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I might be in (if I can find time)

Posted by (twitter: @Hregrin)
Friday, December 9th, 2016 12:02 pm

Hey all! I’d like to enter my second LD but I honestly do not know if I will find time to produce anything this week-end. Anyway, even if I don’t make it, I think I’ll attempt to produce a game based on the theme chosen. Gotta keep those skills in good shape, right?

Good luck everyone!

It’s dead, Jim! – A LD35 Post-Mortem

Posted by (twitter: @Hregrin)
Tuesday, April 19th, 2016 8:31 am
Heart of the Forest

Title art for Hregrin’s entry in LD#35

Hi! I’m Hregrin, and I’m a 30-something from Belgium with no previous game development experience. I have worked as a web developer so coding doesn’t frighten me, and I have fiddled a tiny bit with Unity before but apart from that I started fresh. I also had close to no experience with C#. And yet, foolish me, I wanted to use this LD as a reserved time to learn about game making. I haven’t been let down.

So yeah, here’s a bit of context about the making of Heart of the Forest, my entry which you can try and rate right now (well, you can read this before – or after – whatever, don’t let an internet stranger tell you what to do).

Prep work

It’s been a while I’ve wanted to learn to use Unity and C# to make games. But hey, life gets in the way, you know. I had been lurking at Ludum Dare for a bit, so when I saw the theme selection process for LD35 had started, and I was free this week-end, I told myself “why not”. Having never released anything, I had relatively few pressure and I knew I’d learn a lot even if I ended up not submitting anything.

In the weeks before the jam, I did close to nothing to prepare myself. I probably should have, though. I would have ended up gaining a lot of time during the jam itself had I done it.

The only thing I did was brainstorming ideas based on the last round themes. I ended up not using any of them, but it was a good exercise anyway.

Theme announcement

I live in Europe and I work nights, so I had the luxury to discover the theme at the time it was announced, and to start brainstorming ideas right from the start. The downside of it all was of course that I spent most of my saturday sleeping to recover. It took me a while to find a viable game idea, though. I realize now I approached the theme the wrong way around. I spent lots of time thinking setting > game genre > mechanics, when I should have thought mechanics > game genre > setting. When I realized that, usable ideas came pretty fast.

So this was my first lesson (even though I knew it already). A game is only as good as its mechanics are, and they are the core of everything. Lesson learned.

During the jam: what went wrong

Having close to no knowledge about the tools I used, I had to dig the internet to answer even the most basic questions. It took me a while to get a working prototype of my most basic mechanics, and a lot of what I have done is probably done a wrong way (provided there is a good and a wrong way to do stuff). I was finaly able to overcome my lack of knowledge thanks to our fellow LDer Quill18 and his YouTube channel, the Unity manual (which could be expanded in terms of use-cases) and the internet at large.

Knowing it would take me a whole lot of time to learn, I delved into dev as soon as my idea came up. It blocked me from thinking my gameplay ideas through and prototyping them on paper. This led to some disappointment in the last hours, when I thought of everything I could have done better had I taken the time to think things through.

That damn clock. Time management isn’t really my forte but I know I could have done better in that field. I ended up spending a very, very long time on the graphics and animation (yet another field I knew nothing about when starting), time that might have been better used polishing the gameplay, the user feedback and finding sound effects – which I ended up not doing at all because of time constraints.

During the jam: what went right

I was in for the learning boost implied by self-imposed dev time. I haven’t been disappointed. I have learned more in 72h than I have in my entire life before. It also remembered me that the brain is a muscle you have to train. You learn how to get ideas by trying to get ideas. You learn how to design games by designing games. You learn how to learn by learning (gosh, that’s a whole lot of learning).

Even though art took me a while to do, I’m very, very happy with the way it turned out. Sure, I could have done smoother animations, more variety and stuff but hey, given the time I had to complete, I’m proud of what I have produced (and I now know I haven’t lost all my drawing chops over time).

Despite the time needed to learn how to actually make my game, I have managed to submit something that resembles a game. Even if it is deeply imperfect and tiny and flawed, I’m proud of it like I haven’t been of something I made for a while. This reminds that, if I give myself the mandatory kicks in the butt, I am able to achieve things. And it feels great.

The final hours

So here we are. It’s 11.30 PM. Entries are due for 3.00 AM CEST. I’m clicking the “Build and run” button. Soon I’ll have an executable for each major platform, I’ll submit them and I’ll go to sleep. The last hours have been tiring, trying to fix stuff and prioritizing my endless to-do list. Everything works.

Or does it?

I double click the executable and… nothing. After the Unity splash screen, the game hangs and crashes. The log shows no error. The console shows no error. And yet I do not have a working game.

After two hours of searching the internet for an error I can’t even really describe, I decide on a hunch to disable my GUI elements. It works. But then I have no UI. Well, 1.30 AM is a great time to learn, isn’t it?

It’s 2 AM. My build works. Now’s the time to build for other platforms. Or not. The drop-down list only shows Windows. A quick googling shows me I should have read the installer completely before clicking OK. And yes, 2 AM is a perfect time to reinstall Unity.

2.30 AM, my builds are done and uploaded to itch.io, my entry page is submitted. I’m the most exhausted I’ve been in a long time. Those final hours are a killer. And yet I feel the best I’ve felt in a long time, too. I’m relieved. I’m proud.

I want to do it again.

Thanks for reading! Now go play some games (mine, for example)!

Heart of the Forest

Posted by (twitter: @Hregrin)
Sunday, April 17th, 2016 10:38 am

This is my first LD, and it will actually be my first released game. It took me a long time to find an idea to work with, and I had to sleep more than I wanted (I work nights, and I was at work the night the jam started). It also took me quite a long time to learn stuff on the fly, which I should probably have taken before the start.

Anyway as we get closer to the deadline I still think (and hope) I can produce something that more or less looks like a game.

So, almost two days into the jam and my game is beginning to look like something. It is a shmup called “Heart of the Forest”.

Elevator pitch

The Heart of the Forest has been corrupted. You are some kind of druid/shaman and your goal is to cleanse it. You can draw upon the power of spirit animals to complete your mission (and that is where the shapeshifting comes into play).

What I have

  • A character that can move, shoot and die
  • Two enemies that can attack and die (a corrupted boar that rushes towards the bottom of the screen, and a corrupted snake that shoots venom towards the player)
  • A camera set to auto-scroll
  • Placeholder art for all that

What I still need

  • More enemy variety
  • A boss fight
  • Proper art and animations
  • Sounds
  • Shapeshifting attacks

What I’d like to have (but don’t think I’ll have the time to make)

  • More levels allowing you to free the spirit animals and gain new powers

Goals

  • Have a playable prototype build tonight that is more or less feature-complete so that I can get some playtest data to fine-tune.
  • Work on art and sound tomorrow so that I can release to the public on time.

That’s more or less all there is to say! Back to work!

I’m in (or at least I’ll try)

Posted by (twitter: @Hregrin)
Sunday, April 10th, 2016 6:50 pm

This is gonna be my first time, and I’m working on my own, so I’m not absolutely positive I’ll be able to produce anything, but at least I want to give it a try!

I will probably use Unity and some kind of 2D hand-drawn art, but that might change based on the theme…

I also welcome any advice and suggestions you could give to a first-timer :)

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