Miss Turner’s Magical Pet Swap Shop post-mortem

Posted by (twitter: @Rose_Abernathy)
April 30th, 2016 2:52 pm

In Miss Turner’s Magical Pet Swap Shop, your job is to transform animals into other animals by resizing their body parts. This was my 14th Ludum Dare entry, and I’m quite happy with how it turned out! Here’s a little about what went well and poorly.

What went well:

Choosing the right idea

There are a few important criteria I try to keep in mind when deciding which idea to pursue for a Ludum Dare game:

  • Cute and fun: I want to make a game that I would like to play.
  • Interesting and unique: LD is my chance to try out new ideas, and innovation is the best way to make a game stand out (other than amazing art, at least.)
  • Feasible: I have to be able to get something done and reasonably polished in time, which means no overly complex systems or high asset count.

Of all the ideas I brainstormed for the theme “shapeshift”, a game about transforming animals into other animals best satisfied this criteria – and I think the idea led to a great game.

Careful planning & architecture

Once I decided to make a game about transforming animals, I set out to do some research. I brainstormed animals that I could include and sketched out what they might look like in my game. That allowed me to pinpoint which features would have to change, and how they would morph. Finally, I put together a sketch of how all the animal parts would connect. I went to bed on Friday without having written any code or created any art, but feeling good about my plan for the rest of the event.

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I also spent some time planning the code architecture. Resizing animal’s body parts is the core of the game, so it was important setting up the parts would be as easy and bug-free as possible. I defined a BodyPart superclass so that every body part only had to worry about drawing itself based on the current values of properties. This definitely made the implementation go smoothly!

What didn’t go well?

Getting stuck on one problem for too long

My original plan included two more ways that the player could transform the animal: patterns (tiger stripes, giraffe spots, etc) and features (horns, manes, etc). I had an idea about how to apply patterns by using canvas blend modes, but when I started working on it, I was stumped on how to make it work with Phaser’s graphics system. I stubbornly worked on the problem for hours, making only slight progress, until I was finally forced to give up. At that point, I was low on time and couldn’t implement the animal features either. I should have gone for the more straightforward task first, and I should have abandoned the problem when I wasn’t making progress quickly enough. I’ve found that the compo’s 48 hours (or the jam’s 72) is enough to get a lot done – but not when you work on the wrong things!

Careless mistakes

With such a short amount of time to work, it’s hard to avoid bugs and other issues. But, I was in such a rush to finish that I made two obvious mistakes. The first was that I accidentally uploaded the wrong version of the game – a version which had only 2 animals instead of 15! Luckily I was able to upload the correct version quickly. The second mistake took me a while to find out about. Commenters were complaining that they couldn’t make the legs thick enough to satisfy the customer – it turned out that I had written “thin” where I meant “thick” in the parameters for the customer’s dialogue. Another easy fix – but I feel bad for the players who got stuck in the game because of my typo. I definitely should have played through the game more before submitting it so that I could catch all these silly mistakes!

There are plenty of things I’d like to improve about Miss Turner’s Magical Pet Swap Shop, but I’m happy with with how it turned out! You can play and rate the game here.

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