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We’re In

Posted by
Friday, April 15th, 2016 7:57 pm

This will be our fourth Ludum Dare in a row, and we don’t want to break that streak, so our team of 3 will be in LD35.
Have a great game jam everyone, best of luck!

WHAT THE **** IS MOOD?

Posted by
Sunday, December 20th, 2015 1:13 am

We’ve all seen it lurking down there. Under the ratings for ‘theme’, and for ‘audio’, and for all the elements that make a cool Ludum Dare game, there sits the ominous rating – ‘mood’. I’ve been in three Ludum Dare jams now and each time, there’s been some confusion over what the ‘mood’ rating actually means. I’m here to give you my interpretation of the ‘mood’ rating in the hopes of clearing things up.

I’ve heard a ton of Twitch streamers and plenty of commenters alluding to the ‘mood’ rating being something to do with moodiness. I mean, ‘mood’ does sound like moody which is probably one reason for this being the case, but the other is that ‘mood’ immediately follows ‘humor’ in the ratings list. To me, this implies that ‘mood’ is being treated as the opposite of ‘humor’ (especially since all of the rating categories are optional, allowing you to select between these two opposites depending on which applies to your game). I think a lot of people have inferred this meaning from ‘mood’.

‘Mood’, however, doesn’t necessarily have to have sad or melancholic connotations. People can be in a good mood as well as a bad mood. I think that the ‘mood’ category refers simply to a portrayal of emotion, be that a positive or negative emotion. I personally would define the ‘mood’ category as “all the elements of your game contributing to a cohesive atmosphere.” That atmosphere could be a humorous, scary, light-hearted, harrowing or frantic one. Ludum Dare games come in all flavours. To me, ‘mood’ is an amalgamation of many of the other rating categories coming together as a whole to produce engaging and consistent game feel

So, if ‘mood’ is just a combination of other categories, why not get rid of it altogether? Imagine, if you will, a Ludum Dare entry with an ingenious new horror game mechanic well deserving of 5 stars. It also has an incredible 10-minute loop to rival any game soundtrack. Unfortunately, the music is a be-bop influenced lounge jazz solo that utterly destroys any semblance of terror in the game. Both the ‘audio’ and ‘innovation’ categories may be fully deserving of the full 5 stars, but the mood that those two categories create in tandem is worth no more than a solid 1 star.

This isn’t to say that your mood has to be completely constant and unwavering. A sad scene can punctuate an otherwise funny or happy game and make for a poignant moment that stays with the audience for a long time to come. A funny comment used tactically can bring much needed comic relief to a game dealing with depressing, traumatic themes. Balancing several different moods in a game takes careful design and writing to do well, so have some consideration in order to avoid the undesirable situation of your player being left with no idea how they’re supposed to feel. Emotional confusion generally isn’t favorable.

Thanks for sticking with my rant about this until the end, and bear in mind that this is all personal opinion. Hell, whoever chose the rating categories may have specifically meant ‘mood’ to refer to dark and moody games. I’ve no idea, shit.
Head to this page if you want to play our game Hyperdemocracy, and enjoy the rest of your Ludum Dare with your profound new insight about the ‘mood’ category!

Freedom is Mandatory

Posted by
Thursday, December 17th, 2015 10:11 am

Hey everyone, hope you’re enjoying LD34 so far! I’m Mat, programmer for our game Hyperdemocracy.

Play it here!

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This time around, LD was a pretty unique experience for me. My usual partner in crime unfortunately had prior arrangements on Saturday and much of Sunday and Monday, so we knew from the start that he wasn’t to be relied on. So, betrayed by my now estranged cousin I embarked upon LD34 alone, with very little idea of how work flow was going to happen.

I’ve been frequenting a Teamspeak server for some time now (specifically about the game Keep Talking And Nobody Explodes) where I’ve made many firm friends over the last couple of months. I thought the people there might be interested in what was going on, so over the weekend I was sat in a custom channel with a Twitch stream live and on Saturday I started work.

 

Over the first few hours a few people popped in and out, curious as to what was happening, but more than just folks who wanted to check out some of the development on stream, many people began to offer their services if I needed help. The end result was almost like a crowdsourced game, with elements provided from quite an extensive list of people who slowly joined the team over the course of the weekend, some of whom provided way more of their time and effort than I could ever have expected, as if they had agreed to be part of the team before LD began. I can’t thank my team enough for their help. A full credits list can be found at the link above (including my cousin who did eventually join us towards the end to provide some sweet music and UI artwork for TwoButton.com)


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So, what went wrong?

DELEGATION:
Outsourcing my tasks was generally fairly successful but one particular big mistake cost be valuable hours that came back to haunt me in the form of several bugs that made it into the final build. More on that later though. One of my teammates took on the hefty task of writing the vast majority of our dialogue, and if you’ve played our game you’ll know that we have a lot. Not only this but I asked them to come up with the regular character the player would see talking in the chat room, which was a mistake on my part. That’s not to say they did a bad job, as I think the characters and the dialogue really shine in this game, but over Sunday, I began to run out of things to code. The framework was in and it just needed content to be added to it, but I wasn’t able to write any dialogue myself because I didn’t know what characters my writer had thought up. I ended up slowing down some on Sunday, and if I’d been able to keep up the momentum I would’ve had more bug fixing time at the end. In hindsight, I should have made characters myself and then had both myself and my writer both coming up with dialogue together.


BUGS:

As mentioned, I have a list of bugs in the submitted build that’s a lot longer than I care to mention. None of them are really game breaking, most are aesthetic issues, but they wear away at the polish and it irks me that they exist.

In general, we had a fairly successful project, I can’t really think of much else that went wrong. Without further ado, what went right?

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RISK:

The crowdsourcing aspect was clearly risky. I could’ve asked ten people to do jobs for me and gotten back utter crap from every last one of them. I’m still kind of amazed that the reality couldn’t be further from that. Not only were the people who helped out often doing jobs they had little to no experience doing, as far as I know none of them have made a game before, either. And everyone nailed it. As mentioned, dialogue and characterization from our writer was excellent, and on top of that we have some incredible violin and banjo music (I’m even listening to it night now) that perfectly capture the atmosphere of the game. I was also provided with some wonderful environment art, and a few other people who really crunched Monday’s workload with sound effects, formatting dialogue into code I could simply copy/paste into the game, and game testing which freed up more time for me to add as much content into the game as possible before the end.

THEME:

Rather annoyingly, the last two times I’ve done LD, our original concept stuck to the theme, but both final builds lacked much reference to it, if any, simply because there wasn’t time to add the part of the idea that was actually based on the theme. This time around, I’m really happy with our interpretation of the Two Button Controls theme. I didn’t want to make a game literally controlled with two buttons since I knew that would be the case for most entries, so making a game that stuck to the theme while having standard WASD + mouse controls was something of a challenge. It’s heavily down to interpretation as to whether a game with more controls defeats the object but personally I’m very happy with the theme’s representation in Hyperdemocracy.

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I’ve set something of a precedent now, having done LD32, LD33 and LD34, so I feel like I’m going to need to keep that streak going. As such, I’ll see you all next year for LD35!

We’re in like Jeremy Lin

Posted by
Sunday, August 16th, 2015 3:03 pm

Well, we had a blast in Ludum Dare 32 – our first ever Ludum Dare – working on our spuriously titled game Latvian Milk, so we’re throwing our hats into the ring for a second time. This time with more than three hours notice.

The creative juices are starting to flow as we peruse the themes that have made it to the final vote. We’ve seen some themes that we think would make for interesting and diverse game submissions; our fingers are crossed for Hidden Information, Abandoned or Expanding World among others.

Our lead artist has spent the warm-up weekend really getting into the developer headspace, getting into the flow of things and polishing his skills. He’s done this by spending the entire weekend coding.

We think he may be slightly misguided in his time allocation.

We’re looking forward to meeting up with the friends we made back in April and we’re excited to see the new ideas they being to the table. We also handed out our “Cream of the Crop” award last time to anyone that earned a 5 star rating from us and we’ll be handing out a shiny new trophy this time around to those most esteemed of games.

Good luck everyone, we look forward to playing your games!

Latvian Milk Post-Mortem

Posted by
Saturday, April 25th, 2015 4:03 pm

The Latvian Milk team here with our game’s post-mortem. Hope you enjoy!

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WHAT WENT WRONG

Theming. So, this time around we were tasked with making a game based on the theme of ‘an unconventional weapon’. And, well… Our weapons weren’t particularly unconventional, truth be told. This was more a problem of time constraints that it was a lack of unconventional ideas. We had plans to add a plethora of weird and wonderful weapons, such as a handheld battery-powered rotary fan, a toothbrush, an orbiting familiar that would shock the enemies near it, and a pistol that fired boomeranging shurikens (called the shurigun, naturally). We began by adding in the more basic guns: a pistol, an uzi, a laser carbine, a gatling gun and the like. Fortunately we did manage to fit in one unconventional weapon in the form of a pistol with a tentacle on it that fired eggs. These did substantial damage when connecting with an enemy, but if you missed they would hatch a new enemy, making for an exciting risk/reward dynamic.

Progression. A sense of progression is an important part of any game, or they can often begin to feel a little futile. A kill count or a counter that showed the wave of enemies you were on would have suited this purpose well in Latvian Milk, and was one of the most common downsides mentioned in feedback. Also, more content as the player progressed through the game would’ve been ideal, such as more enemy types or maybe a boss, but we were hard pushed just to get finished what we did and, as is all too often the case, there wasn’t time to add these in.

cheapdeath

Cheap death. If you’ve yet to play Latvian Milk, the main mechanic is that every 12 seconds or so, your gun randomly changes into another brand new weapon, keeping the game unpredictable. Unfortunately, the transition between weapons was in need of a tweak at the point of release, in that it forced the player to stall for a short moment, leaving them vulnerable for that time. Getting hit in this period was pretty much unavoidable and felt cheap and dissatisfying. Another small point about taking hits is that it could have done with being a little more clear when this happened.

Menus. There weren’t any, and that made the game feel a little less polished than it otherwise could have. Menus were actually very nearly in the release build, but less than an hour before the deadline our final release build crashed catastrophically. We didn’t fix it in time and reverted to uploading our most recently compiled build from an hour or so previous. This build also has some secret developer debug controls, though fortunately nobody seems to have yet stumbled across them. On a small side note, the death screen was a little too abrupt and a little too easy to skip past.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Audio. 8-bit sound effects are something we’ve really not had experience in making, and we’re very happy with how they turned out. We found all the various gun firing sounds to be really satisfying and often quite visceral, and the super-saiyan scream and zombie sounds were suitably humerous. We also powered through some 8-bit music on the second day, something we know a little more about, and wrote a piece of quite substantial length that we loved the sound of. Audio was always going to be an important aspect of Latvian Milk, and it really serves it’s purpose.

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Game feel. We have a blend of 3D lighting in a 2D top-down in Latvian Milk. It was a little bit of a risk, and it’s one that we think certainly paid off. We also included plenty of screen shake and recoil on the heavier weapons, which along with nicely cohesive art and audio made the game feel generally really gratifying.

Huge guns. Seriously, they’re enormous. The Slim Reaper is more than three times the height of our main man Juice. This kind of happened by accident to begin with, because making a good looking gun at the same resolution of the character (16×16) was near impossible, especially for a rookie pixel artist like myself. And we love how absurd they turned out. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

Work flow. We were probably overly ambitious for a first game, and yet looking back, I think we managed to get a lot more than I would now have expected to with more objective hindsight. We achieved pretty much what we set out to achieve having worked damn fast to do so. For two of us, this is our first game release, and only the second game for our third member, so we’re especially happy with what we accomplished.

Bugs. There pretty much aren’t any, and that’s fantastic for how little testing we have time to do. There was one very rare bug where you could clip into a wall when running backwards into a wall firing the Slim Reaper, and that’s about it.

WHAT WE’VE DONE SINCE

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You better believe we’re carrying on with Latvian Milk. And we’ve already made some real headway since our submission just a week ago. We’ve added in some bullet spread to the uzi and minigun so they no longer fire in perfect straight lines, a wave counter and menus with awesome music, a minor bug fix here and there, some cool shadows, the beginnings of transition to 3D walls, a couple of new weapons and an improvement to the pistol so it fires faster and semi-automatically. And we aren’t stopping any time soon.

Click here to play Latvian Milk!

 

Not For The Lactose Intolerant

Posted by
Tuesday, April 21st, 2015 7:42 am

Explosions and lighting!

Latvian Milk is a game by three fledgling game developers who put their debut indie games on ice for 72 hours to partake in LD32. 

While discussing how cool we find indie game jams, we found out that LD32  was commencing in just 5 hours. On a whim – and with almost no previous experience in game development  – we decided to give it a try. We can all proudly say that we’re glad we made that decision.

Latvian Milk is the game that emerged from our endeavors. The final game is a product as much of our original ideas and intent as it is due to happy accidents, and every aspect has been made from scratch over the last three days. It’s really been non-stop from all of us, my fingers hurt from all the different devices I’ve been pressing. Credit to the team: never has Matty previously attempted pixel art (seriously, first time. Look at it!), and I firmly believe that never has one man picked up the Unity engine as fast as Will. It’s his first engine, and he has been coding games for less than a month. I stand in awe.

There are a few important things that need to be discussed. Firstly, there is the theme of LD32: “An Unconventional Weapon.” Latvian Milk accomplishes this in that your weapon completely morphs itself into a new form every few seconds. You have to quickly adjust to your new gun if you’re going to keep the zombies and cthulu-people at bay.

Secondly, are we working on the game any more after LD32? Yes, is the answer. We really like Latvian Milk. We want to expand it beyond it’s current 72-hour horizons, to add in features we have ready and rearing to go and to think up brand new ideas for it in the future. It’s not only a great learning tool for ourselves, but we think this game could be a real winner if a lot more content was added to it.

Lastly, why the name Latvian Milk? Perhaps my grandfather on my mother’s side was a Latvian Milkman, and this game is dedicated to him? Maybe it arose from some heavily abstracted dick joke that only made sense to three sleep deprived friends? Or could it be that the original character sprite looked a bit like- who am I kidding, it’s the dick joke one.

Some last minute complications meant that the final uploaded build isn’t quite what we wanted to submit, but it’s close and we’re pleased with what we could manage. Please try it out – we hope you have as much fun playing it as we did making it.

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