Doodle Book Survival — Post-Mortem

May 7th, 2016 11:03 pm

LD35 Post-Mortem: Doodle Book Survival

allScreens
Ludum Dare 35 was my fourth Ludum Dare, and third successful one. I’ve been super busy since the compo and haven’t had as much time to play and rate games as I would like, but I wanted to put up this post-mortem to jot down my thoughts on another great 48 hours.

Doodle Book Survival is a classic survival game in which you have to stop oncoming waves of enemies by shooting them. To hit different enemies, you need to transform between three different characters. The entire thing is set within the pages of a distracted student’s notebook, and it gets hard, fast. I was inspired in large part by a classic Flash game I love, Zombie Mayhem.

I used Unity as my engine, wrote in C#, animated in Flash, did visual polish in Photoshop, captured sound effects from BFXR, and generated music through FakeMusicGenerator.

 


 

What Went Well

With the theme being Shapeshift, I decided early on to focus on animation. This is something I’ve wanted to do for a while, since I actually got into game making through Flash animation, but in previous LDs I focused more on mechanics and story and left the art til the end. This time, though, I started with the idea of hand-animating transformations, and I’m very happy with the result!

 

doodle

Shapeshift!

I did the animation in Flash, making the in-between frames by hand to transition between the three different player states. To import into Unity, I copied each frame of the animation and pasted them in a new document, but spread out in a sprite sheet that Unity can read. I included the sprite sheets here, since I think it makes a good case for the quality you can get out of animation when you do things manually. It takes time, but it gives the animation some nice originality that you don’t get from tweening.

transform1

Gremlin (?) to human

transform2

Human to giraffe

transform3

Giraffe to gremlin (?)

I was also pretty happy with the overall structure of my game. Although its simplistic, the conceit of the whole game being doodles in a notebook gave it a nice over-arching consistency. I like when games have menus/UI that tie into the world of the game, so I was happy that I could do that here.

endScreen

The end screen was my personal favorite

A final piece I’m proud of is that the game works. It was actually one of the easier programming experiences I’ve had. So that was nice. And the end result is a game that is definitely playable.


What Went Less-Well

The biggest problem was that my first 12 hours were spent on a different idea. I originally wanted to make a more original game, where you controlled a robot soldier who could transform into a turret, using the robot to attack one set of enemies and the turret to shoot others. I still like the concept. The problems were (1) I was having a hell of a time coding some aspects of it and (2) I discovered I can not draw robots.

So I hit upon a cool idea that I might revisit one day, but that did not help me in the 48 hour compo. After the first night of work, I threw out most of what I had done and simplified. I focused on drawing that I knew I could do and simpler gameplay mechanics. I am happy with the game I launched, but it would’ve been nice to have those extra twelve hours to make the gameplay a bit more interesting and the difficulty curve a bit smoother.

The game is overall very simple. It doesn’t stand out in any real way. The shapeshifting is cool, but it doesn’t do much to change the way the game plays. And it plays like a bog-standard survival game. I’m not going to beat myself up about this too much, because making a game in 48 hours is hard enough without it also having to be unique and original, but in future compos I’m going to try to be more innovative.

The biggest issue that has been called out in the comments on my game is the difficulty, and rightly so. It starts off alright, but then it gets really hard really fast. Like super hard. But over the course of developing and testing I got pretty good at the game, so with classic game-dev blinders I didn’t see that it was an unreasonably sharp curve. This is particularly annoying as a mistake because it would’ve been easy to fix by just tweaking the spawning method, but I didn’t consider it needing fixing because I was looking at the game from my perspective instead of imagining how people who had never played it would experience it. That’s a big no-no, and another thing I will try to fix next time.


 

Overall, I was very happy with my work in this Ludum Dare. I miss the narrative stuff I did in previous compos, but I like that I could focus more on artwork, and I’m glad to have made it to the finish line with something to show for it.

Looking forward to playing more of your games, now and after the voting ends!


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