Walk the Plank postmortem

Posted by
December 8th, 2014 9:09 pm

My game has an actual menu!

So I completed my first ever full Ludum Dare.  I’ve finished a couple miniLDs but never a completed game in just 48 hours.  Now that I’ve had a day to stop and reflect on how everything went I wanted to get my thoughts down in the time honored “what went well and what didn’t” format.

Walk the Plank is a pirate captain plank walking simulator.  The (very loose) plot is a pirate crew that plundered all day and has to make all their hostages walk the plank.  Unfortunately they waited until late in the day to line them up so in their haste some of the crew got mixed into the line.  As captain, you have to kick the hostages overboard and throw the crew back onto the ship.  Each  round lasts 10 seconds.  Fail to reach the target number or make three mistakes and the level is lost.  You can play Walk the Plank here.

What went well

Scope – The scope of the game was perfect for me.  Normally I love complicated games and writing engines, but this time I wanted to make something that was complete and polished.  The game is dead simple with only two buttons.  This simplicity freed up a ton of time to focus on other areas.  Even with the simple engine I still only finished 18 minutes before the deadline, so anything more complicated wouldn’t have been done for the compo.

Code – Don’t get me wrong.  My code is a horrible mess.  However, the bones are solid which made adding levels and content simple later on.  Levels 4-7 were added in the last 20 minutes, which is over half the content of the game.  I made a feature list early on and stuck to it.  I’m happy that there was absolutely no scope creep at all.  This is unheard of for me and played a major part in the on-time finish.

Art – The art went better than I expected.  I tried something new this time and used InkSpace to draw everything.  I loved being able to scale the game assets to every size without losing any of the quality.  Plus, I created a master template for the crew and hostages and then just build arms, feet, bodies, heads, and hats that can all be combined to create a large variety of different characters.  SVG files are super easy to modify and change to make different characters quickly, so I think overall that efficiency made up for the extra time it took to learn the tools.  The ship needed a lot more work than I was able to give it though.  Overall, the art is very functional, and I’m happy with that.

Polish – I am really happy with the amount of polish I was able to cram into the game in the second day.  Tweening is quick and easy and I think adds a lot to the overall effect.  I have states that convey information clearly (I hope).  Little things like restricting input for a second when displaying the results page so players don’t accidentally click through it add a lot and I was able to cram it in.

What went poorly

Music – I knew music was going to be painful going into this.  I actually had very few requirements going in.  I only needed a menu piece and a game piece.  Each round only lasts 10 seconds, so there didn’t even have to be a large music loop to fill the space.  I knew exactly what I wanted for the main menu and was able to create it in about 5 minutes.  The game piece I struggled with for an hour with nothing to show for it before giving up realizing I needed to spend the time elsewhere.  Instead, I just sped up the main menu music for the game.  It is an extremely short loop (only a couple seconds long) and got on my nerves quickly.  I thought about cutting it out altogether but settled on just adding a mute button.  You’re all welcome.  :)

Level design – An hour before the deadline I was looking over my rapidly shrinking must-have feature list pretty pleased with myself.  Then I realized that the last remaining item was actually just content.  Crap!  It is great that my buttons are appearing in an aesthetically pleasing manner, but the game was only 3 levels.  That is about 2 minutes of gameplay.  I quickly created new pirates and hostages (easy thanks to the art choices) and threw them into the game (easy thanks to the code skeleton).  I didn’t get to test them out very well though.  As a result, the levels go from easy to medium to easy, to medium, to freaking impossible.  Actually, the near impossible last level hid the last “what went poorly” item…

No game end – If you somehow beat the last level it loops you back to the beginning.  Not that you are ever going to beat the last level, but still.  If by some miracle someone does beat the last level I would imagine that they would be pretty disappointed that the game doesn’t even acknowledge the miracle that they performed.  Luckily nobody will ever know this, except for the fact that I just posted it for everyone to see…


This was great fun and I’m loving playing and rating other’s games.  I’m taking notes about what others have done that I really like for next time.


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