It looks like my bolstered confidence from this jam was indeed justified. I have submitted to 4 LDs including this one, but for this LD, I set a new personal best in every single category in which I got a rating (except Coolness). Not all of those new records are by a significant amount, though; the reason I’m so happy is not because of the improvements in my strongest categories, but the improvements in my weakest categories- the quality of my work is more consistent across categories without having lost any of my strengths. I still have to refine my methods a good deal, but the changes in my work habits I resolved to make for this LD paid off. This is my first solid evidence that I’m actually getting better at this.
So, why’d I do how I did in each category, and how do I improve?
#76. Innovation – 3.67 (previous best: 3.64, LD21)
I usually do well here, but I was still surprised at my performance this time, because I deliberately constrained my brainstorming. As I mentioned in my “I’m In” post, I wrote “NO GAME GENRE REFERENCES ALLOWED” in large letters across the top of my brainstorming sheet. However, I also made sure not to accept an idea unless it was low-scope enough to actually pull off well (I was SERIOUSLY tempted to go with a cooler but much higher-scope idea). As a result, I adopted a rather generic arcade-style gameplay structure to maintain that low scope, but the primary gameplay mechanic isn’t quite like any game I know of, since it wasn’t designed with any existing game or genre in mind. While almost certainly something new, it’s still nothing hugely out of the ordinary. If I want to improve, I’ll have to find ideas in that small overlap between “low-scope” and “attention-grabbingly unique”- quite a difficult task.
#94. Theme – 3.83 (previous best: 3.80, LD21)
I’m also a bit surprised about how this was my highest-rated category. I thought it was a pretty standard implementation of the theme… perhaps people liked how I offered a sympathetic portrayal of the “villain”, but that was just in text outside of the game proper. Improving here’s not my highest priority, but as long as I don’t keep my idea too much of stretch from the theme, hopefully it’ll improve hand-in-hand with Innovation.
#174. Fun – 3.25 (previous best: 3.05, LD23)
This is always my highest priority, but also hard to complete satisfactorily within 48 hours. As per my game-design training, the gameplay has a solid “core” (the challenge of picking up humans without dropping them). However, I was aware going in that I would get a few marks down for some gameplay flaws that could easily be fixed given more time (i.e. humans staying out of reach, weird chain-of-humans physics). I intentionally saved these kinds of tweaks for later. In the past, I’ve fixed an emergent flaw as soon as I detected it, but this caused me to neglect other aspects of gameplay, as well as almost all of the graphics and audio, preventing me from working on a more “complete” experience.
#181. Overall – 3.33 (previous best: 3.00, LD23)
I like how this was my biggest non-audiovisual improvement. I think it reflects the fact that this is a more “complete” product than my past entries, as I mentioned previously. This was the first time I feel like I properly scoped for 48 hours. I do still need to improve on “completeness”, though, and I think that’s the primary way I’ll be able to improve my Overall rating. The graphics and audio, while present to the degree they “need” to be, were still noticeably bare-minimum, and the gameplay still needs some more polish (see “Fun”).
#206. Audio – 2.92 (previous best: 2.18, LD23)
My most-improved category for obvious reasons (for the first time, I have music). I suspect this was brought down by a noob mistake I made and didn’t find out about until well into the rating period: after each round, the game started playing a new instance of the background music from the beginning, but kept playing the previous instance of the music at the same time. I’m going to be a bit more rigorous with my audio testing in the future to make sure nothing like this happens again.
#272. Graphics – 3.17 (previous best: 2.69, LD24)
I’m surprised that my programmer-art got me above the 3.00 threshold. I guess I just have to keep making sure that I don’t include any assets well beyond my drawing capabilities- though I was kind of proud of the way I disguised the collision boxes with the design of the mothership. I think, if I am to improve here, I have to go for a consistent, stylized aesthetic (ideally minimalistic), and find the time to do non-essential things like illustrated instructions, non-default UI graphics, background imagery, and “juicy” visual effects.
#1048. Coolness – 22% (current best: 32%, LD23)
As usual, I struggled to find time to rate other participants’ games, between holiday plans (including a trip to New York for New Year’s Eve), commitments with friends (as students at different colleges, winter break is the only chance we really have to catch up with each other), and various obligations. I’m graduating in May- hopefully, come LD27, I’ll have more free time.
Humor – N/A (current best: 3.25, LD21)
I included a little humorous story on the game’s ratings page, but I didn’t really intend the game to be all that humorous… just cute/lighthearted fun.
Mood – N/A (current best: 2.53, LD23)
I know I find mood hard to rate for most games (and usually abstain), and I’m betting most other voters do too. Like I said, I was going for a cute/lighthearted aesthetic, but I’m not sure it’s really stylized enough to constitute a “mood”… I guess the voters agreed. Plus, I think some voters use the Mood category only for melancholy or artsy aesthetics… those are the only ones I find easy to rate myself.