Mr. Chekhov’s post-mortem

Posted by (twitter: @MikeMezhenin)
April 28th, 2015 4:00 pm

Chekhov couldn’t predict that he’d be stabbed with a vase

OK, I guess I have to write a post-mortem for “Where Is Your Gun Now, Mr. Chekhov?”, since the guy certainly died (too many times already).

This LD, I was planning to participate solo as usual, but the theme caught me unprepared. Unconventional weapon? I haven’t done a game with guns or stabbing since 2013, so making an action game was quite a challenge for me – and I gloriously failed it. Another challenge was to make a ridiculously silly game, and that kinda worked out.

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Anyway, after the theme was announced, I brainstormed for some time, coming up with several ideas, at some time seriously considering making a parody of 50 Shades of Grey. But neither me nor my wife had seen the movie or had the experience with, erhm, the unconventional stuff, so that idea was put on the shelf.

protoAfter all, I chose the idea that looked most promising to me – a game, in which you could create your own weapon by combining components with different properties. I have worked on a prototype codenamed Burning Kittens of Exploding Bananas for roughly 12 hours until I realised that the game wasn’t becoming what I was imagining it to be; honestly, I couldn’t come up with components that were different enough to make interesting combinations. I felt frustrated, depressed, and ready to drop LD and start playing GTA V.

As I usually do in such dreaded situations, I asked my wife Tanya for help.  After a couple of hours of brainstorming with me, Tanya came up with an idea of using Chekhov’s gun plot device as a game mechanic; instantly I realized that it was a brilliant idea, especially if we took literal Chekhov and a literal gun as game props. After doing so many serious games, it was a challenge to make a silly humorous game, and this idea was a nice opportunity to face it. After some thinking, we came up with the idea of a mystery hidden object game in which you have to help Chekhov deduce a weapon that will be used to kill him from a killer’s foreshadowing.

Initially, for this LD I was planning to draw everything with a graphic tablet, but it was clear that after I lost some 18 hours I needed to go with vector graphic style instead, since it allows for more robust drawing. I quickly sketched Chekhov on a chair, using his famous portrait as a reference, he was hilarous and we instantly saw that we found something unique. Since I clearly didn’t have enough time for making a game on my own anymore, I asked Tanya to help me with the drawing. She was reluctant at first (this was her first LD as an active participant, and she didn’t have much experience with vector drawing), but gave in and drew most of the stuff in the room; even with my experience, I couldn’t’ve drawn it better.

We saw that the game didn’t look good enough, though. The vector graphics looked too common, and without animation the game didn’t really catch player’s eye. We tinkered around with the idea of stylizing the game to look like an illustration from 19th century book (using sepia, mostly), but it didn’t work out.

At this point we came up with silent movie aesthetic, which allowed us to solve several issues:

  • hide graphic imperfections behind black-and-white colours
  • introduce some movement to the frame with noise and scratches
  • replace long familiar dialogue bubbles with text cards
  • enhance the funny athmosphere with appropriate royalty-free music

The aesthetic was mostly done with Unity built-in Noise and ScratchesSepia Tone and Color Correction Curves effects, which became free with Unity 5 release. I’ve also added some more tweaks and imperfections to make the resulting image look more like a silent movie (note to self: don’t forget to open source them). If you want to see how everything looked before color correction, we left a button in the top right that reverts graphics back to color (leaving noise, though).

After we did this, the game ‘clicked’; we just needed to draw objects and write dialogue as fast as we could. It was 4am (the jam ends at 6am in my timezone) and I haven’t slept much for last couple of days, so I just wrote every silly thing that came to my fevered mind; from what I see in the comments, this strategy totally worked.

What went bad:

  • I spent first 12 hours on an idea that didn’t really inspire me – no wonder it didn’t work out
  • I failed to make an action game and made another hidden object game – even though I don’t really play games in this genre

What went good:

  • Working in a team with my wife was a total blast – I’ve never jammed in a team before and was afraid that with my totalitarian habits regarding the game making I wouldn’t be a good teammate. Surprisingly, I’ve enjoyed working on and improving Tanya’s idea
  • I abandoned the game that wasn’t fun at an early stage of prototyping, so I didn’t spend too much time on it
  • I’ve dedicated some time for polishing which allowed me to make the game more understandable for players. If I left this to the last hours, the game could’ve turn out confusing just like the game we made for previous LD
  • Making a funny game instead of a serious fun was a nice change and a really enjoyable experience

Overall, I’m 100% satisfied with the game we made. This LD was a more relaxed experience than previous ones, and my wife and me had lots of fun working together.

Play Where Is Your Gun Now, Mr. Chekhov?


One Response to “Mr. Chekhov’s post-mortem”

  1. Geckoo1337 says:

    Hilarious LudumDare description – show me :)

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