I may have gotten cocky.
I failed to complete my first Ludum Dare compo (LD #25), but I learned from that experience. Since then, I focused on a single set of tools (Flaxen), rejected ideas that relied on new skills, and focused my work on leveraging my code base rather than altering it. Since then I submitted games into the next three Compos and a MiniLD.
Maybe those experiences went to my head. This time, I broke all my rules and never got close to a bare prototype, let alone a finished game.
I spend the first hour of the compo just brainstorming. I have a cigar, walk the dog, sit on the deck, maybe have a little drink and just ponder. I turn the theme over in my head, rejecting what I think will be common interpretations, applying the theme literally and figuratively, looking for the things that live beneath the surface or things trying to escape it. In this case I came up with several ideas, here were the top three:
- A plant simulator, where you plant seeds that develop roots through the various minerals of the Earth, taking what they need to grow, poking through the surface if they need sunlight or rain. Each plant sufficiently tended to would grow a different seed, which would grow a different type of plant. Figuring out how to grow Plant #10 was the goal. I loved this idea, but it seemed a bit similar to my LD#27 submission Offspring, and designing the plants and growth system might be complicated.
- A giant worm that travels through the Earth and is hard to steer (similar in complication but different in mechanics to a Flappy Bird/Whatever). This would be an endless game, as you tried to maintain speed, avoid obstacles, conserve energy and eat! You could leap out of the ground (losing steering) to try and bag a land mammal for your supper. This was a fun concept. I thought the worm might be tricky, and the success of the game would depend entirely on how good the steering felt.
- A prospector on the frontier falls into a well. It’s a long way up. This is a climbing simulator. You drag one limb at a time from hold to hold, risking losing your grip or slipping if you put too much strain on one limb. This was a simple game, and there was some opportunity for me to add some comedic lift by having the prospector narrate his climb and use audio to indicate what limb was under the most strain. Since this was the simplest, and this was Melissa’s favorite of the three, I went for this idea.
However the third idea had a serious caveat – I need to implement some rigid body physics, which I have little experience in. I decided to do a little exploratory prototyping to see if I could refit Flaxen to support some basic rag dolling. After a number of false starts and failed attempts, somewhere along the line I realized the day was gone. Despite my plan, I spent the whole day trying different approaches to squeeze physics into this engine. I was reasonably certain at this point that it would require a major refactoring to add this support.
Here was the end of day one. I could have picked one of the other ideas, but to do them in 24 hours was an uninspiring limitation. I decided to instead focus my time on a third party physics engine for Haxe. If I was lucky, I would pick it up in a few hours and be somewhat back on track with the Prospector. I researched a bit between Nape, Box2D, and PhysAxe. Nape seemed to be the most popular, so I went with that one. I discovered several things: Nape is cool. Nape is complicated. Nape is not doing what I want.
I spent most of today messing around with it. Integrating Nape with Flaxen was very simple, just adding a System that loops through all entities with Nape components and using the data therein to update the associated Position and Rotation components. After some time I was able to get my model which I assembled in Spriter to show up statically in Nape. However I spent the rest of the day struggling with constraints and joints, failing to get them to work as I expected them to. I’ll keep plugging on, learning the Nape way of doing things, because it’s a very cool tool to add to my repertoire. But as for this compo, it’s time to shut down!
Good luck to everyone who submitted a game, and particularly everyone who is racing to complete a game before the deadline.