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The Obligatory Post Mortem

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Saturday, April 23rd, 2016 12:04 am

Ludum Dare 35 just passed and this time I’d decided to participate with my friend Brian Thuringer (designer). Check him, out he’s got great work.

Shapetrak Gameplay

First of all here’s our game: http://ludumdare.com/compo/ludum-dare-35/?action=preview&uid=55791

After spending a night trying to hash out an idea, the theme, “Shapeshift,” proved to be harder than we’d first thought. Having have been on more than a few overscoped projects, I’d really wanted to get a solid game out more than anything. I’ve been researching “game feel” recently, having had read through the book with that title (available here) and taking notes on the many available talks. After the first night, we were in a bad place, we had nothin’. We’d gone through at least 3 ideas, followed the trail to the end and realized it was a stinker. Demoralized, we packed it in. The next morning, after some back and forth, Brian threw out a rehashed version of a previous idea, far simplified this time. Shift a shape to fit through the walls; an infinite runner crossed with a rhythm game. This would be the basis for the current design. I said, “Y’know what, it’s day 2, lets go for it.”

At first we’d considered going 2D but given how simple the shapes were I’d suggested it’d be quite easy to do in 3D. We settled on it and he pumped out a few models. I got the mechanics together as well as the cool chromatic tile system you see in the game. About mid-day we had the basis for gameplay established. At this point I threw together a custom shader to hue cycle the background to be the opposite of the ground tile in the center of the camera. This was looking good.

The next day I went to work on some polish and game feel items like screen shake, screen flash, particles, and tweaking difficulty and gameplay values. I got a few sfx from Brian, a music track I whipped up and some UI elements in. A few custom and boxed screen shaders later (desaturation shifting, screen bending, noise, bloom, contrast, ect) and it was getting ever nearer to the final vision.

Monday arrived and after work I thought I had until midnight to polish off the changes. I’d planned to use FMOD to increase the tempo of the music (but not the pitch) and to have the spawning of walls to line up with the beat. Well that was the day I’d learned that 6pm MST was the cutoff and man was that intense. As fast as humanly possible I nuked FMOD to get the game to compile correctly and polished some final values, barely (if at all?) eeking by the deadline. At that point I saw it, “Submission Hour! Get them in!”. Relief and are-you-serious washed over me all at once. I checked chat to see Brian’s words of encouragement and inquiries of “did you make it?”. In this last hour I wrapped polished off some values and fixed a bug or two and got the build off.

Overall, I feel like this game is quite fun and although there are many games that are similar in their own way, I would say ours feels the best. Game jam games usually feel sort of stiff and unpolished but I feel like this game managed to shake that. Feedback has been awesome so far (thanks everyone!) and I hopefully await the final judgement of best games. I’d reviewed quite a few other great games and through this our game has┬áreceived over the number of reviews required to be in the running for its various categories. A few streamers even played our game live at my request which was a great feeling.

I learned a fair bit, had a lot of fun and made a game I’m proud of. We plan to move forward with this and make it into an app (for real though, I know everyone just says this <_<). Check it out and let me know what you think. Can’t wait for the next one!

(You can find the companion blog post to this post at my site, MikeBurns.org)

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