Initial Conditions – Postmortem

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January 1st, 2016 4:51 am

Milky Helps People is my Ludum Dare 33 entry. It is the story of Milky, a sentient milk carton who loves being helpful, and realises that the bigger he is, the more people he can help. So, he grows bigger and bigger until he becomes… monstrous!


Wait, what? It’s LD 34?

I considered just resubmitting Milky for LD 34 – it honestly works much better for the growing theme than for LD 33’s theme, “You are the monster” – but ignoring whether it’s against the rules, it wouldn’t be as much fun as making a new game. Also, I wanted to try making a game with a more sombre style. So here’s my effort, Initial Conditions.


Humanity is extinct, but the opportunity exists to start it up again. You have to set the initial conditions by placing a small number of towns that will grow into a civilisation. As with my last few entries, Initial Conditions is a logic puzzle game with original rules. In this game, each level consists of a grid with some rivers on it, and you have to place the displayed number of towns along each river, according to some rules: each town is a connected group of tiles with at least one tile on a river, no town can have tiles on more than one river, and all the towns have the same number of tiles, determined by the level. In the level shown above, all towns are 2 tiles in size.

This is my ninth time participating, but my first as a father. My wife was very kind to put up with me entering, and I intentionally limited the scope a little bit, artistically. I still had to race a bit to get it done.

What went well

Puzzle rules and design: I came up with some good rules that allow for an interesting range of puzzle designs. The puzzles get a bit harder than in Milky, but the rules are easier to understand than my LD 32 entry, Wellbeing. Wellbeing had some good puzzles but a lot of complaints about the learning curve. Initial Conditions didn’t get so many complaints in this area, so I think I’ve improved a bit. The story has 10 levels, and once you finish that, there are 4 quite hard bonus levels.

Stylistic consistency: The biggest problem with Milky was that the graphical style kept jumping about. I made a special effort to not let that happen this time, and I think the graphics and the sound come together pretty well for a coherent presentation.

What went badly

The story: I normally write a silly story, and this time I wanted to try writing something sad. But at the end of the day, the result was kind of awkward.

Wasting time on some ideas I had to give in on: I wanted to round the corners of the town borders. I spent about an hour and a half coding it up before I realised that it could take several hours more to complete it – time that could be much more effectively spent on something else. Some things are harder to code than they look. I also spent about half an hour trying to write a second music track that I abandoned because it didn’t sound good. And I tried to make a single extra-hard level with town size 5 (all the existing levels have town size 1-4) and spent over half an hour on it before getting too confused and giving up on it.

All of these things wasted time but I’m very glad I had the sense to drop them before they became the problems that defined my weekend. Maybe those of us in the compo, and solo jammers, have one thing over the teams: we can be a lot more fluid with our planning and time management than if we have teammates to synchronise with. It’s nice to be able to change direction without having to convince other stakeholders :).

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