About Darien (twitter: @perfectlydarien)

Mayor of the internet. Designer of terrible games.


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It lasts longer when you’re a genius post-mortem

Posted by (twitter: @perfectlydarien)
Saturday, August 31st, 2013 2:43 am
That's what I keep telling my wife.

One odd thing about this compo is that I wasn’t able to get the weekend off from work for it. As such, I wasn’t planning to enter at all, but, as they say, the best laid plans of mice and men get effed, awright. The vagaries of my work schedule as they are, I spent fully 24 of the 48 compo hours at work, leaving me with a lot less time to work on my entry than could be desired. I’m not sad-sacking, you understand; this is just the infodump that you get in the opening cutscene before the real fun begins. Speaking of which:

What went right
  • Chose (and stuck to) a good, workable scope. Since I had so little time, it was extra-important that I restrict myself to a project that I could design and implement in only a few hours, and I think I did an excellent job of that. I immediately disliked the idea of creating a game that lasted only ten ordinary seconds, since it was far too blasé an interpretation of the theme. But a little dash of relativity, and all of a sudden a ten-second game was a much weirder concept, while still not being very hard to implement.
  • Abandoned the serious writing in favour of snarky writing. You wouldn’t know from the finished product, but the original draft for this game called for it to be some serious drama about a giant space war or some rubbish like that; it was about bringing first a retrovirus, then a magical artifact, and then a bomb with the timer already running into the future to save the galaxy from some horrible space menace, and it was desperately dull and uninspired. The ice cream didn’t come in until I was creating the “game over” screen, and realised that what I was writing was bland; then I thought of some other thing that could go wrong if too much time passes. Melting ice cream came to mind, and put the whole game on the path toward silliness. It also meant…
  • Dessert Planet tie-in! As soon as the ice cream was in the game, the Dessert Planet became inevitable. Sure, it’s just a mention in the ludicrous backstory, but that’s branding! That’s important! Or so they tell me.
  • Actually made the game winnable. This is pretty unusual for me. Usually my games are either designed without a win condition or are just ludicrously hard. Genius began life ludicrously hard, but then I cut down the obstacle spawn rates by one third across the board and decreased the number of days to win by, uh, 80% (for some bizarre reason, it was originally five years instead of one). The net result is a game that’s challenging, but that you can probably beat in just a small handful of tries. Some players have even achieved a perfect run!
  • Came up with a good title. Title is one of the last things I do on my games, and it’s usually chosen by some sort of stream-of-consciousness-until-I-giggle method. I started by riffing off on Einstein, got to genius, and then finally found something giggleworthy. And thus the title was born!
What went wrong
  • Spent way, way too long on the background. The background is five different layers that all scroll at different speeds, and it took like an entire hour to make, and the whole reason for that is that my original (single-layer) background had a visible seam. So instead of doing the sensible thing and redrawing that one image so it didn’t have a seam, I added layer after obfuscatory layer until the seam wasn’t noticeable anymore. Probably spending 12% of all the time I had on the background was not optimal. It’s pretty, though!
  • Ran out of time before I got to the sound. This is closely related to the above. I cranked out a simple bonk noise in sfxr to denote collisions so the game wouldn’t be completely silent, but it was 3 a.m. and I had to be at work at 7 and I went to bed instead of making any music. I think this was an objectively correct choice, but regrettable all the same.
  • Way, way, crazy too many magic numbers. Math is hard and I’m a dope, so a lot of my calculations were done by the elegant method of “plug in some numbers and change them until they work.” With a little more time and a little less stupid, I could have cleaned it up a bit, but as it stands it’s very very ugly.
  • Shipped with a giant, deal-breaker bug. My wife discovered this bug literally seconds after I posted my entry. Apparently, I had it set to run the timer even while the title and such are displayed, so sitting on title screen or the story for long enough automatically wins the game. I don’t think anybody else actually encountered this bug, since I fixed it quickly, but it’s a big deal and I found it perfectly game-development-ish that it was caught immediately after I shipped the thing.
  • Should have married for money. Then I’d have been able to take the weekend off and work on the game!

Overall, I’m quite pleased with this entry. It’s pretty solid fun, and I even managed to learn a few new things doing it, despite how simple it is! And, frankly, it’s super fun just to do the compo anyhow. :-)

True story

Posted by (twitter: @perfectlydarien)
Sunday, August 25th, 2013 11:19 pm

I got an instant message from my wife on Friday night asking me to make dinner. I begged off, since it was the first day of Ludum Dare! Prompting her to respond:

“I thought you weren’t doing Ludum Dare this time.”

So did I, I said; so did I. But it turns out it’s completely impossible for me to be around during Ludum Dare, and know Ludum Dare is going on, and not participate. So even though ten seconds is about the amount of free time I had this weekend, I found a way to get a compo entry assembled anyhow. Glad I did! It’s always great fun. As an added bonus: apparently my enthusiasm was infectious enough that my wife decided she’d enter the jam; she’s working on her art assets right now.

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