Over last weekend I worked with Wesley Devore and Hisan Iwo to create Spirits of The Forest, a precision platforming game where you must deliver an urgent message for the spirits, and in return they grant you the ability to shape-shift into different animal forms giving you different abilities to conquer the 25+ levels.
I knew since last December that I was going to be making a game for Ludum Dare 35, but up until a few days before the start, I thought I was going to be doing it alone. I was approached by Wesley Devore asking if I needed music and sound for Ludum Dare. Always eager to gain new friends and have new experiences, I said yes. We both decided that since we had to do the jam anyways, we might as well find an artist. After a bit of searching, we ended up finding Hisan Iwo (couldn’t of found anyone better suited in my opinion), and just like that I had gone from believing I was going to do it alone to working in a three person team.
We started off the weekend without any real idea of what kind of game we were going to be making, other than we knew it was going to be 2D. After a fairly short brainstorming session we decided on making a platformer (although originally we had planned on making it a puzzle platformer instead of a precision platformer). Without all of the particulars in place we began working. While Hisan worked on the character art and Wesley worked on the music, I programmed the base platforming system and worked out the rest of the design and story for the game.
While day one didn’t yield much material progress, day two saw the game shift from an idea to a tangible, although rough, game. By the end of it all of the character and world art was done, the music was finished and ready to be implemented, and all of the levels, tiling, and dialogue was done (although dialogue would later have to be rewritten the next day). At the end of the day I could tell the game was going to be brutally hard and tried all I could to lessen the cruelty, but I couldn’t afford the time to redesign the entire world again (especially since I already had to once). I could also tell that the game was going to have an amazing atmosphere to it and that this was going to be the strongest point of the game.
Day three was spent finishing and adding in sound, music, and the remaining art to complete the feel of the game. I didn’t get all of my goals I had written from the previous day done because while I had intended to spend the majority of day three polishing the game, implementing the remaining assets ended up taking the vast majority of the day leaving me little time to polish. This definitely took a lot away from the game since it left rough hitboxes and some parts that could be considered brutal in an already brutal game world, but overall I was still happy with the game.
Screenshot of Finished Game
I’ll admit that I wasn’t sure how working with a new team was going to be, but they both did amazing and it was a fun experience. The only areas that I felt were lacking in the game were things I was responsible for. It’s apparent I’m still not the best at level design, for instance, but if you compare this game to my previous game, you can tell instantly it’s a big step up. The game in its current state is somewhat incomplete, which is why I’m working on a post-compo version that fixes many of the glaring issues before uploading it to Gamejolt and Itch.io.
- The art of the game turned out amazing. Individually the assets looked a little bit odd, but they came together to form a really charming look. Combine that with the amazing music and sound design, and you get what I think is by far the best game I’ve ever worked on in terms of atmosphere.
- I ended up spending about half of the time on level design, so the game ended up pretty long (25-30+ levels depending on how you count them).
- I learned a LOT about level design. I consider the levels of Akashic Records (a platforming game I did for a game jam last month) to be absolutely horrendous. While they were still really hard here, they’re definitely a big step up.
- I liked the story we came up with, and considering this was my first time trying to implement dialogue into a platformer, I think it went well.
- As always I learned a lot more about the engine I was working with, particularly I discovered the cause of a lag that has plagued most of my previous games with a scrolling view (though it was never nearly as bad as it got here, I simply had no choice but to pinpoint the cause of the lag and fix it, and my future games are going to be much better for it).
- This marks 4 months down so far for 1 Game A Month! 😀
- It ended up being HARD. It wasn’t just casual occasional road bump hard, it was teeth grinding fight for every inch you advanced hard. This isn’t always a bad thing if you apply it right in the game, but I was going for a bit more casual feeling platformer and had to rush through meaning I didn’t have time to conceptualize all the easier challenges I could have done with the mechanics. This makes the game feel a bit disjointed at times (particularly in the not so tight controls that would work fine in a casual platformer, but leaves you a bit frustrated at times here).
- I didn’t have time left to do as much polish as I would have liked to, so some things (the hitboxes being the most obvious and unfortunate example) are left rough. I also would have liked to get some particles and other VFX in there to really complete the feel of the game.
- There was a few strange bugs left in the game that I had absolutely no idea why they were happening and didn’t have the time left to look investigate them. These bugs and the lack of polish and VFX are the biggest drawback by far, which is why I’m fixing them all and adding in the polish I wanted to from the start in a post-compo version for Gamejolt and Itch.io.
- There was still a few times when you’d experience an abrupt lag spike, but it never seemed to last for more than a split second.
- The ending was a bit dissatisfying, but it did end on a good cliff-hanger that allows us room to expand it into a full confrontation, or possibly even make a sequel (of sorts) so we can do the story the justice it deserves.
Though I could have done my part quite a bit better, I learned a lot and came out with a game to show for it. Like every other game you do (especially games that are made for game jams), it’s not always the final game, but rather the experience you gain from it that really matters. While you and everyone else are likely to forget about your game jam game, the experience you have and the lessons you learn ripple throughout time and creep into every one of your future endeavors, and that’s what truly matters.