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drackgif^click the image to play the gif as ludum dare hates me^

This a “short” little post for my LD33 entry – Drack’s Mansion or more accurately what I learned about the competition by making it. I did do a post-mortem about it but I felt the need to make this type of post as well, not only for myself but also for others that maybe thinking of entering the jam in the future. I am quite happy with how the game turned out and feedback has been very positive but the self-critic in me will simply not let the flaws with it slide without analyzing them. So without further a due, let’s begin.

The number one thing I learned about Ludum Dare is: Freaking plan like crazy.

It may sound simple enough but trust me, not following this rule is the main reason for the my game’s flaws. I simply did not brainstorm nearly enough which lead to a failed idea I scrapped down the road. Let me elaborate so you’re not kept in the dark. When I heard the theme I started brainstorming as you would do. I quite quickly came up with the idea of being a scary monster in a randomly generated cabin where new tourists came along every week and you had to kill them. You had to use cool abilities to accomplish this and all of them were powered by your fear bar. You used some of it every time you did something cool or killed someone. To recharge it you did typical horror type stuff like banging doors, making stuff levitate, shutting off lights etc. If you lost all your fear bar, the game was over. It was a simple stealth game idea that had an ok horror spin to it. It seemed fine in my mind at the time so I did no further brainstorming and jumped straight into making it. It was around the end of the compo’s first day that I realized I had not put nearly enough thought into how things worked. I had the game mechanics down in my head, as in what I wanted to do, but I did not have any clue about how exactly I wanted to do it. This simple mistake and rushing straight into making a game rather than knowing what I wanted to make cost me pretty much most of my first day and made the game much worse than it could have been (eg. no music, some unpolished areas). So to recap: Until you have every main mechanic for your game figured out 100%, DO NOT stop brainstorming. Main mechanics are the ones that make a game functional and playable. Secondary ones are the polish (eg. Mario’s running around in levels and jumping on bad guys are main mechanics. The different enemies and level obstacles are secondary). Speaking on mechanics…

screen 2

Second lesson I learnt mostly through playing other entries is: The simplest entries are usually the most fun and well made.

Often these games have one or two mechanics at most. But they are taken as far as they can go without getting stale. What I mean is, the game is essentially just one or two mechanics, but the player is presented with variations on them that function similarly to one another but are different enough to be interesting. Most great Ludum Dare entries follow this principal and I wished I did as well. Games that do this (or similar things) that I have seen are: Bunny Inferno, Grave, Takodemon and Super Chop. Now in terms of how those mechanics are made, we move to the next point…

Think about the depth of your mechanics first, and not their presentation.

With well-made mechanics even the most mundane things (such as chopping a tree, getting bunnies across a pit etc.) can be made fun. So focus mostly on making good mechanics fist, and presenting them later. That does not mean: Don’t think of a clever idea or take on the theme as soon as possible. It simply means, think about cool gameplay concepts first before adding polish. You might have noticed I mentioned depth. Basically, the more of the aforementioned in the above paragraph variations your mechanic can have, the deeper it is. So don’t only think of how your mechanic stands on its own while making it but also how you can expand it later. And also, think outside of the box as much as possible. It makes for more memorable games that are better in people’s eyes even if they are not as polished.

That said, hopefully my little ramble was useful to y’all and to me for my next jam as well. If you feel the need to see my entry and get some more context about the personal stuff I tackled here, you can always give it a go over here. Happy deving!

Drack’s Mansion Post-Mortem

Posted by
Monday, August 24th, 2015 9:01 am

>>PLAY THE GAME HERE<<

creen1
>>PLAY THE GAME HERE<<

So my first LD entry. How did it go? Meh, there were ups and downs.

Theme reaction and initial brainstorming:
When I woke up pretty much first thing I did was see the theme. The monster is you. There were a lot of things I could do with that theme. In fact I was a little stumped for ideas at first. I thought it over on the toilet(where the best ideas come from) and came up with a few concepts the best of which was playing a monster in a randomly generated cabin that sneaks around and uses cool abilities to kill people. I thought the idea was nice and I got to work.

Day #1:
On the first day I was mostly sticking to my initial idea. I got a movement engine done rather quickly and got to arting a character. Meanwhile, I had brainstormed some more and came up with a main mechanic – the fear bar. The idea was, you could do all these cool abilities like teleporting and turning off lights in rooms and stuff but they all cost fear. Once your fear was gone the game was over since you would be a pretty useless monster if no one is scared of you. You regained fear by doing typical horror movie scary things like banging doors, making things fly, sneaking up and killing people etc. The idea seemed cool so I got to implementing those mechanics.

Needless to say, it did not work out. I got to work programming the enemy AI and just failed over and over. I had wasted about 2/3 of my first day on an idea that didn’t work well, wasn’t thought out enough and simply wasn’t fun. So I scrapped it and started a new. I wanted to set out and make a game that’s fun and polished rather than super artsy and innovative. I remade the idea into a millionaire monster that just bought a mansion and each week people would sneak in and bother him. Thus, he did what he knew best and killed them in an action brawler sort of way. It seemed fine and I spent the rest of the day working on it.

Day#2:
This is when most of the work got done. First thing I did was polish the engine. I gave it a dynamic camera that I hadn’t done before but seemed fitting for the type of game I was making. I had some issues with the camera going outside of the room but with some foresight I got them resolved. Then, I made the abilities. The spell was the first. I spent probably way too long on making the particles for it work, but eventually they did. The rest was pretty simple. Next was the melee attack. That was also quite simple despite some sprite origin problems I had. Next came the minion. I knew I wanted pathfinding so I did more research and got it working! Once I had that, the enemies would be simple as well as they used the same pathfinding. Finally, I did the energy blast, which was also easy to make.

After I had made the abilities work I moved on to level art. As always Google was my friend and helped me with references of Mansion interiors. Most people seem to really love the art, but I think it’s just some above average work of mine. I have done better, but I was satisfied.

After all that, I had about 5 hours left. I rushed to get enemies into the game and actually make it a game and not a tech demo. The final hours are very blurry for me. I remember being tired, rushing and just wanting to get it out as fast as possible. It’s surprising people liked it as much as they did as I had almost no time for playtesting and balancing. I finished implementing the enemies about an hour before the deadline. It those last two hours(including the submittion hour) I mad a title screen, the menus, the story, the newspaper and the actual progression system. The first three nights are always the same but after that it gets progressively tougher by adding more and more enemies. The game had an arcade feel which I embraced by adding simple .ini scoring literally around 20-15 minutes before the end of submittion hour. I was exhausted, it was 5 in the morning, I had worked for almost 19 hours straight and I was in no mood for problems. Unfortunately, they came regardless, as I had so much trouble logging in due to forgetting my password and generally being dumb. I managed it though and got the game in 5 minutes before the end.

Here’s what I think went right with my game:


-it was finished(which for a slow worker like me was quite an accomplishment)
-it looked and sounded nice
-it was quite original in terms of story concepts and characters

Here’s what I think went wrong:


-the failed idea at the start due to not enough planning
-the lack of any music
-the fact mechanics are not explained as well as they should have been
-it’s still a bit buggy
-it could have had more interesting enemy types

Final thoughts on my first Ludum Dare:
This was very fun to do, despite the stress and the lack of sleep. I wish I had spent more time on it and wish I had polished it more, but at the end of the day I came out with a finished, functional, nice looking product that people seem to like. I proved to myself as a dev that I can do this and I was dedicated and skilled enough to pull it off. Regardless of what people think, or where I place, no one can take that away from me.

>>PLAY THE GAME HERE<<

I’m in, not so sure if I will make it out.

Posted by
Friday, August 21st, 2015 2:35 pm

I say this because this is my first LD and as a person who works terribly under pressure I’m not sure if I’ll be able to finish it. I shall try my best, though. I’ll be working solo either way but I’ll aim for the compo. If not, then the jam it is. Hopefully I will have something finished by the end of this.

Tools I will be using:
Programming: Game Maker: Studio.

Art: MS Paint(don’t you dare laugh (no pun intended)), GIMP.

Music: FL Studio.

SFX: Most likely Bfxr.

 

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