<– It’s like the Prisoner’s Dilemma, in space. Probably. Soulless Capitalist Robots! –>

Game design is hard. It’s even harder when it takes you most of the first day to reach a workable idea! I’d decided before the event that I wanted to design another multiplayer game, and for better or worse that’s what I made. Inspiration struck after I’d designed the network backend – what if I wrote a game for two players where the winner had to choose who would die?

Being a huge fan of Virtue’s Last Reward, the Prisoner’s Dilemma felt like it went hand in hand with my idea for the game’s conclusion. I’d found it was a natural fit for the “Two Buttons” theme, and the money aspect was a way to link the “Growing” theme in as well.

I’m very happy with the polish I managed to put into this entry – while it’s a smidgeon rough and maybe not engaging in quite the ways I’d hoped, my reviewers so far have mostly been happy to play it and I can’t really ask for much more than that! It’s been a learning experience, and I think it can improve my work when April rolls around:

What went right?

  • Settling on a simple, focused idea allowed me to put a lot more polish in than I usually have the time to.
  • Writing my own engine code made me feel far more comfortable than my past work with Phaser – where trying to do anything particularly advanced with image data leads only to heartbreak and awkward bugs. It helps that I feel more comfortable when I understand all the internals, rather than working with a black box.
  • Trying out Pyxel Edit for this event was a good choice – it was far simpler to work with than Photoshop, which isn’t the best for pixel art. It made animation a snap!
  • Including a chat system was a fantastic idea, and I think it makes up for a lot of the features that never made the cut. It gives me a lot of room to try and negotiate with other players, act the part, build up trust and sway their decisions. It’s been interesting to see how other people play the game too – I’m surprised that so many players cooperate so readily!
  • I had a great time on sprite and tileset design this time around, I felt like it just worked out the way I wanted. Just going for it rather than freaking out seems to be the best strategy!
  • I managed to get in music again! PxTone is a fantastic music editor to work with during Ludum Dare.

What went wrong?

  • It took me a long time to come up with an idea – while I did use this time to work on my network backend, it’s extremely demoralizing to work on network code without being able to test or try it out with anyone else. This is probably the exact opposite of how I’m used to developing games – it really sucks when you can’t see the results of your work!
  • Trying to write UI code without a decent framework is an absolute disaster – and I’m awful at it to begin with. Trying to create buttons and other elements was an exercise in patience, and quite a large time sink.
  • Writing my own engine code was a double edged sword. I feel like the time it took could have been better spent literally anywhere – and it’s almost certainly part of why my game was pushed back to the Jam.
  • Being pushed for time meant I couldn’t extensively play test the game – having played it so many times with other participants has given me a lot of insight on how it should be improved.

What was missing from the final game?

  • Powerups – Every 4th turn was originally meant to introduce a bonus for the next round, such as a multiplier on coins obtained. I wanted a system like this to try and introduce competitiveness between players, and to try and influence riskier play and more betrayal.
  • Balance – Without powerups to mix up the formula, the game can grow quite stale over time. With some play testing, I could have discovered this sooner and reduced the amount of rounds per game. Additionally, rounds are too rapid-fire to allow for proper conversation. While I did need to add a time limit to prevent obstruction of play, I think if I made both of these changes it would fix the game’s feel, giving decisions and discussion a lot more weight.
  • A chute to drop money on the player characters. This is the thing I’m saddest about, actually! It’d spam coins and bank notes all over the screen, if it existed…

Thoughts for the future:

I’d like to maybe rewrite and improve my engine code and network backend. If I release it to the public, then I’d have a great basis for future dares that I’m more comfortable with than existing engines. Having a decent UI framework cooked up too could save me a lot of time and effort in future, too!

I didn’t have too much trouble with art and music this time, but I still think that it’s important to grab some more practice from time to time.

Sticking with simpler ideas seems, obviously enough, to be the best strategy. I think I could have done with more planning throughout, I’ve found in the past that concrete plans generally allow me to focus and work faster. There’s not much that can remedy having no ideas, apart from taking the risk of planning your game before the theme is announced.

Favourites so far!

I haven’t played as many games as I usually do, but these are a few of my favourites so far. Give them a go!

Agent Hooker by Phoenix849 and suVrik

 

Double Kick Heroes by BlackMagic, Gyhyom and Elmobo

 

Grow Your Love by DDRKirby(ISQ) and Kat Jia

 

Spinning Around by DinnerInTheDark

 

Thanks for reading, have fun and keep on voting!


2 Responses to “(Not So) Soulless Capitalist Robots – 72h Jam Post Mortem”

  1. Warboys says:

    I don’t wanna be ‘that guy’ but apart from the art, what’s special about Double Kick Heroes?

    • Mach60KAS says:

      I felt that it was slick and very well-produced. The quality of the music and graphics are extremely impressive for the time frame, and although I’ll admit it’s not the most unique application of the theme I’ve seen I thought it had a hell of a lot of technical merit.

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