UCON Post-mortem

Posted by
April 20th, 2015 5:47 pm

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This was my third consecutive and also third ever Ludum Dare entry. I’m beginning to feel a bit like a seasoned vet – however I found this one to be the most difficult yet. I now have an established method for completing a Ludum Dare game and am much more familiar with my tools now, so I could focus more on creation and spend less time struggling with my tools. The difficulty was due mostly to (A) my distaste for the theme and (B) setting my sights higher on what I intended to accomplish. I am pleased to report that most of the features I planned made it into the game. You can check out my repository here to see what didn’t make the cut for submission.

A screenshot of the finished product:

UCON

As usual, before the competition I wrote down a brief list of idea for each theme. I couldn’t come up with much for “An Unconventional Weapon” so when the theme was announced I had a bit of trouble coming up with an idea. I had written down something about creating a weapon from parts, so I used that as my core, but then I had to decide how the player would use that weapon. I made use of some of the ideas I came up with for other themes (another benefit of brainstorming on all the themes before the competition), which included containing a “blob” monster for the “It Spreads” theme. I had also written down ideas for combining parts for the “Four Elements” theme, and there are probably some elements from other themes, too.

I like to maintain my ordinary routine when working on game jams – I eat and sleep like I normally would, take regular breaks (not too long though!). Since the theme was announced at 9 P.M. my time, I spent the evening brainstorming, went to bed at a decent hour, then got up bright and early the next day to start coding. In the first few hours I got the core mechanic working with simple programmer art, then worked on the toolbar and workbench mechanics and the guts of the UI, again using placeholder graphics. By the end of the day I felt pretty good about the mechanics, and decided to leave content for Day Two. I spent most of the second day working on the graphics, starting with shader code to give the blob its truly blobbish appearance (you can see what the blob blocks looked like before if you use the debug feature). The last half of the day was devoted to fixing up the UI, adding sounds, and finally coming up with some music. I spent the last few hours squashing some bugs and improving the visibility of UI components. This time around I really felt the crunch in that final hour before submission. I wanted to make the text on the screen pop a little more, and I wanted to add more/clearer instructions as the controls were not as straightforward as previous entries. I definitely sacrificed a little bit of usability to improve on other areas, and I would say that is probably my biggest regret, as I normally try to make the controls as intuitive as possible.

Some screenshots I took during development:

ld2                                                  ld4

Things I wanted to add but didn’t have time for:

Originally, when you used a weapon on the blob, it would take time for the rest of the blob to adapt to the attack. I had in mind a simple “neural” propagation that would send a pulse back through neighbouring blocks. Players would be able to prevent parts of the blob from adapting by cutting them off from neighbours. Would have been a cool little mechanic that would have added a bit more strategy to the game, but alas there was not enough time.

I wanted each part to have a unique sound, so when a weapon hit the blob it would play the sound of each part together, giving each part combination a distinct sound.

I wanted to add a targeting reticule when the cursor was over the map, to make it clearer that you could shoot at the map. This would have been super-easy to implement and was more an oversight than a time issue.

There is a graphical bug with the blob – if you haven’t noticed it yet, just pretend I didn’t just say that :) I spent a little bit of time trying to debug it, but I couldn’t figure it out and had to move on. I plan on releasing a post-compo version and my number-one goal is to squash this bug.

I made it easy in the code to adjust the difficulty, but there is currently no way for the player to change the difficulty level. I would have liked to let the player choose the difficulty – I probably ended up making it too easy (if you are fortunate enough to find good parts early it is pretty easy to beat the blob).

 

I’m pretty happy with how things turned out, overall. It feels good to know that there isn’t much I would have done differently. Aside from adding the things listed above to the post-compo version, I will probably add more levels, different colored blobs, and better-looking parts.

 

Now that the hard part is over, I look forward to seeing what the rest of the community has made. See you next time!


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