Left-leaning Post-Mortem

Posted by (twitter: @tayl1r)
December 19th, 2015 4:15 pm

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Hello, my game is called Left-leaning that you can play here. I decided to pick the theme Two Buttons and you control an out-of-control car with:

  1. Turn left
  2. Toot horn

The horn is entirely a red herring and hopefully makes the tricky game play quite bizarre as you have no right turn or acceleration control. While for some of the development it did have a purpose (toggles a different type of gate) I decided the horn being useless was sufficiently amusing to me. At least several hours into a game jam with no sleep…

Deciding On The Idea

Before most Ludum Dare jams I look at the themes and try to think of something for all of them. For instance: I came up with 42 ideas for LD33. However, I never came up with anything for Growing or Two Buttons because I couldn’t see a way of subverting the obvious, they seemed quite narrow and directing and I think this was also true in practice. Left-leaning is obeying the theme, but it isn’t doing anything creative or subversive with it, you could dramatically argue the useless button is defying it, but as I said above that came later! No such luck.

I did hit a bit of a block and started playing around with different concepts. Originally I wanted to do both themes and it was a lot more like a Tron bike, however this got dropped along with turning right once I had doodled some levels on a notepad. I also wonder how much the idea has come from me playing sparrow racing in Destiny while my friends and I get very upset at the physics.

Level Authoring

For Ludum Dare 28: You Only Get One I made a game called First Hour Superpower, where you chose a single movement ability from a selection of four. This needed quite a complicated map as your selected ability needed to make sure you could go into unique areas, so I did the sensible thing of reading the map information from a text file. Except this is a real pain, because the web player cannot read text files without doing all sorts of faff I didn’t have time for, and the result was I had no web player version.

First Hour Superpower did not place at all in Ludum Dare 28 due to lack of votes and one of the contributing factors was definitely that you had to download an executable, although not the only one and my coolness rating is extremely uncool. My next two entries (Last Word (MLD48) and Sword and Shovelry (LD29)) had everything hand-generated in Unity to ensure a web version. And I voted on a lot of games.

Fortunately, I also made Tower of Icarus (Procedural Death Jam) where I realised I could make the level segments (it builds the world like Spelunky) as tiny images and just load the information in using pixel data which also gets bundled up with the web version. I also used this for Boxing Day (a Space Ape hosted game jam) and New Super Pong (MLD58)!

So, if it’s not broke why fix it? I used a similar system here:

Untitled-1

As you can see walls are white, normal ground is black, roads are grey, oil (yes, it’s supposed to be oil!) is a darker grey, switches/gates are different shades of red, etc. However, this system is definitely not a silver bullet by any means. The main problem is you run out of usable colours really quickly, and it’s a really weird work flow. Wouldn’t recommend it for a real game but it’s nice for something targeted at the web player.

WebGL 

I thought I’d just be hitting a button and exporting to WebGL as the web player is now defunct on Chrome. However, the output was pretty terrible, at over a hundred times the size with no lighting and frequent crashes. However, the web player version also completely hard crashed my Mac in Safari! This was the most frustrating part of the compo, especially since I didn’t know until after with no idea what was causing it, and all I could really do is put big warnings in the itch.io description.

Level Design

I think the level design in Left-leaning is all over the place. The last level is far too hard and I’ve received a lot of colourful feedback for it, there are several levels that are way too easy (such as the first mud one that is easier than the starting level) leading to a weird difficulty curve, and I don’t suitably introduce concepts like ice before making you play with them. Everyone also asks why some levels have red/yellow exit gates and I don’t really have a good answer. They are special, harder exits that cause you to skip the next level, but I’m not entirely sure why I thought content skipping was a good idea for a game jam!

Name

I hate the name Left-leaning. Since I panicked and chose it I have encountered the word Widdershins and if I ever make any spiritual successor to this game I’ll definitely be taking that as the name!


One Response to “Left-leaning Post-Mortem”

  1. rjhelms says:

    Unless things have changed, you *can* load in text files in the web player, but as TextAssets, not as files: http://docs.unity3d.com/Manual/class-TextAsset.html. It’s a bit weird when you’re used to actually dealing with files in C#, but it works and I’ve made decent use of it in my LD entries.

    That said, using images is a really nice solution! I may have to give it a try some time.

    Oh, and also: really good job on this game! It’s a ton of fun.

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