Charge! – Post Mortem

December 19th, 2015 8:48 am

By Freyja's Fingers!

This my second time participating in the Ludum Dare jam, and this time I thought I’d put together a quick post-mortem about what I learned, how I improved over last time, and where I can still do better. You can play and rate Charge! here.

I was actually quite pleased with the choice of theme. There were some of the others that I felt I had more original or innovative ideas for, or ideas that were closer to my heart, but I did have a solid idea for “Two Button Controls” that I felt I could implement competently, so I wasted no time in getting stuck in. This time I was prepared in advance with a basic title screen and SFX and music architecture.

I initially was going to go for a low-poly 3D art style (but still with gameplay on a 2D plane). After adding a couple of layers of background terrain I decided that I didn’t want that sterile look, and I didn’t want to tackle character modelling in Blender, so I switched to a pixel art style. Initially I went with a more standard colour palette for this, but soon switched it up again with a palette selected by a web-design tool.

Next I added the “monk” enemy as a brown box placeholder sprite, and the player as a red box, and implemented the basic gameplay. Aside from some struggles with the animation system (as usual for me), this was really quite simple. I described the gameplay as 2D above, but that was a lie, it’s actually 1D – everything is based on the x position of various objects.

With the basics down I turned to the music and SFX, because a major criticism of my last game was that it was too quiet and had no music. I’d messed around with Bosca Ceoil a few times in the weeks prior to the jam. I don’t know much about composing music, but enough to pick a common chord progression, make a few variations of it, and base everything else off of the chords. I wanted a sort of metal feel, and I think I spent longer trying to pick a distorted guitar instrument that I liked than I did on composing the tune. I added a “bagpipe” instrument as the melody, because I read that the Vikings may have had such a thing. Finally I made a variation of the same tune with half the guitar chords and drumbeats removed and a more melodic instrument than the bagpipe, to use for the title screen. I picked some sounds from bfxr for all the things I would need.

After that it was all animations animations animations. I animated the second enemy type as I was creating it, rather than using placeholders, because by that point I had a good workflow down.

What went wrong

  • The biggest disaster was when I went to prepare a release in the last hour of the jam, only to discover that my UI was not being scaled correctly when run full-screen. I scrambled to find a fix for this but couldn’t. I’ve actually seen the same problem in other games from the jam, so I think it is a Unity bug :( I upgraded the day before the jam, which was an obvious mistake.
  • I thought the colour palette would make the game stand out and look more interesting, and I think it does to an extent, but I also think I stuck to it a little too religiously. I should have chosen one limited palette for the background elements, and another for the gameplay elements. As it is the gameplay elements blend in a bit too much, and there’s a few spots where details disappear completely.
  • Some of the sounds are quite good, like the impact sound when an arrow hits your shield – very satisfying. Others are a bit grating, like the treasure collection sound. I wish I had had time to tone that down a bit. I would like to figure out a better way of doing sound effects in general actually.
  • The art – I wish I had gone for a lower resolution. It was my first time attempting this kind of art, so I wasn’t sure where to start. I don’t think it’s as impressive as my last game.

What went right

  • The animations. After some initial struggle with Mecanim it finally started to click for me. Most of the animations are only two frames, but they feel punchy and bouncy and convey what they’re supposed to. The run and idle animations are even in time with the music. That was accidental, but I love it :)
  • The music. Nobody has commented on it either way, but nobody is complaining about my game being too quiet either. And they’re not complaining about it being annoying. To me that suggests that I made music that’s not amazing and awe-inspiring, but it compliments the gameplay and doesn’t get on people’s nerves. That’s a success in my book.
  • The basic gameplay was really easy to implement, which left me lots of time for tweaking and polish. I didn’t have to bother with physics or colliders. I felt that my last game was clunky and awkward to control, but this one is responsive, and is more fun as a result.
  • The frivolous elements. I think the gameplay stands on its own, but being so simple it could easily become boring. I think things like the praise and admonishments on death, and the random battlecries form a reward system on top of just getting further each time, and were much easier to implement than new gameplay elements.

Overall I’m pretty happy with my game. I got much closer to achieving what I set out to than I did last time, and I had a lot of fun. I will probably even improve on it a bit and release it – I think it would be good on mobile.

Please check out Charge! and rate it, I hope you enjoy.

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