. Whenever I was about to start I procrastinated doing graphics, or music, or GUIs. Stuff I felt more comfortable doing. When the final hour (to finish the compo) came I had written only a few lines. There was no way I could finish in time. The whole game was basically missing.
However, I managed to get something down for the 72h deadline. But hell. Writing = content. And content, no matter the type, takes time. Writing is no exception. At least not for me.

What’s next?

In the end I managed to submit with about 7 hours to go but I just couldn’t go on any longer. I’m currently planning to extend the game into a proper format with some puzzles and more diverse branches in terms of dialog.
I want to build upon the mood, add a proper music track that’s custom depending on what/how you play. Also the imagination mechanic – I’d like to improve that, maybe even with some puzzles. I want to show you my vision of Wilma and her vision of the world and how it inspires her.
And last but not least, I want to add a proper ending. An ending that’ll leave you wanting for more. More of these characters, more of this world.

Thanks to Ludum Dare for this opportunity and thank you for reading this. Did you play yet? Did you rate ‘The Lion’s Song’? No? Then go give it a try!

>>Play here<<



2 Responses to “Post Mortem: The Lion’s Song”

  1. We played and loved this! Think you’re being pretty hard on yourself, this was one of our favourite entries!

  2. Sheepolution says:

    The PLAY HERE link isn’t linking to the game!

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