It’s been awhile since I’ve done a post mortem for one of my entries, so I felt I should do it this time. This time around I made a skill based platformer where the main concept is the ability to switch between a white and black dimension, which is required to avoid obstacles and solve jumpy puzzles. If you want to skip the wall of text and just play, check it out here. Otherwise, read on!
I’m extremely satisfied that it feels less like a competition entry and more like an actual game. I also enjoyed it enough that I never felt like it was tedious to playtest as I went along. On the contrary, I often spent more time than I should have to test a feature, since I’d test something, but then just continue playing until I remembered I was working under a tight deadline.
Graphics. At the start I had terrible tiles. I normally don’t spend time redoing anything once I’ve completed it, but after I got the autotiling done and realized how bad my tiles looked, I redid them from scratch, and I’m extremely happy I did. The end result let me easily add cool effects such as the tile swapping. I also randomly got the idea to add noise, which I think ended up looking really neat and enhancing the visuals in a very short amount of time.
Content. I was able to get quite a bit of content into the game. I feel like the game is long enough that if you like it, it keeps you interested for a while, without being too long. The length also lends itself well to trying to speed run if you’re so inclined.
Difficulty. Some people will hate it for being hard, but I feel that it hit my goal of how difficult I wanted the game to be. There are some rooms that are unnecessarily hard, and some that are quite easy, but overall the difficulty will keep you smashing your head against the wall on your first time through, but due to skill based rooms you’ll find that once you get better all the rooms end up being very easy. In the post competition version, I’m creating a higher difficulty mode, which is many many times harder. You’d be surprised how much harder a room can become when adding 2 or 3 enemies. This lets me make the normal mode a bit easier, without taking away the experience from the more hardcore players.
Theme. As usual I got quite a few comments complaining about the theme, but I personally loved my take on it. I listed out a bunch of ways to interpret minimalism, and eventually settled on “limited palette”, and further narrowed it down to “black and white”. But instead of just making a black and white game, I based the entire gameplay mechanism around this small concept, and I really enjoyed how it came out. It borrowed a lot of ideas from past projects I’ve done, but I feel it still came out feeling quite unique.
Library. Using Axel was a great choice. There’s always times when I’m tempted to use something else, but I always feel satisfied that Axel lets me create a high quality game in a short period of time. There’s always the slight downside of alienating those who are running on hardware without stage3d support, but in a community like this where the people playing are also developers, there are very few players who can’t play the game.
Inconsistent feature set. Initially the game was heading towards a kind of ikaruga-meets-platformers style, where there was going to be a lot of bullet dodging and absorbing. This was the main cause of the gun and shooting aspects of the game. However, by the end it was more of a VVVVVV if you swapped colors rather than gravity. Unfortunately, the gun had become an integral part of the game, so it would have been hard to remove (and by that point I’d become somewhat attached to it). But if I had to the chance to start over, I probably would have completely foregone the shooting and put more emphasis on timing jumps and planning routes. I feel that the areas where the gun is used don’t fit in all that well, and sometimes it just feels like a waste of time (eg. “each time I die I have to sit and rekill that snail, ugh”).
Lack of secrets and achievements. I think secret rooms would definitely increase the sense of exploration. Also, I think achievements would give more you another reason to play around and explore, rather than simply moving straight forward. Speaking of…
Linearity. I feel like I didn’t get a good balance of linear vs exploration. The very first 2 items require you going back and forth between the same room, but after that there is very little backtracking, and you simply follow the path straightforward until you reach the end, then turn around and take the 1 side path you passed that you couldn’t reach before. There definitely could have been some improvement in this regard.
Controls. Apparently a lot of people want space to jump, but that ended up not working too well. I think the biggest issue is that I really wanted to allow the player to shoot with the keyboard if they weren’t using a physical mouse (it sucks with a touchpad), which severely limited the amount of keys I could reasonably use. I feel that once a player gets used to the controls, they do fine, but it can be a bit jarring. If I had more time I’d probably have added a couple alternate control schemes.
Music. This is a given. I dislike creating music, it just doesn’t interest me. I don’t expect to ever be able to create the really nice soundtracks that some of these other games have, but this is something I have accepted.
Tutorials. I had originally wanted to go with instructions written on the wall, but I ended up dropping it for the sake of time. That’s a kind of thing that I can end up spending too much time making it so it doesn’t look terrible, and by the time I needed instructions in game there wasn’t much time left. The way it ended up was that message boxes would pop up, and completely destroy the immersion you had. This was one of the things that I managed to fix for the post-compo release.
Planning. Something I don’t know whether I liked or not, was that rather than planning out my full feature set and figuring out exactly how I wanted the game to play, I instead dove straight into code after figuring out the core concept of black vs white platformer. I designed enemies as I went along, and came up with new features constantly. It wasn’t until the last 18 hours or so that I actually knew what I was expecting the game to look like at the end. I feel that the end result was good, but most of the way I felt like the game was going to turn out terribly. And while I was satisfied in the end, I don’t know if it was worth the anxiety during the competition. However, the data point of trying it once makes it hard to determine whether this is something that is worth it going forward.
Sounds. I feel that while the sounds are okay, there could definitely have been more dynamic sounds. Since there are so few actions, the sounds don’t really do much to fill the gaps in the bland music. I feel perhaps things in the environment that make noises as you run by them, for example, could go to great lengths to help. But on the other hand, things like that take quite a bit of time, and typically I’m afraid to spend too much time on sound, so I’m unsure if sacrificing something else to improve sound (which many people may not even have enabled) is worth it.
Post Mortem. This thing is really long and after skimming over it I feel like I’m trashing my own game, when honestly I feel quite proud of it.
I’ve almost completed work on a post competition version which fixes a lot of the difficulty issues by evening out the normal mode, and adding a harder mode you can play after. I’ve fixed a lot of minor things (tips on the walls at the beginning to help players realize they need to backtrack instead of simply going forward, saving of your progress, better mute/quality controls, etc). I’m trying not to rearchitect or spend too much time on it (as I’ll never actually end up finishing it if I do), so I’m leaving things that change the core concept for a future game if I feel so inclined.
Anyway, here’s the related links. Enjoy!
Play And Rate The Game
Download The Source
Watch The Timelapse
Check Out Axel (The Library Used To Created Antichromatic)