Hello! Welcome to the post mortem post thing for Enliven. I will try my best to briefly explain what happened during those 3 packed days, and why we couldn’t get the game finished in time.
So, this Ludum Dare was pretty unique – instead of our standard battle station in the Ernst residence, we got to work in a studio apartment! On top of that, we’ve had a newcomer to the team – Rom Haviv! Rom is an awesome game dev and friend who also makes games in his free time. He has made some stuff for Ludum Dare in the past, and he’s an awesome artist and programmer.
This was the first time we worked with someone new, and it proved to be an awesome experience. 😀
We spent the first day figuring out how to set up a git repository and installing Windows on a newly-formatted computer. Everyone went to sleep on his own couch, all hyped up for tomorrow.
Everyone was a bit surprised about the entire two themes fiasco. It left us all a bit confused, so we went to get some breakfast to clear the confusion. We started thinking and sketching game ideas that involved one or both of the themes.
We settled on a simple tower defense game, where the towers actually branch from a central seed you need to defend, and you build more towers and branch even further by killing enemies.
We worked on a simple engine and some graphics while churning out concept art, but eventually we slowed down to a grinding halt when we realized the idea was kind of… eh.
This is where shit hit the fan.
We started breaking our heads over what to make, unable to think of an idea. We sat dormant and just waited for the right idea to appear, but nobody came.
We thought of a bunch of interesting game ideas, such as a puzzle game where you play a robot who can only move on one axis, and can switch to the other axis by pressing the two directional keys at the same time. Each switch would cost some power to execute, and you’re limited to a certain number of switches every level.
Still, we couldn’t collectively agree on a good idea that everyone wanted to make, and it started getting late. Eventually we were getting tired, and even considered giving up, but we agreed to give it one more shot tomorrow morning. We went to sleep as sad gamedevs with nothing to show.
We woke up fresh with some new ideas, and after some brainstorming, we all agreed we liked the concept of planting seeds to navigate around levels and solve puzzles. Filled with determination, we quickly started working.
Rom & I worked on the engine. Let me tell you this: working with another programmer in Game Maker and Git is utter hell. Constant crashes, errors, missing files and unsynced projects made this experience an absolute mess. I cringe when I think of the hours that went to waste because of fiddling with this crap. After wrestling a few hours with Git, we decided to just screw it and use SVN and instead. And it actually made things simpler (but Game Maker still has shit support for that kind of stuff).
A few hours down the line and we created the basic game mechanics (platforming, vine collision, seeds) and the smart camera.
Meanwhile, Itamar and Mati were hard at work on some sprites, and made some pretty pretty stuff.
Most of the animations you see in the game were created by Itamar.
More and more hours went into work and soon we had some basic gameplay and tiles to make pretty gifs:
We finally had something going our way, and we hit the bed satisfied, but unsure if we were going to be able to pull this off with just one day left.
Cue pressure. We woke up extra early and just got straight to work without wasting any time.
Jason sent us some cool sound effects and music he worked on while we were asleep. I think he did a great job with the sound design this time around, as good ambiance and mood was something we were hoping to achieve.
We knew we had to work fast if we wanted to accomplish anything, and there wasn’t much of it left. First thing I did was to add the springy flower and explosive plum, while Rom worked on the underground tunnel seed.
NNNGGGHH god i love particle effects
You can already see here that most of the art assets were complete. We still needed to iron out some bugs and flesh out a few mechanics, but the main thing we were missing were levels.
Mati sat down and started designing some levels that teach you the basic mechanics of the game, while Itamar finished any remaining assets.
Everyone worked tirelessly under pressure to put in as much as we could, but time was running out and we figured we wouldn’t have enough of it to make a proper game with levels. After consulting with some comments, we decided to just finish the game abruptly and put in a sandbox level that lets you mess around with the existing content of the game.
There’s not much to say about what went behind the scenes here, as we simply just churned work while time ticked away. Eventually we had to stop to upload the game.
What went right?
- Teamwork. Even though we almost caved and gave up, we stuck together and made something even though we almost lost hope.
- Graphics. I’m always amazed at the stuff Mati & Itamar manage to put out in such a small amount of time, and they’ve done it again this time.
- More programmers. For the first time ever, I didn’t work on the code alone, which was a pretty weird experience, but made things that would otherwise be impossible in this time frame happen.
- Ambiance. It was something we were aiming to accomplish here, and I think Suezo managed to pull it off nicely.
- Workspace. Working at the apartment was awesome, and it felt extra indie, too!
What went wrong?
- Time. Because we started actually making something an entire day late, we couldn’t make the game we really wanted to make, and had to submit an unfinished product.
- Repositories. I cannot stress enough how bad Game Maker’s support for team projects are. I didn’t really suffer from it until now, because I was the only one who tinkered with the project file, but now that I see how bad it is, it makes me want to run away to Unity asap. (which will happen, eventually!)
- Ideas are hard. It’s always hard to find someone everyone likes and wants to make, and this time around the process actually took up an entire day worth of work, which is pretty sad.
- Literally everything aaahhhh
So yeah, we submitted an unfinished game, but in the end it was absolutely worth it. We proved to ourselves that we can stick together and make something even if things look grim, and it was all worth it for the lovely comments you guys have left on the game so far. We’ve seen people streaming the game and playing it on YouTube, and some people have actually created carefully planned speedruns of the game, which is absolutely awesome!
I’d like to thank Rom who actually managed to endure our shenanigans and memes, and worked like an absolute pro. And as always, Jason, or Suezo, for kicking so much ass.
Lastly, I’d like to thank you, Ludum Dare. You guys filled us with motivation to actually submit the game and make it into what it is today. You guys are absolutely awesome, and this community is something special. <3
– Lonebot ♥♥♥
ps. Mati & Itamar need to finish Undertale