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Hipster Pad: Ludum Dare 26 Post Mortem

Posted by
Friday, May 10th, 2013 11:23 am

Hipster Pad is my third Ludum Dare submission.

In Hipster Pad the player attempts to arrange oddly shaped furniture on top of a rug.

Hipser Pad

Previously I did the 48-hr jam and was fairly happy with the results, but I wanted to see what I could do if I got a few friends together for a team. Unfortunately most of my prime candidates were busy that weekend. I did get a few friends to do some brainstorming and design talk, but not a lot of help with programming or other development aspects.

What went right:

1. Simple Mechanics: I’ve seen a lot of other great ideas during this Ludum Dare. I think the minimalism theme has really helped developers embrace the “less is more” philosophy. When I first thought of doing a block-style pz

2. Physical prototyping: I pulled out my copy of Blokus and drew out some different levels to see how the gameplay worked. I played around with different block mechanics for a couple hours until I had a simple rules system that still seemed meaningful. Every 5 minutes I could completely change my game rules without worrying about the code implementation. For the next Ludum Dare I will definitely prepare a prototyping kit ahead of time to test out game mechanics.

3. Familiar frameworks: The entire game was built in one html file with a bunch of supporting css and javascript. I used bootstrap in my last two games to try and save time, but this time around I skipped that and only used jQuery. In my day job I mostly do business web apps with these tools so it was really easy to debug any issues that I ran into.

4. Playable demo and Feedback from other people: I had several people that checked out my game over the course of the weekend. I was able to get some good feedback even on Saturday morning. That was much better than my last attempt were I didn’t have a playable game until the last few hours of the weekend.

5. Relaxed schedule: I followed most of the 48-hr rules even though I did the 72-hr jam. The major benefit was having 72-hrs. Instead of working 2-days straight I did just a little work on Friday and Saturday to get my base game and on Sunday I spend time with family and friends. I think that gave my subconscious mind some time to mull over different aspects of the game.

What went wrong:

1. Forming a team: I spent some time before the jam weekend trying to recruit people to be part of a team. I got some interest, but I don’t think I gave people enough time to block out some time from their schedules. Next time I might start pinging people a month ahead of time to try to get something bigger. Alternatively I might go back to the 48-hr solo jam.

2. Complicated level design: I hand-code my initial 5 levels and didn’t create a simple level format until nearly the end of the competition. I spent a fair amount of time tweaking and copy/pasting updates between my levels. Next time I will probably create a level template sooner in the process.

3. Too much time on art: I went down several paths trying to create sketches of furniture, doing fancier gradients and boxes for the rugs in the game. Ultimately I was happier with polished versions of the basic squares and probably could have created more interesting levels if I spent less time on the superficial appearance of the furniture.

Summary:

With my third Ludum Dare under my belt I feel like I’m getting more efficient at creating a base game. Scope creep is always a lurking danger, but I am already looking forward to creating another game in a few months.

Ultimate Plant: LD 24 Post Mortem

Posted by
Monday, August 27th, 2012 3:38 pm

This was my first time entering and I’m pretty satisfied with the results. Congratulations to everyone who participated!

Ultimate Plant is an html game. I used jQuery, Twitter’s Bootstrap, and SASS to build the game.

Here is a link to my entry:

Ultimate Plant

Evolution of my idea:

When evolution was announced I tried to steer my mind towards something new. I brainstormed all the things I could think of around evolution: dinosaurs, mutations, colonization, natural selection, culture, etc… I figured everyone would gravitate to some kind of dinosaur or sci-fi mutation theme (I’m surprised that I’ve only seen 1 dinosaur game in the results). On Friday I came up with a cool deck-building style card game idea that I planned to implement in video game form. By 3am I had sketched out a really rudimentary UI and had some crappy game mechanics that I wasn’t pleased with.

I went to bed feeling a little dejected and not very confident about the next day’s work. I think my subconscious mulled things over while sleeping and while eating breakfast I decided to scrap my original idea and try to incorporate the Game of Life into some type of puzzle game.

What went right:

1. Simple mechanics: At first I felt the GOL (Game of Life) rules were too simplistic for a cool game, but they ended up being perfect for creating something that I could incrementally improve. GOL is used in code retreat sessions (http://coderetreat.org/) and I’ve implemented the core rules several times in different languages while practicing software development techniques. It was really easy to get a quick simulator working in html.

2. Simple graphics: I kept the initial graphics simple and planned to add a bunch of flower photographs later. I ran out of time to add many photos, but I think the simplicity made it easier to design a clean UI.

3. Early tutorial and playtesting: I created 5 “simple” puzzles and a tutorial to go with them. I had a couple playtesters give good feedback that the puzzles were not simple! I then focused on making my core game understandable rather than adding more complex flower and weed breeding puzzles.

4. Developing with a group: Canopy graciously opened their offices for a Ludum Dare Jam. Everyone mostly worked in quiet isolation on their own games, but it was nice to bounce a few ideas off people.

5. Todo list: It really helped to write down and prioritize all of the features I wanted in my game. After procrastination breaks it was easy to get back on track.

Areas for improvement:

1. Indecision and Too Much Design: I felt my game idea was too simple up until halfway through the competition and spent a lot of time sketching out complex puzzles and plant types that didn’t make it into the game. Next time I’ll implement each puzzle one at a time and try to finish a few more features as opposed to thinking up great stuff to implement up front.

2. Not enough time on artwork: I knew that I could spend a lot of time trying to make subpar graphics so I planned to just add photographs of flowers. I spent a couple hours driving to a nearby arboretum and taking a lot of pictures, but I ended up with time to use just a few in the final game.

3. Social obligations: Earlier in the week I had agreed to meet a friend for a birthday dinner on Saturday. I thought it would be a nice break from coding, but we ended up at the restaurant waiting for late arrivals before we could order food. I ducked out early, but it still took up most of the evening.

4. Practice with Frameworks: Most of my experience with html and javascript is on large projects with helpers and glue code that I couldn’t use in the competition. Next time I’ll build a few simple prototypes from scratch using only the opensourced frameworks.

5. Not enough time for puzzles: My biggest regret is the small number of puzzles in the game. I really wish I had been able to add 10-20 more puzzles with a few interesting twists. At least I can add some more to a post-competition version.

Summary:

I really enjoyed the competition and am looking forward to the next one. I learned a lot about managing limited resources over the course of 48 hours.

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