Maze Escape Post-Mortem

Posted by (twitter: @axeperimetal)
December 30th, 2014 5:22 am

Ludum Dare #31 is over! I wanted to do so much more stuff, write a post-mortem and update my top-games lists and rate more games, but then Christmas preparations and university knocked on the door and said “Sorry, Gins, but you have to invest your time in us instead of LD!”

I still played a couple of games here and there but I didn’t get around to write these two blog posts within the voting time frame :(

I’ll try to make up for it now though, so first comes my post-mortem and in a later post I’ll sum up my favorite games of LD#31.

Post Mortem

 

This is my first one, so I hope I’m doing this right. I’m just going to go through the big chunks that make up the game one by one and point out what went well and what didn’t go that well. Every Ludum Dare starts with…

The Theme

The theme was a bit off-putting in the beginning, and I know I’m not alone with this statement, especially in the first couple of hours of this Ludum Dare. “Entire Game on one Screen” is a difficult theme because it’s so easy. And that it is so easy makes it difficult.

You see, “Entire Game on one Screen” has a myriad of already existing games that would fit it, starting with the very first computer games like Space War, Pong, Space Invaders, Tennis For 2 etc. Games that take place entirely on a single screen are what most game developers start with, so it’s not really a theme that forces originality as you can do pretty much everything on one screen, as long as you limit the scope. Platformers, puzzle games, point and click (I wish I’d have found more of those), strategy games and what have you.

So my first thought was: “I want to make a game that you usually DON’T find on one single screen.” That led to the idea for a metroidvania in which the screen constantly expands to show the entire map, making it harder to see where you are and what’s going on the further you progress. In the end, you would really have the “entire game” on the screen and look back on what you have achieved and feel good about it.

All in all, I was very happy with my interpretation of the theme, and the ratings I got for it confirm that I went in the right direction.

That the view expands constantly leads to…

The Graphics

For a game in which the main character ends up being ~4×4 pixels I felt it was a good idea to choose simplistic graphics that you can distinguish by their color or shape alone. The things should become smaller, yes, but not turn into a guessing game. I think the keys are perhaps the worst offenders to this design philosophy, especially the yellow one.

I wanted to add at least some special effect animations to the simplistic graphics but I barely managed to get the main game done in time, rushed the level design a bit towards the end and barely finished before the compo deadline. I was really happy about the one extra submission hour.

So what does this say about my…

Time Management

It was mostly good. Much better than last time, because I did not overestimate my time and I had a prioritized list of what I want to add and what not. I knew I won’t be able to add everything and I felt good about the things I had to cut. Let’s see how that affected the…

Game and Level Design

Enemies didn’t make it in but I didn’t miss them because I felt my game was already frustrating enough without the threat of death. Instead it’s a pure platforming challenge. I wanted the player to start out with a simple move set and learn new moves one by one, metroidvania style.

I avoided to handhold the players. This is a platformer puzzle, which means figuring out how to chain your moves together in order to pass tricky gaps is the meat of the game. All I did was tell the player that they got a new move and how to execute it, but then designed that section in such a way that the player is forced to figure out what the move does before advancing. In difficult spots I also gave hints by level design. I put red brick blocks close to situations where a dash attack was required and the player may have forgotten about it.

I was aiming for a smooth difficulty curve, but I think there may have been a bit of a spike after the red lock block.

I was also considering to allow the player to jump off the maze in the end of the game, but i decided it would be to cruel to have players die a few meters before the end when the rest of the game features no death, so I put an invisible wall there.

Unfortunately I can’t think of a good transition to talk about…

Sound and Music

My goal of adding sound effects has been met. Music not so much, as I’m not at all a composer. Also some people complained about the one or the other sound effects being grating to the ears. Thank you to those who pointed it out, I’ll make some new sound effects for a post compo version. Until next LD, I should probably dabble a bit in the arts of composing or music generation.

So with all this discussed, what does this say about my…

Goals

In my “I’m In” post I said:

“My personal goals for this LD:
– play and rate more games than last time
– Improve time management
– have sound effects
– get better ratings than last time
– rank high enough in one category to be featured in the final results
– win”

So how did I do?

Quite well! I played and rated 100 games, which is what I wanted to do at least and is more than the 80-something of last time. I Improved my time management, as mentioned above and my game does indeed sport amazing sound effects made with bfxr.

And ranking goals?

I improved in most categories, in particular in the overall ranking I finished in the top 50 this time (42nd)! Yey! And I ranked high enough in theme to be featured in the final results as well (20th), so it’s two categories even! Thanks to all the players who made this possible!

But most importantly, it’s not only the rank that improved, but also the star ratings.

Unfortunately I didn’t win. But hey, there’s always next Ludum Dare!

Conclusion

I’m actually quite satisfied with this LD, and excited for the next one. Nothing went terribly bad, I didn’t really overestimate myself so nothing that I didn’t accomplish came as a surprise to me. For April, I’ll have to improve my preparation so I can accomplish more in the 48 hours, perhaps participate in Mini LDs and I might learn how to produce music one way or another.

Stay tuned for my promised later blog post in which I update my list of top games that I’ve played.


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