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Dinosaur Liberation Front – postmortem

Posted by
Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011 9:00 am

HOORAY for Ludum Dare!  I’ve been watching my friends do Ludum Dare compos for several years now, but as a dude with a family it’s been hard to commit to spending 48 hours of weekend time on a game.  But last Friday, after putting the kids to bed, I sat at my PC, bored, and thought “Hmm… Escape, huh?”

Before I knew it, I’d started sketching out some ideas and downloading Flixel.  I knew right away that I should definitely NOT attempt a game that took 48 hours of time to complete, because there was no way I’d actually be able to spend 48 hours working.  I quickly latched onto the basic idea that rather than the player himself escaping, the objective would be to help some other things on the screen escape… by hurling them through the exits.

Check out and rate the finished game! It’s only 8 levels – try to beat my time :)


My buddies skelethulu and ExciteMike pointed me to excellent resources like Tiled and BFXR as the weekend went on, and I was able to spend a good 12 hours or so between Friday night, Saturday night, and naptime on Saturday and Sunday.  I actually “finished” the game mid-afternoon on Sunday, then ended up adding Mochi leaderboards and a couple of extra levels before submitting since I had to wait for my LD-n00b WP registration to go through anyway.

What Went Right:

  • I chose the correct scope!  I’m super-happy that I kept my goals modest and was able to do something that, though it’s not sprawling or super-ambitious, is still a “finished” game, and in only 12 or so hours. I think I made some wise (though painful) priority choices along the way.
  • FLIXEL is fantastic.  I went in knowing nothing about it, but with the help of a few great tutorials out there, I quickly had basic platforming, pickups, dino-hurling etc. I was pretty astonished at how fast the basics came together in Flixel.
  • Tiled is also fantastic.  With a few hints from skelethulu, I was able to have my levels completely data-driven, loading TMX files from Tiled for the map itself as well as all the game objects, triggers to show and hide text, etc. Making new levels was so trivial and fun with Tiled!
  • The pixel art ain’t bad! I did it all by hand in Paint.NET and I think it fits together for a nice consistent look. Sadly I think this is about my limit pixel-art-wise, though.
  • It really amuses me that I didn’t implement player death. If you fall out of the level, you are just unable to help those poor dinos any more, which means you’d better reset the level! Meanwhile the timer up there just keeps running…
What Could Have Been Better:
  • The pixel art – I ended up with only 5 tiles and 2 sprites. I’m happy with it, but I had some grander plans for more of a “laboratory” feel, with bubbling beakers and such, which was unavoidably a lower priority and never happened.
  • A few bugs (like jumping out an exit with a dino) – I found several of these but judged that it was a better use of my time to actually give the game an ending than to fix these relatively rare cases.
  • More levels would have been good – although to do many more I would probably have needed more gameplay elements as well, like fans or “bounce pads” or such. I seemed to be reaching the limit of variety possible with these mechanics. Maybe I’ll revisit this someday outside of LD!
  • Perhaps music would have been nice, but like most things, I judged that opening that can of worms was less important than getting a finished game.  Next time!
All in all, I had a fantastic time, I was very pleased with my simple game, and let this be a lesson to anybody out there who wishes they had time for LD: You Don’t Even Need 48 Hours!
Plan something reasonable for your own timeframe, and spend the time that you do have wisely!
I’ll definitely be trying to do this again – it was a great time. Thanks, LD community!

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