Post mortem of Free Afternoon

Posted by (twitter: @axoonaa)
September 1st, 2016 9:57 am

Free Afternoon is a game about ancient technology of the 80s: floppy discs, rotary dial phones, walkman cassettes…
You have a free afternnon and want to install your new video game but encounter problems.

During this Ludum Dare unlike my previous ones, the final game evolved a lot from the original concept. Usually I think of a game concept and then stick to it for the 48h, sometimes skipping or adding some additional functions if time allows or doesn’t allow.

What stayed from the original concept was a series of “mini-games” or “levels” including various technologies which were all connected by a common story line.
However originally I have really thought of mini-games whereas in the end it’s more of a experience levels. Can’t say whether it’s for the better or worse, it’s just a fact.

The reasons for this are purely technical. For exemple the level with the rotary phone, in the beginning I wanted to make it as an arcade game, with a finger character who would dial the phone. I started making it with Unity, thinking it would be easier to implement based on all the physics engine already present in Unity. But it was all tangled up, I spent a lot of time trying to make work all the diffrent colliders and triggers (the platform, the dial numbers, the receiver…) with the correct rotation of the rotary dial and of the finger character that would travel in the rotary… in the end it was just so complicated and didn’t work smoothely, and I still didn’t have any other levels ready, no sounds, no music that somewhere on sunday I decided to skip all the arcade stuff and just do a mouse only game without any finger character. I also decided to switch technology and passed to ActionScript and FlashDevelop which I master much better and in which I judged it would be much easier to implement the rest of the game (and it was…).

The original arcade level of the telephone, in the final version the scaffolding is gone:


It also become clear on sunday that I wouldn’t make it to the compo with a playable game so I decided to go for the jam. I didn’t work on monday (which doesn’t mean I was free) but I could count on a reasonable amount of time to finish the game.

After the modfication of the concept on sunday afternoon it all went quite smoothely without any problems, I even managed to put into the game the cassette walkman part (which took me just an hour and a half to draw and code.. and you can probably see that the graphics of this level are a bit worse than the rest of the game, I’ll probably change that part if I do a post-jam version).
The walkman part itself was supposed to be a bit different with more songs and hints scattered all over the soundtrack, where you would need to jump from song to song to find the final hint, change sides etc.. but well I coudn’t really do more in an hour.
Which just confirms the necessity to work with tools you master during a jam. If I hadn’t spent half of my time trying to make work the physics engine in Unity which I have never used before I would have probably made a more polished, complete game overall. The thing is I am really conscient that you shouldn’t jam with a techno you do not master and I have decided to do it either way! Maybe sometimes you just need to learn it the hard way 😉

While failing to arrive in the compo might be considered a bit of a pity as I have worked solo and done all the graphics and music assets by myself, switching to jam allowed me to come up with a finished game and also use telephone and walkman SFX from third parties which was a considerable gain of time.

All in all it was a good jam, I like my game, it’s not very standard and I think the concept is quite original. Whether it is fun or not to play is for you to judge.
But I know it could have been much better if I had stared working on the final idea right from the start.

What went wrong
– use a technology I do not master for a type of game I have never done before -> spend too much time on trying to figure things out technically and doing assets and animations that therefore didn’t make it to the final game
– dropping out other old technologies such as VCR and old television due to lack of time
– the need of simplification of the cassette walkman level

What went good:
– the decision to modify the concept and swich to a technology I master in order to be able to spend more time on assets than on coding which enabled me to finish a playable game
– create music early – I think the quality is better this way
– create graphics assets before coding: less time spend afterwards on adjustments

Thank’s for reading, you can play the game here.

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