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Ludum Dare 25
 
Ludum Dare 24

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The We Actually Did It Award
Awarded by SecondDimension
on August 27, 2012

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A belated “I’m in!” post for miniLD #48

Posted by
Saturday, January 11th, 2014 2:00 am

This post is a little late but I’m in for miniLD #48 , just about to get started. No idea what I’m doing, or even what I’m using (it’ll either be Flash CC or Construct 2, I’ll decide after I’ve had an idea). I’m using this as a motivation boost, trying to get my 2014 game development off to a good start. Best of luck to everyone involved!

Throwing in the towel!

Posted by
Sunday, December 16th, 2012 1:45 pm

I’ve thrown in the towel, too much stress and misery working on my game and that’s not really what LD is all about for me. I’ve still submitted what I’ve done in all its unfinished glory, click to play.

screen

 

I thought I’d reflect on the experience as a whole and write a post-mortem on what I managed to complete. I’ve learnt a lot, which is always a bonus, as a result I don’t really consider it a failure. The game wasn’t complete for a number of reasons: I bit off more that I could chew (simple mechanics != simple programming), was using unfamiliar software and an unfamiliar engine (due to reasons out of my control) and, amongst other things, I’ve not been very happy with my working environment.

 

What went wrong?

Working environment : I’ve been working on a laptop with a fairly low resolution screen, without a desk and therefore without second monitor, mouse or graphics tablet… first world problems. It is surprising how less efficient I’ve been working with much less screen space and trying to produce art assets using the touchpad of my laptop. I knew it would be a problem but I didn’t realise how much time it would take up. Other environment-related issues included not getting enough decent food in the house, I’ve been living off what little I could scrounge from the cupboards (cue takeaway). Being comfortable and having the right set up is important when trying to churn out a game in 48 hours.

 Art pipeline : Getting artwork from GIMP through to FlashPunk is a smooth process but not an immediate one, as it was when drawing directly into Flash. I’m also not familiar with GIMP, add that with trying to draw with the trackpad and the additional steps involved in getting an image (most with multiple frames) into the game, and it became quite a time sink. I did actually enjoy working with the GIMP (at least it installed… I’m looking at you Photoshop), I think there is a potentially good pipeline there but I need to make sure I’ve got the right tools for the job and just practice to become familiar with the software.

No level edtior and an unfamiliar engine : FlashPunk seems pretty great to be honest, it works well and is smooth. However, I spent a not insignificant amount of time looking stuff up yesterday. As I mentioned above and in a previous post, Flash CS5 (my tool of choice for making games… because I’ve used it to make games before) and Photoshop CS5 wouldn’t install on my laptop. I’d used FlashPunk and FlashDevelop to make a snake clone a few months back and they were both free, so I went for those as I didn’t really have a choice if I wanted to take part. Coupled with that I made the board and positioned all of the game entities using code, I hadn’t had the time to get a level editor sorted nor develop the code to parse a level file.

 

What went right?

FlashDevelop and FlashPunk : Although I mentioned being unfamiliar with FlashPunk as an issue, the engine itself performed admirably. I initially thought about writing the game from scratch with just FlashDevelop but in spite of the problems I believe that using FlashPunk was a good idea and I achieved more than I would have otherwise (if I had just coded an engine from scratch in FlashDevelop). FlashDevelop is a considerably superior IDE than I’m used to as well. Overall, thanks to this combination, coding was much faster than usual. The main thing holding me back in this area was a lack of experience and a sloppy attitude towards structuring the code towards the end, both of which can be rectified.

Deriving mechanics from setting, story and theme : By far one of my weakest areas in designing games is working out the mechanics, what exactly the player is going to be doing. Pretty essential for creating a compelling experience. I’ve found that I have a hard time working from gameplay-to-setting and a much easier time when working from setting-to-gameplay. So in this case, once I knew who the player was inhabiting, where they were, what genre I wanted to work within etc… then it was much easier to start developing the gameplay. My biggest weakness this time around was not being specific enough and pinning down the core mechanics that I wanted, I left it all in my head and it was inevitably too vague and I floundered after getting tired and stressed.

Working on the interface as a whole : To develop the artwork for the game I (eventually) set up a new file in GIMP that was the same resolution as the game and began to work on drawing the interface as a whole (on different layers, grouping into layer folders etc…). I’d then cut out and extract the individual elements into their own files. Although hindered by the issues noted above I enjoyed the process, it helped to get the artwork done and resembles the way that I’d work in Flash (although that is much more immediate).

(more…)

Day 1 reflections

Posted by
Saturday, December 15th, 2012 3:56 pm

Bloody hell, I’d forgotten how hard this is. I thought I’d jot down a few thoughts about the first day’s progress. I’m in quite a similar position as I was after the first day of LD 24, i.e. I’ve been working hard all day and seem to have very little to show for it. Below is a screen shot from the current version of my game:

 

screen1

 

I’ve been working on a digital board game. This time I’ve been using FlashDevelop (with FlashPunk) and GIMP. The combination of FlashDevelop and FlashPunk have been great for coding, the only issue is that I’m not very familiar with FlashPunk and have wasted a fair bit of time just looking things up. However, that couldn’t really be helped as I didn’t realise I’d be using it until Flash CS5 failed to install on this crappy laptop.

The graphics work flow has been slower than last time too for a number of reasons: I’ve not been using my graphics tablet or even my mouse – only using the touchpad (due to a lack of space), I’m also not very familiar with GIMP (cue more looking up the basics) and finally, in Flash I could draw directly into the software which meant that the art-pipeline was much faster. In spite of all that, I think there is a lot of potential for my workflow between GIMP and FlashDevelop/FlashPunk, I just need more experience with the software.

Overall, it has been a hard day and I’m a long way from finishing but hopefully I’ll have something worthwhile by the end of tomorrow.

Additional declaration

Posted by
Friday, December 14th, 2012 3:43 am

In addition to using FlashDevelop, GIMP and bfxr, I’ve decided to use the FlashPunk game engine. I’ve used it a little bit in the past to do some simple games and hopefully it’ll help me to get something reasonable done in the time limit. I was going to write a game from scratch in FlashDevelop but I realised that I’d have to do a lot of foundation code that is already present in engines such as FlashPunk and Flixel.

I’m in again…

Posted by
Wednesday, December 12th, 2012 12:31 pm

I’m in for my second LD and am looking forward to it. This time around I’ll be using the following:

 

– FlashDevelop (and AS3)

– GIMP 2.8

– bfxr (hopefully I’ll get time to do some simple sound effects)

 

Unfortunately I’m using a different computer to last time and CS5 won’t install on this one, as a result I’m going open source! I’ve used FlashDevelop before but never for a full project. It’s much better for coding than Flash CS5 but lacks the visual editor and I don’t have a level editor lined up which could end up stressing me out… so much for being prepared this time around.

 

Good luck everyone.

Wrapping up my first Ludum Dare

Posted by
Sunday, August 26th, 2012 4:00 pm

My game is submitted. You can play it here. My emotions are mixed right now: exhausted, excited, proud of what I’ve achieved (entering LD and getting a game…mostly… finished) and yet simultaneously disappointed in the end product. I can say for certain though, even in this burnt out state, that I’ll be doing this again. It has been great to be involved and has been an amazing learning experience. Congratulations to all of you that have finished and submitted a game, the quality of many of the entries that come out of this series of competitions is incredible.

I thought I’d go through some quick post-mortem thoughts now while they’re fresh in my mind as I’m not going to want to do it tomorrow (bank holiday Monday lie-in), so what went… wrong:

Lack of preparation: Can’t stress this enough, I’ve been busy with other work and have put off doing any base code, learning libraries or even considering the themes before entering. A large proportion of my time this weekend went into implementing basic functionality such as simple motion and navigation between nodes, managing objects and states, UI elements and other things that have little or nothing to do with the game mechanics and – most importantly – the fun.

Sketchy art style: Rather than using a minimalistic but functional art-style, I went for something more complex and in turn much more time consuming. I had to adapt the art-style to be something very-sketchy, black and white with spot colour because it was going to take far too much time to create what I wanted.

Lack of play testing: Because of the lack of prep and the time spent faffing around with drawing, I had very little time to play test and frankly it shows. My submission doesn’t play well, it’s only just holding together as a game.

 

For my next attempt I’ll try to be much more prepared and go for a more minimal approach to art, in order to give myself more play testing time. Of course, I was aware of all these errors going in (they’re common knowledge round these parts) but I wasn’t aware that I was making them – I thought my game was pretty simple – it isn’t until you fall into those traps that they really sink home at least for me. So what went right:

 

Adapting the art style: I was forced to adjust the art style to something more sketchy and embrace the lack of colour (read: lack of time to colour in the artwork) and, whilst there are areas of the visuals that are very scrappy, it was a valuable experience to teach me how to adapt.

My trusty sketchbook: As well as being a plain, old sketchbook it acts as a design document, a place to work out coding problems and a personal organiser all in one. The design notes and to-do lists buried in it are what kept me going throughout the weekend.

Going with what you know: I was tempted to try out HTML5 and JavaScript development as I’ve been doing a lot more work in them recently but because of the lack time to prepare I decided to fall back on Flash CS5 professional – not Flixel or FlashPunk (which I was also very tempted by but don’t know well) but plain old Flash. It isn’t ideal for games (far from it) and the game itself is not optimised but I know it very well now and as a result could get something up and running in it. If I’d have had to deal with programming/software issues as well as the art and lack of base code then nothing would’ve been finished.

 

So that’s my Ludum Dare in a nutshell. I’m glad I took part and submitted something even if I’m not very happy with it and I’ve learnt a lot of valuable lessons for next time. Good luck with your entry if you’ve submitted one, all the best.

 

 

First LD

Posted by
Friday, August 24th, 2012 8:51 am

Okay, I’m in. It’s my first LD and I’m going to be using Flash CS5 (wanted to try out the HTML5 route but haven’t had the time to prepare properly), Photoshop, probably bfxr and no idea what I’m doing for music. All the best to everyone taking part.

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