Fun with post mortems!

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December 25th, 2015 7:34 am

It’s been more than a week now since LD34 finished, and finally I have some free time to write the post mortem for my compo entry, “Fun with magnets!”

When I learned about the themes this time I didn’t give much thought to the idea of creating a game that used both of them. For “growing”, I’d mostly considered farming or greedy corporations expanding out of control ideas, which were risky because of the potential to be out of scope for two days, and incorporating the two button-based mechanics would have been challenging.
Attraction/repulsion mechanics, on the other hand, had crossed my mind during the pre-ludum brainstorming I do before the theme announcement to prepare, and I felt that mixing the idea with the two button controls had some potential and was feasible. In hindsight, there are easy ways to incorporate “growing” there as well, but I preferred to go for a simpler approach instead.

I’ve seen lots of awesome entries this time (seriously, this LD34 has an insane proportion of cool games!) proving me wrong about mixing both, but I’m satisfied enough with my entry for once to not regret it.

If you decide to stop reading here, have a merry Christmas/Winter Solstice/Whatever rocks your boat! ;DD

Play it and rate it here

What went right

  • Tight idea. Sticking to a clear idea and vision this time helped me a lot towards having a more or less complete “vertical slice” of a game.
  • Reasonably adjusted level design: One of my key objectives this time was to close core feature coding soon enough so that I had time to define some semi-decent level design. This time I think I managed to do that to some degree.
  • Colour palette: I went for a set colour theme from the start and I believe the game graphics really benefited from it, as it gave the whole game a more consistent look (more on that later)
  • Haxeflixel: This is my third LD entry where I’ve used the Haxe+Flixel combo and it’s nice to notice how you become more familiar with it. Even if I experienced some hiccups at the beginning flipping the Unity switch, it’s easy and powerful to use. This time I’m particularly happy with some experimentation I did with Haxe abstracts, enums and anonymous types for level loading, which is something I’d attempted some time ago on my free time for another project with little success.
  • Web version was functional on Android! A more than welcome side effect of having used HaxeFlixel was that I saw the game working perfectly on Chrome on my Nexus and other devices. In fact, controlling the game through the visual controls “feels” better there (some thresholds aside) than using the mouse.

What went wrong

  • Haxeflixel. Even if I was familiar, it had been some time since the last time and I had to fight a bit at the beginning with the basic cinematic physics support it provides. Once I solved that, my overall experience with it went back to the “What went right” category.
  • Confusing control scheme. Initially I experimented with the idea of being able to switch the movement direction as well by cycling in a similar way to the magnets, but that resulted in a clusterf*ck to control, so I capped it so that the only way to change direction was to bump against a border. Still a bit tricky, but an improvement over the initial iteration. Also, controlling in multi-touch devices or with the keyboard only is more or less simple, but on a PC you can also add some mouse to the mix. Last, I think that there are some issues with swipe detection, specially on mobile devices, which make controlling through the visual wheel not fully responsive.
  • Glitchy attraction mechanics. Even if it’s functional, the magnet behaviour is far from perfect. I need to adjust the thresholds and angles to make it more responsive than it currently is.
  • Graphics. The set colour theme helps disguise this a lot, but as I was creating art assets when I needed them, each of them was drawn using a different style, so the final result leaves a bit to be desired.
  • Neglected audio. As always, audio is left for the final hours, which is probably a mistake, as it can help a lot in terms of feedback and immersion. In this case my main concern was that I left the music track half-done to keep adding the final touches.
  • Very simple levels. There are 9 levels in the game, which can be considered as a tutorial for something larger, because the goals are really easy. The only challenge at the moment that goes beyond the glitchy mechanics resides on the wheel in the last level, and even if you can consider it as a “To be continued…” sort of cliffhanger, it really makes no sense if you consider the compo entry as a full game.

Next steps

This time I’d like to keep working on a post-compo version (but I always say the same and then I don’t, so take this with a grain of salt), for which I’d need to apply all the things I’ve learned on this edition:

  • Fix all the things!
  • Improve controls and restrict control schemes. I’ve had some really good feedback about ways to make the controls better, and at first I’d thought about completely scraping the two button restriction and turning to a lever-like system for a post-compo version, but perhaps it’s interesting to keep it and evolve it instead.
  • Make all the levels! Either levels need to be more complex or I need to make (a lot) more of it. Also, I had several ideas for additional elements that didn’t make it into the game and could be interesting to make it more fun and difficult.
  • Improve graphics. I need to make all the assets a lot more cohesive in terms of drawing style and shading. Also, visual effects.
  • Improve sound.
  • Dedicated mobile port. Instead of taking advantage of the web version, deploy a native Android one.


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One Response to “Fun with post mortems!”

  1. scorched says:

    I made my first finished HaxeFlixel game this LD, and I can agree that in terms of 2D features out-of-the-box Unity just sucks near HF!

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