Slum Runner/LD 2015 Post Mortem

Posted by
January 3rd, 2016 5:54 am

This is going to be a pretty dull post mortem because very little went wrong. Nonetheless, I did learn some stuff and I’ve not done a self-promo post that actually contributed anything yet so here goes!

 

Play Slum Runner here

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I’ll rate you back and provide delicious feedback btw, so make sure to leave a comment!

 

Now, onto the post-mortem…

 

What was my mission?

I’ve had a pretty tough year in 2015 for LD. The last game I felt that was reasonably successful was Silian Rail for the Entire Game on One Screen theme (last December). I really felt I did a good job on that game, and it was easily the most complete and polished product I’ve made myself from start to finish. With that setting my standards much higher, I had raised the stakes impossibly high for the next few LDs. I was all like “I need to break the top 100!” and “I need to get a 4-star rating for fun!”.

For Unconventional Weapon and You Are The Monster I was too ambitious, poor at planning, and making some pretty bad conceptual decisions that resulted in so much wasted time. Unconventional Weapon I didn’t submit. It wasn’t done. You Are The Monster I submitted, but it was critically buggy and I didn’t bother promoting it.

This time my mission was to finish the core gameplay programming in 8 hours. Of course, as a solo dev I wanted to enter the Compo, but these were my only two missions.

 

What went poorly?

I’ll start with the bad stuff because I think it’s clear that I failed my two mission requirements!

My 8-hour programming limit was more around 12 hours. Those 4 hours really mattered, as I could have probably made the Compo deadline using that time to craft all the levels I needed (I have 8 missions at the moment) or build the music. There aren’t really many lessons to learn here though. I worked flat out with no breaks at a breakneck pace (for me) and it just took longer than expected… so c’est la vie!

I wanted to submit to the Compo but I needed an extra 72 hours for the Jam. Technically I could have released a much worse game for the Compo,  especially if I had those 4 extra hours, but I really enjoyed the concept and felt I had to do it justice and polish it up. The compo version would have had placeholder art, no music, and only 5 levels (with the first 2 basically being an easy tutorial). You can see it below as I made a ‘I failed’ video about an hour before the Compo deadline.

 

My hacky game jam code was really pushed to the limits in this one. Each level took about an hour to build rather than the 10 minutes it should have.

How I usually build levels is by using Adobe Fireworks (sort of like Photoshop) to place all the buildings, characters, and UI with a lovely drag and drop experience. Then I can go to GameMaker and use the X/Y coordinates from Fireworks to accurately place objects in the room using instance_create and all the draw calls. This was my first game using view ports and I just fucked something up. I’m not sure what it was, but basically there was a small, seemingly random, offset between the Fireworks XY locations and the GameMaker XY locations. This meant that every level I had to input the data for, then play through multiple times and manually adjust +/- xy values one at a time to get things to line up. ARGH!

 

 

What went well?

What I found really interesting about this project was that I had zero hurdles. For the first time ever there were no critical bugs that wasted hours of my time, there was nothing I had to really learn to do during the jam, so I had zero resistance to content with.

Using the extra 24 hours from the Jam was also surprisingly satisfying. I was bitterly disappointed that I couldn’t submit to the compo.. I mean, that’s the REAL Ludum Dare and I’m still a solo guy making all the assets so I feel I’m at a big disadvantage compared to jamming teams without all the rule limitations. Nonetheless, the final product is so much better because of that extra 24 hours. Those 24 hours were pure polish and content creation. They were relaxing, they were stress free, and therefore I could be much more creative. The quality of my final levels, the quality of the writing, as well as the quality of the music, is much higher because I wasn’t super stressed about hitting the deadline. Also I don’t hate my own game, which is what always happens to me when I try to power out a compo submission!

I can’t be very creative under massive pressure, so this was probably the key to Slum Runner’s success.

 

in-game

 

What did I learn?

For the hacky jam code level creation, I feel that if I’d have been a bit bolder and had taken a risk refactoring the way the level content was input, I could have saved a ton of time creating levels. This might have allowed me to polish up the art and add some sound to submit for the compo. However, I think it might have been a make-or-break decision. If I spent an hour or two trying to figure out the problem I might have lost all motivation to finish the game at all. This leads to my next lesson…

Avoiding all possible stress was really nice. I’ve never had a jam go so smoothly. I think because I was rushing as fast as I could, with crappy hacky code, and a relatively simple game… I never hit a hurdle that would typically demotivate me and reduce my productivity. Playing it safe was probably a very productive idea, despite each level taking me 6x as long to input.

I’m really finding out what my limits are for Ludum Dare, which is great. I know I’m a terrible programmer and artist, I worked as hard as I could for the entire 72 hour period. I know that for this particular concept, there’s nothing more I could have done personally to make it better. Any improvements 100% required more time or more skill. I think that’s a really nice thing to think about. For the next Ludum Dare I can now focus on one of two things; improving my skill level, or finding a concept with more potential.

I suppose the high level behaviour I’ve learned from the final LD of 2015 is that I really shouldn’t care so much. I put way too much pressure on myself and the final result. It’s a competition with no prize that’s supposed to be about a final product you can be proud of. I learnt this time that when I just give up caring about where I place in the rankings, whether I hit the compo deadline over the jam, and whether I create something super revolutionary… I can work much better, much faster, and have a much higher quality end result.

 

The Future

What I like about Slum Runner is that it feels pretty much complete. I have a feature already built that I just didn’t have time to build levels for, so I could go back and do that… but overall it does what it says on the tin and it’s a nice little holistic experience. I usually feel super guilty about not going back to Game Jam games and improving/building on them, but I’m ok with that here.

If I get a ton of good feedback then maybe I’ll reconsider, but for now I’ll see what the results are tomorrow (or is it the day after?) and probably work on my larger side-project that I’ve been putting off for the whole holiday period 😉

 

Thanks for reading and lemme know what you think about the game!


One Response to “Slum Runner/LD 2015 Post Mortem”

  1. pkenney says:

    Nice post-mortem, I enjoyed reading it.

    I agree Slum Runner felt very complete! I noticed it was a jam so I assumed you hadn’t created everything alone from scratch, so I’m more impressed now after reading this, nice work.

    I share your top100 goal, I’m always going into LD with the goal of “Top100 in Fun.” I’ve hit that a couple of times, but it has definitely NOT been a case of steady improvement. I had a similar experience to the one you described – liked my One-Screen result and thought I was always improving, but then I had a total failure for Unconventional Weapon. I did submit a game but I consider it a failure because it was just not any fun at all.

    After that setback I made a totally different kind of game for You Are the Monster, which people liked but it was not my usual style. This LD I came back to my usual style and I’m happy with the result, so I feel like I kind of conquered the failure from Unconventional only now.

    It’s interesting how you always learn some different unexpected lesson from LDs, and the various ups and downs. Thanks for reflecting a bit back on your own experience.

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