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You Are The One – Postmortem

Posted by (twitter: @mystakin)
Sunday, December 29th, 2013 3:37 pm

With a little over a week left in the voting process, I figured I would put together a postmortem on my first ever Ludum Dare entry, You Are The One.

What went right?

  • Design: I have only taken part in one game jam previous to this Ludum Dare. In that project, I dreamed far too big and tried far too much. When designing You Are The One, I knew I had to keep it simple. The game would be 2D, use basic physics and cameras that I was already experienced with, and require as few assets as possible. It would also avoid complicated mechanics until it could be played start to finish. I didn’t mind cutting features from my initial design, but I was determined to at least implement the 5-level progression and celebration screen.

DesignDoc

  • Audio: Audio was a big concern of mine initially. I had no plan for music, and I wasn’t sure how well the sound effect generator I was using, sfxr, would fit into my project. Luckily, the sound effects were perfect and matched my retro/basic art style. While wondering about music, I came across a program called GXSCC that could translate a .midi file into a chiptune sounding .wav. I’ve played guitar for many years and use TabIt to store all my tabs which, turns out, supports exporting to .midi. With this knowledge, I put together 2 small loops for the game and they came out perfect.
  • Completeness: I think there’s something psychologically satisfying about finishing a game. My entry needed to be finish-able, and more than that, it needed to push the player to do more. That’s where the idea for level-specific collectibles came from. If you collect all the items, the ending congratulates you on your hard work. If you don’t, it still congratulates you but hints that there’s more to do. I wanted my entry to feel like a real, full game that just happens to be really short. I think I accomplished that to some degree.

Completeness

What went wrong?

  • Adherence to Theme: While there is an extensive use of “one” as a theme throughout the entry, adherence to “you only get one” is a bit flimsy. Each level has one color shade, one item to collect, and the player character is literally a “1” with feet and eyes. While clever, it would be a stretch to say these attach to the theme well. The real use of the “only getting one” comes from the player only getting one direction they may progress in. This is a bit different than just getting one direction of movement, because the player can move both left and right on some levels. While matching the theme, it’s a bit convoluted as an implementation. I wish I had spent more time riffing on “one” as a limitation instead of “one” as a concept in and of itself.

Adherence

  • Enemies: My initial design called for one enemy per level, and a progression of difficulty stemming from that. Level 1 enemies would be stationary obstacles, level 2 enemies would shoot at the player, level 3 enemies would move around, and level 4 enemies would both move and shoot. Finally, level 5 would combine all the previous enemies the same way it combines the previous level’s movement styles. Unfortunately, I did not find enough time to design or implement enemies and opted for pits and spikes as the primary hazards. To give you an idea of how little time I would have had for enemies, I only implemented the spikes in the last 2 hours of the competition.
  • Difficulty: I like to speedrun Mario platformers, specifically Super Mario World, as a hobby. As you may imagine, this colors my design philosophy when it comes to platformers. I tend to design levels to be rushed through at full speed, and completed through a series of expertly timed jumps. This can be problematic for people with different play-styles or less patience. My game is definitely too hard in its current form, but I hope the “skip level” button will enable all players to see the full game.

Difficulty

What did I learn?

  • Unity’s 2D tools are… okay: While starting the new project, I noticed Unity now asks if you want to use 2D or 3D defaults. Since I was new to working 2D, I got excited and went with 2D. While many of the defaults assisted my creation process big time, most of the 2D tools went unused. Without a 2D Character Controller, I would have to use a rigidbody2D in its stead… and I wasn’t really prepared for that. Additionally, I had some trouble with the standard Character Controller colliding with 2D colliders. I eventually settled on a mix of the two systems, using the standard 3D components while taking advantage of the 2D scene view and sprite importer.

Plan

  • A great game begins with a great plan: I accomplished almost everything I wanted with this project, and I chalk that up to a smart, flexible design. The project began basic, and added complexity, such as the items and spikes, only once the groundwork was in place.
  • Ludum Dare is tons of fun: Not much more to say than that. I had a total blast taking part in the competition, from brainstorming to wrap-up. I look forward to joining future Ludum Dares! Just need to figure out how to do those awesome time-lapse videos between now and then.

 

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