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Posted by
Saturday, August 27th, 2016 8:27 am

Figured I’ll put together something simple and focus on trying to deliver a more whole experience. I will suppress the megalomaniac lurking in my mind and not fall for the the grandiose pipedreams I usually come up with and fall terribly short of finishing within the time available.

Unity, Aseprite, Bfxr, Bosca Ceoil and all that jazz.

The ups, the downs and the things in between

Posted by
Monday, December 8th, 2014 12:45 am

Hello everyone!

Figured I’d write a short recap of my first Ludum Dare experience since I managed to survive and 1.0’d my game in time for the compo deadline. Coming in to this I had not actually ever really finished a game before. I am a master level procrastinator and deploy advanced techniques such as subconciously drinking so much water that I have to take alot of breaks to use the facilities. Despite all this for some reason the thought popped up in my head that I could do this. I could make a game from start to finish in 48 hours.

It was 4 am on a saturday morning here in Finland when the compo kicked off. I had not slept yet that night being the night dweller that I am. No chance of seeing the sun even in the day over here this time of year anyway so whats the point? So the theme was announced and I took about an hour to think about it and eventually came up with this grand idea of a game in which you’re a gladiator in an arena and have to fight wave after wave of enemies. The combat would be slow and methodical and I could do it from a top down perspective limiting the required artwork. I worked on it for about four hours before I started feeling very sleepy. At that point I was feeling mighty pessimistic about everything and felt like scrapping the idea entirely. I decided to sleep on it first and then make up my mind.

When I woke up it took me about no time whatsoever to realize it was not going to work. Given the time I had left and the fact that I could not draw a gladiator from any perspective to save my own life; I decided to scrap the idea. It took me about a few hours to come up with a new idea that ended up being the idea I pulled through with. My idea was to make a top down perspective cityscape in a zombie apocalypse. I was drawing influences from games such as Atom Zombie Smasher and Plague Inc. The idea originally was to actually play the overmind of the zombies and exterminate all the humans.

The simulation of an infectious zombie virus spreading through crowds was very interesting to me and ended up being the bulk of the work. As it started taking shape I found it rather hypnotic to simply watch even though there were no gameplay elements whatsoever. So I had planned the player would indirectly buff the zombies in an area of effect manner and the humans would fight back, decay would set in and the player would have to wipe out the humans before the zombies decay away. There would be civilians with melee weapons, cops with guns, army paratroopers dropping in to the zone and all kinds of fancy stuff. Can you already tell where I was going with it? I was aiming far too high with the time I had at my disposal. By the end of saturday development I was again feeling quite pessimistic and found myself scrapping alot of what I had planned. Figured it was better to simply sleep on it and so I did.

I should mention I was using Unreal Engine 4 and against my better judgment I upgraded from 4.5 to 4.6 on friday as it was released. This turned out to be a dire mistake as 4.6 so far has proven to be extremely unstable compared to 4.5. A couple of times I ran in to situation in which some assets would crash the whole editor upon trying to interact with them in any way. There was no other choice but to delete the assets from the project folder and recreate them from scratch. After the first time I started taking frequent backup copies and ended up needing them as well. I set out to make the entire game in blueprints and over the weekend came to find there are some severe lacks in basic functionality accessible by blueprints. To name a few one cannot access audio classes through blueprints and one also cannot stop an AI behavior tree from running through blueprint.

So sunday came around and from the moment I woke up I had about 13 hours left to finish the game. Things felt pretty grim. At that point and in fact up to eight hours before the deadline there was no way whatsoever for the player to interact with the game in any way. It wasn’t as much a game as it was a crowd simulation. Also there was no way for the zombies to die and the humans did not have functionality to fight back. The zombies would inevitably win so it felt kind of pointless to make the player to.. try and do it faster? With eight hours to deadline and the amount of trouble I had getting the existing actors to behave together I didn’t feel like trying to add armed civilians or anything of the sort.

The final art style of the game actually came in to being kind of accidentally as I was creating the walls in the level and happened to accidentally apply a glow effect to them. Up to that point the characters were actually 8 by 8 pixel 2d sprites with flat coloring. I am quite happy with the final art style of the game. Apart from the cursor and the overlayed “menus” anyway. They don’t quite fit in. Coincidentally the cursor and the menus were created in the last few hours before the deadline. They are essentially placeholder and barely better than having nothing. I’m sure some would argue having nothing there instead would be better.

As for the gameplay, it didn’t turn out anywhere near my original plans. I feel the game is still more of a crowd simulator than a game. The control the player has over the field is very limited and success is more up to random chance than the player affecting how it plays out. Overall by the strength of the concept I would still say this is by far the most interesting thing I’ve personally ever created and im quite proud of it. This might not be the last time you hear of Neon Z City since It is also quite likely that I am going to continue working on it and turn it in to a full game that more accurately resembles my original plans for it.

You can check the game out here: Neon Z City

So what have I learned from this experience and what am I going to do differently next time? Next time I am going to aim lower and when I think I am aiming low enough I’m going to aim even lower. The last 12 hours of this LD were rather stressful and hectic. I do look forward to participating in future Ludum Dares and also to checking out the submissions of others as I will be doing over the next few weeks as I am genuinely interested in what other people have come up with in such a limited time frame.

Thank you for reading if you made it this far.

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