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UnderTheLibrary: Post-Mortem

Posted by
Friday, May 2nd, 2014 4:36 am

I waited to get some feedback on my game before doing a post-mortem, and now that I got some, here it is.

This Ludum Dare, I entered UnderTheLibrary, a little platformer in which you play as a robot trying to navigate the basement of a library to get back to the surface. You can play/vote for the game here.

Making title screens out of the ingame tileset is becoming a habit…

The genesis

Last time, I struggled a lot with the collision code for my platformer, so this time, I decided to try and use a game engine so as to be able to focus more on the content and actual gameplay. I ended up going with Phaser, a HTML5/JavaScript game framework, because it meant that I would be able to play the result on my Surface RT (I will NOT justify myself for that one…); plus, I learned JavaScript last summer for fun and I wanted to do at least one significant project with it.

Where I live, the theme was revealed at 3 A.M. … which obviously means I went straight up to bed after seeing it. I would have prefered ‘Break the Rules’, but I thought I could manage to do something with it.

Fastforward to 9 A.M., I have been at it for an hour, and could not think of an original intrepretation of the theme. I supposed the most common ones were going to be underground/underwater/under the looks of something (it seems I was right, at least), and I wanted to do something else. Problem was, I could not think of anything I felt like coding; so I chose the most obvious one, the underground setting, and went with it. Same with the platformer: I realized that this is the only kind of game I am sure of being able to code (almost) ‘right’, and since my goal was to learn/use the Phaser game engine, it went right with it.

The whole library thing started as a basement with books. And where do you find books, lots and lots of books? BAM.

What went right

  • Phaser is a nice engine, and thanks to some training during the previous two weeks I was able to set up something playable really quick.
  • I made some graphics which I think are good; I especially like the wood texture of the shelf (yes, there are books protuding on the sides of it :p).
  • While fiddling with the MIDI instruments available, I stumbled on one called ‘Rock Organ’, which I liked from the first note it played. In the end, the ingame music sounds really good and fitting (at least, I think so).
  • Looking back,one of the thing I wished I had done better in my previous Ludum Dare (#27) was storytelling. Even if I raced against the clock in the end, I managed to do a little bit of it this time.
  • Almost no bugs in the dialogBox thingy, which is somewhat cool, I guess. I liked it!

The tileset I made for UnderTheLibrary

What went wrong

  • Content! I spent a good amount of time on each level, and could only do two of them within the time limit (the third one took some time, but was not a level as much as an ending/credit screen). I also cut two ideas I had for others enemies, a second environment based on the sewers (the original idea was to travel far away while still staying just below the surface), powerups, et cetera.
  • Browser compatibility! I had to ‘port’ the game to IE/Safari/Opera because the Math.sign() function I used (once) was not available, thus crashing the entire game. I knew it was a risk with JavaScript, but as I only playtested with Firefox/Chrome, I did not see that one coming.
  • Although it is nice to have a game engine at hand, it is not as flexible as doing all your code from the ground up.
  • I am not very satisfied of the player’s sprite. I actually had no idea what the player could be, so I ended up going for some generic (again) robot.
  • The title screen music is bad. I started to do it, but could not get enough inspiration to do something pleasing to the ear. At least, I got something out of it for the ingame music.

Will anyone get to this area (without cheating)? I hope so.

As a conclusion…

I am not as satisfied with this game as I was with my LD27 entry. While I feel UnderTheLibrary is more complete (which I think is because it actually told a story), I must admit that I prefer Ephemeral‘s setting, ‘characters’, gameplay, et cetera. That is something I felt while making the game, and maybe that is why I could not get as inspired as I was last time.

I will try to do my best next time though!

 

Bonus: Game Highlights

I rated 30 or so games so far, and some of them were really good. Here are the ones I think are worth a shot:

Compo

  • Scratch (bentosmile): the first game I played, I actually tried it before rating was available. A bit partial, but I love visual novels, so…
  • Beneath The Surface Of Scratch Ticket (dejant): try to win at scratching ticket by scratching it a little to see what is under the surface of the ticket. A nice concept, and very well executed.
  • Lights (Seyroth): the description says ‘meticulous level design’. Try to get the three endings and you will understand why.
  • Frictionless (Matthew Brown): a well-designed puzzle game, which may remind you of Pokémon’s ice-sliding puzzles.

Jam

  • Ghostlord Depths (HelixFox): you are a floating skeleton fighting flaming and giant skulls. Very pleasant game, with polished graphics and audio.
  • Necronomicon (lowcade): as a hipster cat, you have to collect four rings to gain more abilities and try to defeat the ultimate evil overlord.

Update #3

Posted by
Saturday, April 26th, 2014 5:27 pm

Third update! As always, my (unnamed) game is playable here.

Big news! I now have :

  • A decent first level
  • A tileset (so dark…)
  • Sound effects (this took longer than expected)
LD29_Graphics_At_Last

This screenshot was taken in debug mode :-)

I lost a good amount of time trying to get inspiration for sound effects on the Internet and failing to reproduce them with sfxr. Then I reactivated my brain, Audacity, and it all went well in the end.

Unfortunately, I still lack:

  • A background music (last time, I did one for the main menu and one for the actual game)
  • … a main menu (simple, as always)
  • More levels (I want at least 5 of the same size of the one I have now, but this is too much for me I think…)
  • Another tileset (I wanted 3, maybe I can do at least… 2?)
  • Others enemies (to go with the new tilesets. Those are already designed in my head though)

Anyway, I had a lot of fun today, even if I worked a little bit less than last time, partly beacause of a lack of motivation. But that will not be enough to stop me! (I hope)

Update #2

Posted by
Saturday, April 26th, 2014 11:21 am

Time for the second update! The game is still playable here.

Since the last update, I mostly worked on the player’s sprite and the background tiles. I got both the sprite and one environment done; I had a target of three, but I doubt I will even be able to complete the second one.

LD29_Some_Tiles

Some boxes, a shelf filled with books, and some tower of books which will act as ladder.

On the other hand, I am satisfied with the dialog box, which slides in and out nicely. The only problem is that using bitmap font with Phaser means I will have to wrap the text with some well-placed ‘\n’ -_-‘

Next: some more work on the player sprite, one or two enemy, and some audio! Maybe an actual level also, now that I think of it…

Update #1

Posted by
Saturday, April 26th, 2014 6:41 am

Time for the first update! You can ‘play’ my ‘testmap’ here.

I struggled a little to find something interesting to do with this theme. Since I failed at this, I chosed to do a platformer (again >_<), because I am at least a bit at ease with how you are supposed to do those games.

Phaser is helping a lot, especially when I compare to what I did last year with libGDX in java. I already have most of the features I need working, even if they are not pretty at the moment.

I will now start to do the graphics (cause the placeholder I am using are from my LD27 entry…), and I still have to decide on a name and background music …

LD29 : I am in

Posted by
Monday, April 21st, 2014 7:46 am

Missed out on LD28 because of work, but I should be able to participate for LD29. Yay~!

I think I will use the same tools as before, that is :

  • sfxr for sounds
  • Aria Maestosa for the music
  • mspaint.exe / Paint.NET / The GIMP for graphics
  • Tiled for designing levels (if needed)
  • lidGD

Wait a minute. No Java this time. Instead, I will use JavaScript with the help of the Phaser game engine. Last time, I failed at signing my .jar so I could not show my game inside a webpage : that was a huge mistake, which I intend to correct with this Ludum Dare.

I wish you all a good Ludum Dare 29 (and may the best theme win :p) !

Ephemeral – A postmortem

Posted by
Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013 2:43 pm

Well, it has been a little more than a week now, and since I got some feedback, I might as well do my postmortem now.

So yeah, this was my first Ludum Dare, even if I try to participate since roughly two years now. I did not make much games before that, the biggest one was a 7-level platformer on Nintendo DS in C which was basically my learning project for the C language. Even so, I had a good grasp on the basics and I knew I could at least produce something. It is also my first game jam, although I did do a tower defense in  weekend as part of a school project.

Well, on to the actual entry now. I enjoyed the voting rounds, and with each one I tried to prepare myself to at least the wining theme, so as to be able to start right away with the code. The theme “10 second” was one of my favourite, because it was easy to use (you could do mini-games as well as almost any kind of gameplay with an added time-limit) ; but even so, I was failing at finding that great idea that would make me completely motivated to make something great. I guess I was more or less waiting for an idea to fall in my head, saying “You cannot do anything else, because that is the greatest idea you ever had”.

Click on the picture to go to the entry page!

This game is a bomb – well, the Bomber toy is, technically.

I then chose to solve the problem the same way I do when I fall short of inspiration : add some more constraints. One of the theme I also liked a lot was “Death is useful”. While thinking about a way to mix the two of them together, I thought “Well, I could make some sort of game where the player dies every ten seconds ; and the level cannot be completed without dying several times, each death unblocking the path in some way or another”. As I could not think of a unique way to die that would allow for several different game mechanics, I chose to have several characters, each one with its own way to die. That happened during the Friday, so that when the theme got revealed (it was around 3 A.M. on Saturday in France), I already had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to do (the platformer format more or less imposed itself to me on its own. Besides, I suck at making graphics viewed from the top).

That was the genesis of the project. Now is the classic good/wrong part :

What went wrong

Collision code : I knew it would be the worst part to write, and it was. It took me almost half of the time I spent coding (or at lest it felt that way), and it still is not perfect. I went through three separate approach, rewrote  the same piece of code several times, and ended up chosing a dirty “test one pixel at time” way which will surely slow down the game with more entities (the player is the only entity in the game as of now, save for the spinning vortex which spawns you).

Playtesting : I did do some playtesting by making sure each level was achievable, but most of it got eaten up by “ok, collisions seem to work, see if I can break it again with some tricky falling-on-a-tile-form-the-upper-left corner case”. I did see that waiting could be annoying, but adding a suicide button felt cheap and, worst of all, allowed for playing a life in less than 10 seconds (in my mind, I was being disrespectful toward the theme). With some thoughts, I think I was so annoyed by the collisions not working properly that I brushed of this problem as being a “mere balancing task, something done when all the rest is working”, even though I knew by experience that in a 48-hours project, there I rarely time left at the end to polish things up.

Submitting my game : although I knew I had a slow Internet connection, I did not expected my game to be 15 Mo ; that was the first and last time I packaged libraries in the same jar. As such, I almost could not submit my game before the compo deadline, and it was because of the music, which took roughly half the size of the game, and ended up not even playing correctly. The Submission Hour totally saved me that time, and I was happy to learn it even existed.

What went right

Graphics : the only times I did pixel art, I did not have any time limit, and I spent around 2 hours doing a single 13 frames animation with Paint. This time, I went for simple graphics, but since I learned one thing or two about color palettes, I tried to put it to good use (yeah, being colorblind, that was the right part to start from…). I ended up creating every piece of graphics in grey (most of the time, four tones were enough, although I used five at some point), then choosing the colors and doing the substitution. Anyway, that part was fun.

Music : I did some music ! That is an accomplishment, since I had little experience with the software I used (Aria Maestosa). It ended up being also quite fun, although finding the right note is harder than finding the right color. I spent 2 hours and a half on the main theme, and 1 hour and a half on the level background music.

Code : I started warming up during the summer by learning libGDX, and started a basic platformer on Friday to be able to identify right away the most problematic issues. Turns out, the only one I encountered was the collision code… But there was no other big, time-consuming bugs or features (even the circular selection went good ; Mathematics classes were really helpful with that one !).

As a conclusion…

Of course, I am working on a post-compo version of Ephemeral. I think I will let the title as it is now, but some changes will be made according to the feedback  I got and the ideas I want to implement. Right now, this means I already have a suicide button and animated tiles in the game. I also corrected some of the code, which will make it easier to modify the map dynamically for me.

I enjoyed participating in my first Ludum Dare, and I hope I will be able to enter it again as soon as possible. I hope I will be able to make games I will be even prouder of than this one!

Update #2 : whoops !

Posted by
Sunday, August 25th, 2013 6:25 pm

Well, the Ludum Dare #27 has ended only mere minutes ago. As it was my first one, I find it quite enjoyable ; but I love games as much as making them, and I also “love” rushing thing in the end while I tok my time during the afternoon.

I knew my Internet connection was very slow, but I did not expect my .jar to be 16 Mo (which took me a whole 9 minute to upload). A quick inspection revealed that the two music I made (which were .mid converted to .wav) made up half of it. If that was the only problem I got, I could have submitted it 9 minutes before the deadline.

But of course, a wild issue appeared ! It used “You know, the music files which took you so long to upload ? Well, they are not playing.“, and it was super effective. I then converted them into .mp3, cut some other unused files, and exported a new .jar.

Which finished uploading one. minute. after. the. deadline.

TL;DR : that Submission Hour thingy was the best thing that happened to me this weekend. Also, here is my entry.

Technically, you should have lost before even beginning to play my game.

Play The Game ; you know you want to …

Well, see you tomorrow (well, kind of later today) for some game rating ! It will be fun !

Update #1 : everything’s okay for now

Posted by
Saturday, August 24th, 2013 2:44 pm

So… although I spent the whole morning and part of the afternoon trying to get the collision with the wordl to work correctly, I now have enough content to put up a first version of what I will submit later.

The codename for this game is Ephemeral. I decided to mix two of the themes I liked the most, 10 seconds and Death is Useful, and ended up with a puzzle platformer (yeah, original).

In Ephemeral (the name is, well, not definitive), you control little toys (as of now, little red sqaures with letters on them). Each of them has a very short lifespan, and live only for 10 seconds ; once the limit is reached, it dies. But it is up to you to make it so that its death was not in vain ! Each toy has its own properties, and each one dies in a different way, providing you with a new platform to walk on, destroying some walls around it, and so on.

Currently, there are 7 levels in the first version. As the code is still not quite working as intended, I made it so that pressing N and L at the same time skips the current level.

Enough talk now : you can download it here !

If I follow the planning I just made up 5 minutes ago, I should upload a v2 sometime around Sunday in the afternoon, so let me know what you think ! (and if someone has some good ressources on collision detection… I made no progress since my last (and first) platformer on that, wich is kind of sad.)

I’m in (too)

Posted by
Tuesday, August 20th, 2013 11:36 am

I can finally take part in a Ludum Dare. Yay~

I plan to use libGDX (Java it is, of course). I think I’ll use sxfr for sounds, and if I ever go as far as adding music, I may use Aria Maestosa. Graphics will be done with mspaint.exe because frankly, who cares about pixels ? Ok ok, I may use Paint.NET or the GIMP if I have some time to spare. Near the end.

Also, Tiled ! Because I grew tired of editing my level in an array of integers.

Anyway, I cannot wait for the weekend to start. Good luck to everybody taking part in LD27 !

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