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Cave Creature!!

Posted by
Sunday, August 26th, 2012 10:22 pm

Whew, I finished!

I didn’t have nearly as much time as I would have liked, but I still managed to put together a passable game! I think I can do much better next time, if I prepare a little bit more in advance.

My last game ended up being absurdly short, because I had to hand-script every piece of content. This time, I wanted to get higher bang-for-buck by making more repeatable, “grindy” content. I decided to go with sort of an adventure/RPG, where you have to grind up levels to access the next area.

Unfortunately, to make a grindy game design work, I think you still need a few hand-placed elements to give the player some goals. I kind of failed at that because I ran out of time. I think adding a few boss battles, hidden areas to explore, and power-ups to find would have helped the game a ton!

Play Now In Browser (Requires Java)

Contest Page

What Went Right

Blob Characters
I really like the look I used for my little blob creatures. I’m terrible at art, but this was easy and cute. I was able to layer different types of eyes, horns, tails, etc. to make different looks, which was great for an evolution-themed game. I just wish I had time to make more variations.

World Map design
To make the world, I simply drew a giant 1024×1024 texture using palletized color, and blew each pixel up to a 32×32 tile. I could easily query the color of each tile, and I defined different terrain properties based on the index in the color palette (for example, blue is water, so you can’t walk in it).  My original plan was to draw a texture for each tile, but I ended up liking the way it looked.

I used a similar technique to define difficulty levels for each part of the map. I “painted” level bands onto different parts of the continent using Gimp, which let me throw in a lot of content very quickly.  Areas colored darker shades of red auto-spawn higher level enemies.

This went surprisingly smoothly. The enemies don’t really pathfind, they just attempt to slide around obstacles, but it ends up looking pretty good most of the time.

What Went Wrong

Lack of goals 
As noted earlier, I think this game would really benefit from having a few bosses, secret areas, etc. to break up the gameplay. An ending would also be awesome. I wanted to do this stuff, but I just ran out of time.

Low bang-for-buck art 
I wasted a lot of time making really terrible artwork. For example, the boulder that covers the cave entrance. It doesn’t look that good, and it doesn’t match the style of the world map. I wish I had just embraced the uber-pixellated style to begin with, and spent that time on more content.

Movement speed upgrades 
Toward the beginning of the game, you move agonizingly slowly, and you slowly upgrade until you move so fast it’s annoying. Why on earth did I do that?The tail is cool, because it’s a one-time bonus, but constantly increasing your movement speed just doesn’t work very well as a progression mechanic.


Overall I think I have a lot of good stuff in this game, and I’m definitely tempted to put more time into it. My original plan was to have different terrain “hazards” that you could evolve adaptations for, e.g. ice, lava, learning to swim, etc. The engine is already set up to do that, I just didn’t quite get around to it. I’d also love to add a few more “special” mutations, add some bosses, and try to improve the combat gameplay and enemy variety.

I think my basic strategy was pretty good this time, so next time I’m going to focus on cutting corners, nailing down the art style earlier, and preparing my code/engine in advance. I think if I squeeze out just a few extra hours, I can make something really cool next time.

A late and lazy entry

Posted by
Friday, August 24th, 2012 9:14 pm

I’ve decided to do this pretty last minute, and I I’m not really prepared.  But, I really like the theme so I decided to jump in.  :)

My setup is pretty much the same as last time (mostly out of necessity, since I don’t have time to figure out something else).

  • Java with Eclipse.
  • Paint.Net and/or Gimp.
  • BFXR for sound.
  • Audacity for music or sound editing (although I’m unlikely to get that far)

I already have a vague idea for my game, which I’m tentatively calling “Cave Creature”.  Basically, you will be a creature… from a cave.  You will “evolve” via an RPG-like talent system, and explore, and…. OK that’s as far as I’ve gotten.

I’ve been thinking a lot about RPG progression systems recently, and I feel like this theme fits that quite nicely.  :)  Although, I might spend more time iterating on progression systems than coding, which could be a big problem.

My first Ludum Dare Complete!

Posted by
Sunday, December 18th, 2011 8:33 pm

Here’s my game, it’s sort of a micro-dating sim:

It’s very short and runs in a browser, so you have no excuse not to play it!


I thought it would be fun to make a dating sim, because I haven’t really seen a lot of those, and I thought it was a cool interpretation of the “alone” theme.  The original idea was that there would be several girls you could try to woo, but they would all just shoot you down no matter what you tried.  The “twist” would be that to get a successful date, you would have to stop trying to appease those women and just explore the world.  It’s sort of a statement about dating I guess, and I also just thought it would be funny.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to make enough content to make something like that work.  As it is, the game is sort of pointless.  Just a silly little linear plot.

I spent a lot of time writing a system to help me script the character interactions.  I’m pretty happy with how it turned out, but it took so long to write that I didn’t have time for very much else.  I also really underestimated how time-consuming it can be to write dialog and synchronize the timing.  I spent probably 10-12 hours on getting 5-10 minutes of dialog in the game.

I ended up not having time for sound at all, and the art is pretty rushed.  C’est la vie.

Overall I’m reasonably happy with how I did, even though the game isn’t very good.  At least I got something finished, and I like the little scripting system I wrote.  My art also exceeded my expectations (which isn’t saying much).  Not too bad for my first Ludum Dare ever!

Alone: Day 1 progress

Posted by
Saturday, December 17th, 2011 1:38 am

I spent most of the first night just trying to get my applet set up and writing some basic graphics/animation code.  Here’s the result:

Version 0.1 of my game, it's just a dude walking in circles

So far the guy just walks in circles, there’s no interactivity at all.  Not too impressive, but I’m still hopeful about tomorrow.

You can “play” the game here, if you wish:


A new challenger approaches…?

Posted by
Friday, December 16th, 2011 1:35 pm

OK, I’m entering my first Ludum Dare!

My day job is working on a massive game, on a project with hundreds of people.

Slowly.  Carefully.  Without breaking anything.

So even though I’m a “pro” game developer, I’m pushing WAAY outside of my comfort zone.  This is the exact opposite of everything I usually do.

If I can finish something – ANYTHING – in 48 hours, I’ll consider it a victory.  :)

My tools:

  • Java with Eclipse.  I haven’t used Java in years, so this could be a disaster.  But I really want my game to be web-deployable.
  • I might use LWJGL with Slick-Util depending on the theme.
  • Paint.Net and/or Gimp for “programmer art”.
  • BFXR for sound.
  • Audacity for music or sound editing.
  • Pizza.

I think my biggest problem is going to be art.  I don’t really like low-fi puzzle games and things like that, I want to tell a story and have characters.  Guess they will have to be stick characters.  😀

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