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Panzer Blitz II

Posted by (twitter: @@ignisstudios)
Saturday, December 6th, 2014 11:43 pm

We are making good progress on our interpretation of LD31’s theme. We need to implement a lot of features still, including the game on the GameKid Pocket and adding allllll the dialogue. I will be working on retro 8-bit logos tomorrow morning, so I’m looking forward to that!



Have a great night!

Lauren Ellis @Ignis Studios and the Friggin’ Games Team (Brandon, Bernard, Michael, & Tim)

72 hours & counting: Ignis Studio’s Ludum 2014 Post-Mortem

Posted by (twitter: @@ignisstudios)
Friday, August 29th, 2014 11:50 am

“So what are you doing this weekend?”

“Oh I’m so excited. So there is this thing called Ludum Dare which is a 72 game jam. You basically make a game from start to finish in 72 hours.”

“… That sounds horrible.”

Horrible was the farthest word from describing how it really was. Those 72 hours were, in their own weird way, empowering, encouraging, and exciting.

Ryan and I have been working on several games together, only completing one so far. He is a hobbiest game developer, specializing in Unity for 2D games; I am a web designer trying to learn as much of the art of game design as quickly as possible. He is opinionated, I am working on confidence. We are both perfectionists, holding high personal standards when it comes to the theory of game development.

We are passionate and perfectionists. It seems like the perfect fit.

We did one game jam before and failed. We did not have a work flow (my fault) or time (Ryan’s fault.) I just learned about game design documents and spent most of the jam developing a template. We were not able to complete a game, but despite that, we defined our process significantly better.

Then came Ludum Dare.

The event rolled around faster than expected. On the day of, they listed possible themes.

Finally, 7:00.

The theme:  Connected Worlds.

Ready, go.

The Concept

From the get go we came up with a concept that Ryan and I have always wanted to do but never had the time to actually invest in creating: Space delivery service. You travel from planet to planet dropping off aliens’ packages. Simple, and in our minds, fun. A friend of mine, Jeff McMillen, who is also a video game composer was on board with the idea. And thus began the whirlwind of rapid game development and a high consumption of caffeine.

You are a space ship, carrying packages between planets, making sure to do it quickly and efficiently to keep your clients happy. You get attacked by pirates, bombarded with asteroids, but there is also an element of complete nothingness where you cruise in space, listening to retro-esque electronic music.

There was a point when I said, “Ryan, are you sure? I don’t feel good about this game idea. It seems too big.”

“We can do it. I know we can.”

And so, 2 hours into the competition, we started.


Ryan's efficient plan.

Ryan’s efficient plan.

The Plan

Our first step was to layout three stages of development. As long as we stuck to the plan, we repeated to ourselves, we could get this concept done. Ryan listed out the first rough steps, the next refining the code and adding features, then finally wrapping it up with music, sound, and bug testing. As Ryan put it, “Fix & add & fix & add then fix, fix, fix.”

My steps were basically to first create the overall tone and design the ships. Then I was to dive into character creation, then menu and dialogue UI. Finally, I was to work on logo design, rework the menu (because the gameplay changed halfway through), create animations (that didn’t make it in because we ran out of time) and prepare the website for the game’s completion.

Jeff pulled out his paper and keyboard and started writing original music for the intro, main level, battle, and space hub. He also was going to handle all the SFX.



The first 24 hours

If there is one thing I pride myself in, it’s working quickly. I love to be creative and mass produce everything in my mind before I forget it all. I am the type of person when I get motivated, I can’t sleep. I only got about 13 hours of sleep from Friday morning until Monday night. It was challenging at the end, but it felt amazing to make so much progress so quickly.

I started by quickly looking for what style I wanted to portray. I am an uncommonly uncommon person, so I wanted to fuse space with a theme I love and hate: 1890’s steampunk. I began with a Google search to define that style further.

Aliens with old fashioned class? Yes, I think I will.

Aliens with old fashioned class? Yes, I think I will.

From there, I started comping a level design. I wanted it to be futuristic (this is intergalactic travel, after all) but give it the grainy, vintage feeling of haberdasheries and facial hair.


By the end of the first 24 hours, Ryan was making rapid progress, hitting all his milestones and his deadlines. I had thrown together a quick game design document, designed the tone, and sent out some comps and .pngs for Ryan to begin implementing. We felt confident. Despite the lack of sleep, we felt good.

Just look at Ryan, being happy with his progress.

The Live-Stream

At around the 12th hour, we decided to livestream. So I swallowed all my fears of strangers watching a shy, gamer girl draw monsters through web video (come on, it’s weird) and started the feed.

Thankfully, I had amazing people watching. People asked questions, gave advice, and cheered me on. Best of all, with my sleep deprived and error-abundant brain, I had a whole team of editors watching my every move. Thank you, twitch.tv fans for helping me spell the game name correctly in the logo. Seriously, thank you. That was a close call.


Hours 24-48

Now with people watching my every move (“Oh, that’s not a closet behind you – that’s a bathroom!”), Ryan and I worked even harder.

By about this time I started working on character creation. I enjoyed hypnotizing the twitch viewers with my quick illustrations, UI layouts, and logo design. People asked a lot of questions. How do you draw? Mouse or tablet? What programs do you prefer? What is a vector? How do you come up with these ideas? Even though the live streaming was weird for me, it was fun because people got to experience the game development process from start to finish. They got to learn from my drawing process, which was humbling for me because I still don’t view myself as a very good illustrator.

I wanted to make more, but you only have so many hours in a day…

One massive mistake is that I left the Wacom tablet at my workplace, so I drew everything with a mouse. My wrist was certainly dying by the end, but it did not matter. There were aliens that needed to be drawn.

Ryan was nearly finishing his second group of milestones, having very few bugs. Jeff wrote the theme song that we loved from the beginning so he started composing the others.

We were making good progress.



Hours 48-72

To be completely honest, I don’t remember much of this day. I had gotten about 4 hours of sleep, made myself blueberry pancakes for breakfast (breakfast of champions!), and was feeling excited.

Ryan began to work through adding the final features as I wrote dialogue for each character. We didn’t end up using it, but we plan to keep developing the game eventually incorporate the dialogue. Jeff was finishing up his music and sending everything over. It was really coming together.


The Final Push

With the time counting both forwards and backwards (your mind does weird things when you are sleep deprived), we decided to wrap it up and quickly debug. With about 2 hours left, Unity crashed. After a string of obscenities, Ryan reopened the program.

“Everything is gone.”

“That’s not funny, Ryan.”

“No, really. All the files. I… they… oh found them.”

With 9 minutes left to submit the game, we were still running into bugs. Massive bugs. The type where they don’t let you go past the home screen to play the game kind of bugs. Unfortunately, it was due to Ryan’s exhausted brain because all it ended up being was that he needed to turn off a layer. Fortunately, he figured it out and with 3 minutes to spare, all the twitch.tv fans on the edge of their seats, and Lauren’s heart racing, we submitted the game. Cheers rang through the chat box. Ryan and I fell back into our chairs, incredulous.

We spent the next grace hour fixing tiny bugs and a misspelling of “nothing,” then we slept.



Our Reflections

That was by far the most intense, exhilarating 72 hours I have spent in a long time. We learned so much from the process and really came away with a lot.

The Good
  • The greatest takeaway was that Ryan and I finally gelled together as a team. We were able to jump in and help each other and we trusted each other’s decisions.
  • We created a game that we are very excited about and are going to continue to develop.
  • Unknown to many, I had actually given my two weeks notice to my full-time job a week before so that I could work on game development. I had been terrified, but after having such a successful experience, I feel more confident in my company as I finish my last week of employment.
  • Ryan and I developed a much stronger, much more efficient process to create games.
  • We got a lot more notice for our game studio, from an increase in Twitter and Facebook fans, to a dramatic boost in twitch.tv followers.
  • We got really good feedback from other developers, of which was humbling and encouraging beyond belief.


What We Should have Done Differently

Quite honestly, there was little that went poorly with our time working on this Ludum Dare challenge. If I had to make a list, it would be:

  • Ryan and I LOVE big thinking. We love extensive features, many characters, and immersive worlds. Towards the end of the jam, Ryan mentioned to me, “Remember when you didn’t feel confident? …Maybe we should have done something easier.” I think for game jams in the future, we will both try to scale back on our grandiose ideas.
  • Thoroughly plan out the gameplay. At about 2am on Sunday, Ryan decided to change some of the core game mechanics. Although this did make the game more fun, it forced us both to quickly redevelop a lot of the gameplay and UI.
  • Schedule more time for sleep.
  • Ryan and I are also perfectionists. We spent way too much time perfecting tiny details when we needed to focus on bigger things. For Ryan, hours were spent on a slight zoom on planets. For me, I spent 4 hours on the logo. Yes, we are beyond proud of them and think it’s those little details that make something good better. But we probably should have worked on more important things at the time.
  • I will never draw with a mouse again.

Overall we could not have been more pleased with the experience and with what we created in a mere 3 days. Thank you, Ludum Dare! We shall see you again soon!

Oh, also, you can go play the game. Let us know what you think!

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