Owls Ever After post-mortem

Posted by (twitter: @MikeMezhenin)
December 22nd, 2014 1:58 pm

ld

Finally I have some time to write a post-mortem for our LD entry, Owls Ever After (we did it together with my wife Tanya). As usual, everything didn’t go as planned.

TL;DR: Instead of trying to make your game longer, spend more time on polishing it and making it more accessible; most people will not finish your game anyway and most likely will rate it based on the first couple of minutes. Also, music and sound effects is a must.

So the first thing I knew even before the LD theme was selected is that I wanted to make a game about the New Year holidays which have a special place in my heart; something about memories and how each New Year is the same and totally different at the same time. After the theme was selected, we came with the idea of a game that tells you a life story of one person through her memories about different New Years.

I experimented with a couple of visual styles, borrowing ideas from my previous games; I think I’ve at least 30 hours on those designs, but for some reason, they didn’t work at all.

22

11

I was frustratedand and lost any hope and then I remembered about owls. It was an game idea we had with Tanya last year, a game about a family of owls. It never worked out, but we still had our adorable owl prototype.

33

 

After switching to owls, everything clicked; the game started to look like a fairy tale and the Christmas spirit mood was totally there. Tanya came up with an idea of a magic radio that helps you travel in time, and we started experimenting with gameplay. We struggled with it for a while, but finally came up with a complicated, but kind of interesting mechanic. In each year, you have several dark areas you don’t remember; you can unlock them with fairy lights of different colour. After that, in each year there are two false memories, that you can ‘fix’ by clicking on them, which gives you more lights to unlock more memories, etc. The gameplay was kind of interesting, so we started to create the story and puzzles.

Unfortunately, we only had 8 hours left to write and draw everything. Original idea was to create 50 years; since we were out of time, we cut that to 23 (I think). We managed to finish on time, but didn’t have any time to make a proper tutorial or sound effects, which was a mistake. All players complain that it’s not clear what you should do in the game (can’t blame them, the gameplay is complicated). We could avoid that by adding some visual and sound cues to the player’s actions. Also, the mood of the game really suffered due to lack of music. We’re no composers, and I didn’t want to use free music; this looks like a mistake since so many games use it and get stars for mood due to that.

So, the results.

The Good:

  • Spending lots of time on the visual style is worth it – everybody likes our owls family
  • The story and mood

The Bad:

  • Always add some music to your game, even if it’s not yours (but remove yourself from the Audio category); people will rate you lower in Overall and Mood otherwise
  • Same goes for the sound effects
  • Since we didn’t have enough time, a lot of the puzzles weren’t really good and relied on pixel-hunting
  • We should’ve spent time on making the game more accessible – tutorial is a must if your game has unusual mechanics

Main lesson: instead of trying to make your game longer, spend more time on polishing it and making it more accessible; most people will not finish your game anyway and most likely will rate it based on the first couple of minutes. Also, music and sound effects is a must.


One Response to “Owls Ever After post-mortem”

  1. mathmadlen says:

    I love reading or watching ‘behind the scenes’ of other people’s creative process, it’s almost always very inspiring. I enjoyed this one especially because the game you guys created is one of those that stand out among over hundred of other games that I’ve played and rated. The other reason is that I went through something similar in regards to designing the graphics – I decided to switch direction in the middle of the second day, because it didn’t look right for me – so I feel your pain.

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