The Theme & My Idea:
In truth I had a very specific goal coming into this Ludum Dare weekend. I wanted to prototype a mix of game mechanics and see if it was compelling. As long as the theme was fairly generic I figured I could make it work.
The theme “You are the villain” was announced as I was leaving work. I like timing the theme announcement time for when I’m not at a computer. I had an hour long commute to think through what I wanted to do.
My initial concept was a serious topic, but this fell apart early Saturday afternoon. What emerged was a tale about a cat.
Another goal I was hoping to accomplish this weekend was to get my fiancee (Melinda) involved in writing dialog trees. We’ve been trying to get traction on our own game idea for a long time so this presented a good opportunity to put a fire under our asses to figure out a usable workflow. One of the first things I did Friday evening was write out a template in Google Docs including a sample dialog tree. The thought was that Melinda should could edit this doc, I could copy and paste into Chat Mapper, then export to XML for use in the game.
This workflow worked… pretty good! Melinda was able to follow the template well. Copying and pasting into Chat Mapper was quick. And the resulting XML files were usable almost immediately. What I didn’t account for was game dialog logic being so foreign to Melinda (she is not a gamer). I’ve played so many games with dialog that I can just see the underlying structure. It was difficult for Melinda to write without fully understanding how it would flow in the final project. Thankfully it took me literally minutes to turn her dialog into gameplay so she could see it in action and adjust accordingly. Rapid iteration saved the day.
The original scope was 3 stages each with 3 characters – so 9 dialog trees total. Final game had 1 stage and 3 dialog trees which was plenty of content for this jam. Melinda learned a heck of a lot about dialog in games and I learned a hell of a lot about explaining these systems. I’m considering ditching Chat Mapper for a simpler text-only file format. While the time it took to copy and paste into Chat Mapper was negligible, I quickly found that the tool might be too cumbersome to rapidly iterate on a text-heavy game.
For the first time in 3 years I didn’t use Flixel for this Ludum Dare. In September I started learning Starling and have been building my own helper classes. This was my first completed project with this codebase. Things… mostly worked. There were a few very broken things that I came across that I had to just design around. I’m not a framework programmer by any stretch so I’m impressed when any of my code can be reused.
At this point I’m not sure if I’ll continue developing my own codebase much more or if I’ll just wait and either adopt Flash Punk 2 fully, or just parts of it.
Graphics & Sound:
I feel like I barely got to really polish the game and as such I had to make due with some fairly awful graphics and sound. Certainly for (my) Ludum Dare standards they are fine, but they just don’t come together as nicely as I’ve managed in the past.
As stated, my primary goal this weekend was to test out several game mechanics and see how they played together. I originally covered the Platforming/Random RPG Battles in Abarrane (LD 19). These worked well together. For Fluffy, I wanted to try out my idea for a dialog “mini-game” that relied on stats that you’d build in combat. This came together pretty good, although I was incredibly nervous for most of the weekend. Essentially I was juggling 4 distinct gameplay mechanics during a 48 game jam. I honestly didn’t feel like I gave any of them the love and attention they each deserved. I was most worried about that intangible “glue” that holds these things together and until late Saturday I didn’t think this game would come together as well as it did.
Was this my “best” Ludum Dare entry? No. But did I achieve many of the goals I set out to achieve? Yup. Ludum Dare’s are all about learning and practicing my craft so just participating is rewarding for me. Having a game I can show others after the weekend is just a bonus.