When the theme was announced, the first brainstorm I had was a game where the start button, options button, music+sound sliders all fit on a screen and were elements your character interacted with (like, you could slide the music slider while your character stood on it). Wanting at least a few ideas to choose from, my next brainstorm was to just go through a bunch of game genres and think about what they’d be like on a single screen. Going through the genres, I arrived upon pinball, and next thing I knew I was making a pinball game. But! No ordinary pinball game. I thought: What could someone do with pinball to make me want to play it? My conclusion was to make it a Pinball RPG!
A three-table pinball layout sketch
Of course, things started out more ambitiously than they ended up. It was to be “Pinball Quest”, a game where you were a pinball-shaped knight and made your way up 3 pinball tables (all on one screen) until you defeated a dragon boss. As you made it past the first table on the left you would wrap around to the bottom of the second table, and so on. To make things interesting, I had the idea that some areas of the screen would be “fighting” areas, and some would be “healing” areas, so you would try to get to the different parts of the screen depending on your knight’s condition. Also, the enemies would fling projectiles at you and your pinball would take damage directly.
Sketches for what the ball character could be
I quickly sketched out a few ideas of what the pinball could look like, and, after mocking up the 3-pinball-table layout in GameMaker, decided that the character was too small on the screen for my tastes. I like my characters to be big and identifiable on the screen, so long as they’re not so big that gameplay is sacrificed. So, I went to a 2-pinball table layout (still too small!) and finally a single pinball table layout like this:
Unfortunately, even getting to the game to the point where it was in that screenshot took far too long. I was 11 hours into the jam before I had the pinball physics working in an acceptable manner. Here’s where I’ll say something to my future LDing self: Try to pick something where you don’t get bogged down in physics hell so you can spend less time at things you are not so good at and more time on things that you are better at, like game design and balance. Ok there. I went to sleep at 5am the first night, 11 hours into the jam.
From generic pinball to knight to sumo!
When I woke up the next day, I started trying on different things that the main character could be. I jotted down “armadillo”, “hedgehog”, “planet”, and “beach ball” before a flash of inspiration hit and I drew up that sumo sprite you see above. I just love his big round body juxtaposed with his tiny little limbs! The first time I swapped out the knight sprite for the sumo, it made me laugh out loud, so I knew I was onto something good there. I spent the next 30 minutes on “boing technology”, adding some subtle scaling to the sumo so he feels more fleshy and less metallic.
And so ends part 1 of my Post Mortem. Part 2 to come later. Maybe.