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Deep Sea Fish Loves You Forever: Post-Mortem

Posted by (twitter: @agersant)
Thursday, September 13th, 2012 3:08 pm

Ahoy all!
Here is quick post-mortem about my LD24 entry called Deep Sea Fish Loves You Forever. The game is about piloting an underwater exploration robot and analyzing oceanic wildlife with a pink sonar.

Screenshot

What went well

Tech & Engine
I used the same technologies as I did during my other 2 Ludum Dare and this is really paying off. I am now very fast when it comes to prototyping and testing things in Bacchus (my custom game framework written in Haxe). The only tech problem I had was due to a recent rewrite the audio part of my framework, more about this below.
I don’t think I fixed a single engine bug during the whole weekend.

Timing
My schedule was similar to last time.
1. Do graphics on Friday night (I hate using programmer art so I start with gfx)
2. Write the core game mechanics on Saturday
3. Make a title screen and winning/losing conditions on Saturday night
4. Add audio, polish gfx and playtest on Sunday

I think it worked quite well, except that my (few) testers did not find too many bugs so I ended up submitting early. I could have added more species to the game but I was afraid to break the balance (which I thought was good (it’s not)).

Iterations
Testers were very useful not for finding bugs but for highlighting usability issues. It is thanks to them that there is a species counter in the GUI. This feature makes the game’s objective a lot more explicit, I’m really happy someone came up with it (thanks Phil!).

I also used them to improve the opening tutorial. My first testers didn’t understand much about the game because the tutorial had too much text and some of it was not explicit enough. I had enough time to redesign it and then to improve its texts later on. It went from this to this:

Tutorial

Assets creation
During LD#22 I wasted a lot of time doing pixel art (and an 8-frames long walk-cycle!). This time I painted things with basic Photoshop brushes and scaled them down. I think it looks quite good and it took a lot less time. The only thing where I worked on the pixel level is the GUI but it didn’t take too long because it’s very geometric.

Audio was a pleasure to make using Reason and my Akai MPK Mini. I had not done anything audio-related in 6 months so I spent a few hours reading and watching Reason tutorials the day before to get back in the mood. It was my first time writing some Electro-ish music and that was a lot of fun. I used a morse signal sound for the main the track intro (just for fun) and I was inspired by The Future Sound of London for claves’ sounds on top of the beat.

I didn’t have a microphone this time around so I made all the sound effects using synths, but this was ok because most of them are mechanical anyway.

What went not-so-well

Theme & Concept
Evolution is not one of the themes I was looking forward to and I had a hard time coming up with something. As always, I was very stressed at the beginning and settled for a vague idea quickly. I thought I would make a game where you play as a bacteria and evolve from species to species by consuming radioactive pills in order to solve environment puzzle (think Space Station: Sillicon Valley on the N64). Of course there was no time for that so I scaled it down from top-down to underwater and side-scrolling. Then I started doing art, without any other ideas in mind. By the end of the night I had drawn all the fishes that are in the game (and a radioactive barrel which isn’t) but I didn’t have any puzzle or gameplay ideas to accompany them. It was supposed to look like the following picture. I think this scale looks a LOT better than the one I ended up using but I didn’t want the player ship to be 5 pixels big. Maybe I was wrong.

Early mockup

The next morning I realized this was not going to work because I would never have the time to do environment puzzles, animations and gameplay programming for all the species. The challenge became to find another game concept where I could use all this art while keeping the evolution theme. After half an hour of panicking, I came up with the final concept. As a result, it doesn’t fit the theme too well (esp. in its gameplay).

Computer
My computer did shut down without a warning twice during the weekend. The second time it did, it decided not to turn on again so I went to bed. The next morning I had to open it and replug the hard drives, I think the SATA cables were twisted too hard or something. That was very scary and I thought I might have to go finish my game at the office (it was under version control so I wasn’t afraid of losing any work).

Food
I put some barbecue sauce in my sandwiches and omitted the eggs. BAD BAD mistakes.

Performance
I heard the game was very very slow on some computers =(
I didn’t pay any attention to performance because everything was running at a solid 60FPS on my machine. Some obvious optimizations could have been done to improve that. Not drawing a 2000 pixels tall half-transparent gradient on top of the screen would have been a good start.
Also, I found out that the new audio work I had done in my engine was painfully slow so I added a dirty one line hack to bypass it.

All in all, I had a lot of fun and I’m very happy (and proud!) I made this game, even though it’s far from perfect. Thanks a lot for reading and for being such a friendly community!

Making some music

Posted by (twitter: @agersant)
Sunday, August 26th, 2012 6:59 am

Love the crazy GUI <3

Title screen

Posted by (twitter: @agersant)
Sunday, August 26th, 2012 3:34 am

Posted by (twitter: @agersant)
Saturday, August 25th, 2012 4:27 pm

This is starting to look like a game

Posted by (twitter: @agersant)
Saturday, August 25th, 2012 1:27 pm

Moar fishes

Posted by (twitter: @agersant)
Saturday, August 25th, 2012 5:11 am

Got started!

Posted by (twitter: @agersant)
Friday, August 24th, 2012 8:15 pm

(nothing coded yet)

Guess what? I’m in!

Posted by (twitter: @agersant)
Thursday, August 23rd, 2012 11:21 am

Ahoy!

I’m glad to say I will enter Ludum Dare for the third time (I was in for LD21 & LD22). My tools haven’t changed much since last time :

  • HaXe (programming language)
  • Flash Develop (IDE)
  • Bacchus 0.3 (personal framework)
  • Adobe Photoshop CS3
  • Propellerhead’s Reason
  • Asana
  • Tiled (probably)
  • BMFont (probably)
  • BFXR (probably)

I still have some preparation to do (clean my desk, buy junk-food, reinstall audio software and keyboard, prepare boilerplate project etc.) but I’m already super excited about this LD. My personal challenge this time is to NOT make a sidescrolling platformer.

Castaway post-mortem

Posted by (twitter: @agersant)
Sunday, December 25th, 2011 11:33 am

Ahoy all!

Last weekend I made a compo entry called Castaway.

If you speak French, you might want to read my lengthy writeup on Les Forges. Else, here are the traditional bullet point lists :

What went well

  • Using familiar tools (custom framework, FlashDevelop, HaXe, Photoshop, Reason, etc.)
  • Using project management techniques and tools. I used Asana to handle my ever growing todo list and a mini scrumboard for tracking bugs. Pictures at the end of this post.
  • Recording custom sound effects. This was my first time and I’m very happy with the result (especially since it didnt take long). Picture below.
  • Testing. Two friends came on Sunday evening and played the game again and again to spot bugs. They were the one writing the scrum post-it and it was very useful.
  • Chronolapse. Making a timelapse took no effort and I love the end result.

What went not so well

  • Theme. I did not think long enough of the theme and started working without a clear idea of what my game would be.
  • Time management. I spent too much time working on animations and art assets instead of making content. Look at this 8 frames walk cycle : walk cycle. This is wasted time, lots of it.
  • Balancing. The game is way too hard ; my testers thought it was funny because of it but I should have considered this as alarming.
  • Oops. A critical bug that crashes the game on slow computer was shipped in the compo version. Maybe the test configuration should include a slow computer too.

Pictures

Asana
Asana

Bug tracking scrumboard
Bug tracking scrumboard

Sound design tools
Sound design tools

Even though my game is way too hard, too short and unforgiving, I’m still happy with what I did. I am satisfied I made some art and music that were not 8bit/chiptune over the course of the weekend and more importantly, I had lots of fun. Next time, I will NOT make a sidescrolling platformer, that’s my objective.

Thank you all for reading/playing/rating !

Castaway Timelapse!

Posted by (twitter: @agersant)
Monday, December 19th, 2011 5:54 am

Ahoy all!

I managed to finish my game in time, you can play it from here.
Also, here is on youtube the timelapse video I recorded during the event.
Stay tuned for the post mortem I will write in the next few days.

Castaway

Update before sleep

Posted by (twitter: @agersant)
Saturday, December 17th, 2011 10:53 pm

I havent posted an update in a while but things have been going nicely during the last few hours.
The game has a beginning, an end and everything in between.

Cast Away

TODO:
Music and sounds
Polish
Title Screen

Also, food :
food

Time for a screenshot

Posted by (twitter: @agersant)
Saturday, December 17th, 2011 3:39 pm

screnshot

I now have a functional game with very few features except cool animations >.<

WIP!

Posted by (twitter: @agersant)
Friday, December 16th, 2011 9:57 pm

Ahoy all.

I’m not sure where it’s going but here is a Work in Progress of my entry. Photoshop only so far, will being coding as soon as I get a sharper idea of my game.

WIP

I hope you like it =)

Clean desk

Posted by (twitter: @agersant)
Friday, December 16th, 2011 3:36 pm

I removed 3kg of dust from my desk, it feels so good <3
Desk

I’m late but I’m in!

Posted by (twitter: @agersant)
Friday, December 16th, 2011 8:44 am

Ahoy all!

I’m glad to say I’ll be entering LD22 this weekend, this is my 2nd LD and I hope it will be as much fun as the previous one. I am already super tired but it will hopefully help me having creative ideas =)

Here are the tools I will be using :

  • Asana
  • HaXe (with FlashDevelop )
  • Bacchus 0.2.2 (personnal framework) – download here
  • Adobe Photoshop CS3
  • Propellerhead’s Reason (and possibly Records)
  • BMFont (if needed)
  • Tiled (if needed)
  • BFXR (if needed)

I have already done the mandatory junk food shopping, I have created a new Bacchus project, tested BMFont and prepared a web page ready to be filled with release notes. Now I need to clean my desktop and tune my guitar before I can take a nap.

Good luck to you all!

Time for a Post Mortem…

Posted by (twitter: @agersant)
Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011 1:00 pm

This was my first (but certainly not last) Ludum Dare participation, and it was a real blast. I had already made a game in 48 hours but it didnt have the same thrilling atmosphere I found on the IRC channel and on this blog. I think it was quite epic (in the original sense of the word) to see hundreds of people struggling against time to get their games (or website) running before the deadline. Thank you all that was great !

Title screen

(more…)

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