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How it all went down.

Posted by (twitter: @jasonrendel)
Thursday, August 29th, 2013 4:36 pm

This is a repost from my personal blog, but figured I might as well throw it up here too! I tweaked a few things to make it applicable to this audience.

Day 1

The event started at 9 pm for me. I feel sorry for those of you overseas! I spent about two hours thinking through different ideas and working out how I could implement them before coming up with an idea inspired by the game Lemmings. I thought it would be cool to have something where you are directing characters to some sort of goal. For the theme tie in, I was imagining different methods of directing the characters, that would last for 10 seconds. I figured I would find more ways to tie it to the theme as I went.

I needed an idea for my characters now. At first, I thought of the minion characters from the movie Despicable Me. They seemed like a perfect fit for a lemming type role. I knew I couldn’t just copy that idea, but I opened up my graphic editor and started working on a walking animation, picturing minions in my head.

I’ve never done character animations before, but a quick search online showed me the basics of how to draw walking legs. Soon enough I had the basics down. But I needed my own character. The iconic yellow minion with blue overalls wasn’t going to cut it. I started thinking about construction workers in general, with their orange work pants and googled, “orange jumpsuit” for some inspiration.

It wasn’t long before I saw a picture of an astronaut and all the sudden it all came together. The setting would be in space on a ship. The crew of the ship would need to navigate their way across the ship, with doors randomly opening and closing, and other random events like fires, airlocks opening to outer space, etc, happening on a 10 second cycle. You would be given tools to open and close doors and redirect the crew.

By 4 am Saturday morning, I had my character animation and a few other graphics complete.



Day 2

Saturday morning by around 10, I had eaten breakfast, walked the dog, and was ready to work. I knew I had spent a lot of time so far on just my character animation and still had multiple graphics I would need. I’m not a graphic artist, so it was slow going. But I decided I better start programming and get some of the game itself done. I had chosen to use the Unity 3D engine. I had only jumped into learning Unity about a month ago, and had even put up a tutorial for it based off what I had learned. Pretty basic stuff, but I was picking it up fast. I worked Saturday till about 6pm when I needed to head out for a bit. I was back and ready to work around 9pm and had another good session of coding and graphics. By 4:30 am Sunday, I was ready to call it quits for the night.

Saturday felt like a good day of work, but I still had a game that had no user interaction and was not even tied to the theme yet. There was a space ship with rooms and crew members walking around it. They would stay contained to the outer walls of the space ship, but were walking through interior walls as they pleased. They were also getting stuck in right corners. I needed to turn the simulation into a game, tie in the theme, add player interaction, add a start menu and credits/score screen, and polish and fix the bugs. I had a lot of work left.

Day 3

Sunday I was eager to get started and got back at it by 9:30 am. I had done a lot of the graphics but still had a few things to make. I quickly threw together some doors and then jumped back into programming. I’m actually really pleased with the progress I made on Sunday. I hit very few slow downs and my game was pretty bug free. I got all the collision detection finished, albeit very crudely programmed. But it was there and working. I finished up door interactions and got them opening and closing randomly on 10 second cycles.

My plan for user interaction was to use a playing card type system. The player would have a “hand” of 4-6 cards. Every 10 seconds they would be dealt new cards to fill their hand back to 6. These cards could be move tiles, to redirect the crew, door open/close tiles to open and close doors, fire extinguisher cards to put out room fires, etc. By this point, I realized random fires were not going to happen. And I wasn’t going to have time to implement airlock doors and animate the crew being sucked out. For testing purposes, I had also allowed the player to open and close doors simply by clicking on them. So I decided the card system would just be for move tiles. I quickly put together the graphics I would need and went to work on the redirection logic. Again, I was pleasantly surprised how quickly it came together. The most difficult part was getting them to work well next to doors, and making sure the different actions the character could take were processed in the proper order.

Around 6pm I had finished up all the game functionality I wanted (about 3 hours before the end of the competition). I then spent the next 3 hours polishing and testing the game. Fixing any small bugs I found, updating graphics to make sure the color palette worked well together and making sure the web version of my game was up and running.


Final Thoughts

Like I said earlier, I had a ton of fun with this. My wife was great, letting me program all weekend. I’m currently working on a game for iOS, but I’ve never released anything publicly yet. So it was extremely satisfying to complete a working game and put it out there. I’m really happy with the way the game came out. There are a few things I want to change eventually. I feel the game is a bit too hard right now and there is a bit too much randomness. The movement tiles lasting only 10 seconds is not long enough and would really help with the difficulty if they lasted longer. So I will definitely tweak those once judging has ended.

I also didn’t get around to doing sound, apart from a single effect when you save a crew member. I used CFXR to make my single effect but was unable to come up with anything else I liked. I had wanted to make a sound effect for the doors opening and closing that I would play every 10 seconds, but it just didn’t happen.

Apart from those issues, I think the game turned out great. I calculated in the end I worked about 30-32 hours, with about 12 of those spent on graphics. I’m still amazed at how much I was able to accomplish in that amount of time. But as impressed as I am with myself, all I have to do is check out some of the entries you guys have created, and I’m blown away at what some people are able to accomplish!

Feel free to check out my entry and let me know what you think!



Save Them – Postmortem

Posted by (twitter: @jasonrendel)
Tuesday, August 27th, 2013 2:57 pm

First off, a big THANK YOU to Ludum Dare and the guys who run things behind the scene. This was my first game jam and I had a BLAST! I slept about 4 hours each night, but never really felt tired. I also had about 3 hours I had to be away for a prior engagement, but still managed to finish my game. This is the first complete game I’ve made in a long time, and the first time I’ve ever done something publicly. So I’m pretty happy with the result. So far I’ve played and rated about 20 games I think and I’m continually being impressed by what people have done.


The Game

I made the game Save Them. I guess you could call it an arcade / simulation. You’ve got space ship crew coming out of stasis (ie spawning) every 10 seconds and you need to get them to the escape pods in another part of the ship. They walk in a straight line until they hit a wall and then turn in a random direction. If they pass a door, they will go through it. You can open and close doors to direct them, but every 10 seconds the ship also goes haywire and opens and closes random doors.

To help you guide them, every 10 seconds you get some random movement tiles that you can place. These tiles redirect the crew and last for 10 seconds themselves. Your goal is to save as many crew members as you can before the ship explodes (after 20 ten second cycles).

Fun Times (The Good)

I’m a programmer by profession, but I had a ton of fun making the graphics. They took me a long time though! I estimated I spent around 30 hours in total working during the 48 hour window, and about 12-14 of those hours on graphics. So almost half my time. But it was worth it to see my own creations come to life on the screen. The programming all went smooth, with only one bug that stumped me for a good hour and a half right near the start. My code however, is pretty ugly! I quickly gave up trying to develop smart, modular code, and quickly went with hard coding and doing whatever was fastest.

In terms of sleep, I actually felt great. Slept about 4 hours each night. A couple hours before submission I was pretty much done everything I knew I could accomplish and just focused on polish and fixing up some images, colors etc. Thats about when it all hit me and I started to feel pretty tired.

Seeing other people play the game and rate it, is very rewarding too. I am definitely looking forward to more of these!

The Bad

Not a lot actually! I spent about 2 hours brainstorming and working through a couple ideas before I had finalized on this one. I had plans to add a couple more features, like a random room catching fire every 10 seconds, and air lock doors which would randomly open. I was then going to have tiles you could get in your inventory that would put out fires or close airlock doors. So if you had those tiles great, otherwise you’d have to be more clever with keeping crew out of those rooms and closing off rooms with open airlocks. But I quickly realized I wouldn’t have time for that, and with the limited ship size and movement areas, it would have really added to the chaotic feel :)

I feel there is a bit too much randomness in the crew movement patterns and the move tiles you place disappear too fast. Maybe increasing their duration to 20 seconds would have helped.

Sound was my biggest issue. I have one sound effect. For starters, I know nothing about generating sound and had downloaded cfxr ahead of time. But I hadn’t used it much and had a hard time generating the effects I wanted. Every 10 seconds when the doors scramble, I wanted to play a sound of them opening/closing which I think would have added a lot to the game and the 10 second cycle theme. But I just ran out of time. A couple more sound effects and some appropriate background music would have really helped.

My Entry

Please give it a try and let me know what you think!


Once again, thanks to everyone who helps run Ludum Dare, its a great event and I can’t wait for the next!

Done and Submitted!

Posted by (twitter: @jasonrendel)
Sunday, August 25th, 2013 6:47 pm

My first game jam is under wraps and I’m pretty happy with the results. Did a lot of graphic work too, and I think they turned out pretty good for a programmer. Was also the first time I’ve ever drawn my own animated characters! More game details are all on my submission page.

Save Them gameplay

Save Them

Web version is up, which I assume will work for most people. I’ll try to get a Windows and OS X version uploaded soon. I’d love to hear your feedback!


I had a ton of fun doing this, and will most likely put up a postmortem / blog post when I’ve had some rest :)

I’m In! First Timer

Posted by (twitter: @jasonrendel)
Friday, August 16th, 2013 8:41 am

This will be my first game jam and I’m excited to participate and use it as a learning experience! I’m a developer by profession with a few game related things on the side for iOS. Never released anything game related publicly, so hopefully I can change that with this jam! Last week I started working on learning Unity 3D using the Futile framework (a code centric framework thats more up my alley for now). This way I can publish for the web, a lot more accessible than iOS.

Unfortunately, I have some prior engagements that weekend, so won’t be able to benefit from the full 48 hours, but will do my best!


Game Engine: Unity 3D with the Futile framework for 2D development

Language: C#

Graphics: GIMP

Sound: Probably cfxr if I have time, maybe something else if I find other options



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