Post Mortem on Guardian Against Shadows

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April 22nd, 2015 2:57 pm

Guardian Against Shadows places you in the role of a Maltese that needs to bark away the fearsome shadow monsters to protect his humans.  Bark to much though, and you’ll annoying the very humans you are trying to protect! That at least is the high level concept that I ended up with.  While there were some pretty sweeping changes from the original vision, the core of the game idea remained intact; the unconventional weapon is a dog’s bark.

A little bit of history on this idea.  Originally I was going to do something with giant monsters, regardless of the theme that came up.  My students are going to be starting their presentations on their giant monster (Kaiju) prototypes, and so I figured if I was going to take the time to create a prototype I should match up with their current theme.  Then about 5 or 10 minutes before LD started I found out that my Dad’s Maltese, Andy, had unexpectedly died that morning.  Seriously it was a shock, the little fluff ball was in perfect health when I saw him last Saturday.  So this got me thinking on how I could integrate some kind of memorial to Andy in my LD game.  When I got home and saw the theme of ‘An Unconventional Weapon’ it didn’t take me long to abandon the idea of giant monsters and go with the idea of ‘dog barks’ as my ‘weapon’.

What Went Right:

Scope Control – The initial idea was you were guarding a sick kid, and the game play would switch back and forth between the dog running around barking and playing in the room and a feverish dream where you used dog barks (collected from the bedroom scene) as literal ammo to fight back shadows.  Once that idea formed in my head, I gave it some serious thought on how I would approach this.  I swiftly realized that it would be pushing things badly even if I had the full weekend available to me, which I did not.  I knew that I only had about 12-14 hours tops to work on this.  So I had to choose between the bedroom scene and the FPS scene.  The bedroom scene was chosen because I felt it would demonstrate the idea of dog barks as weapons much more clearly if you controlled the actual dog.

Dog Look and Feel – I am very pleased with how the dog turned out.  Using my barks as the SFX is a bit cheesy, but what can you do?  Constraining the dog to the primary directions was both a design choice and a programming one.  I didn’t feel that adding in diagonal movement would add that much, compared to the complexity it would add in.

Mood – I rather stumbled into this one.  Having a sparse, bare room dimly let with the dog as the glowing center point just…really helped set the mood.  You are the sole point of light in a dark, scary world, and you will not back down from the shadows.  Perhaps I’m reading to much into it, but I’m pleased with how this aspect turned out.

What Went Wrong:

To Much Time Spent on Tiles – I spent probably close to an hour playing around with Procore’s Prototype tool, and then with Blender.  Now this isn’t Procore’s fault, I’m used to using their full tool pack but since that’s a paid package and I can’t release it as part of the source I couldn’t use it.  I was doing something wrong that was causing really bad lighting artifacts, so I switched to using Blender, and still stuck stubbornly to using tiles.  I should have just modeled it as one solid piece, as I still ended up with lighting artifacts.  Thankfully you can’t see them due to the low light.  What I should have done here was just use Unity cubes.  Would have been done with the level in minutes.

Shadow Monsters – While I’m happy with the rising up out of the floor effect I got with them, I wanted to do so much more with them.  At the very least I wanted them to have some shape beyond cubes.  I also had some ideas on simple AI so they wouldn’t just go straight towards you, but just didn’t have time to get to it.

Difficulty Progression – Gah.  While I did want to have the gradual sense of being overwhelmed and frantically barking to keep back the shadows, it happens way to fast.  Some different method would have worked a lot better.


In terms of quality and implementing the theme, this is my best LD yet.  While I’m unsure if I can carry the idea much further, I definitely plan on polishing it up.  I had a lot of fun with the project and learned a few things, which I suppose makes any project a success.

You can play and rate it here: Guardian Against Shadows

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