About Oleg Zhurko (twitter: @olegzhurko)

Co-founder of indie game development studio at Novosibirsk, Russia (Fate Studio http://fatestudio.org)

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Deja vu Post-Mortem

Posted by (twitter: @olegzhurko)
Friday, May 10th, 2013 5:12 am

Deja vu Post-Mortem

Introduction

Hi everyone! It was the first time our team entered Ludum Dare. Even though it didn’t go entirely without hitch, we enjoyed this competition from start to finish. So here’s the game postmortem, with all highs and lows of our experience.

Timeline

Arming for the competition. Before getting down to work, we prepared all we would need: food, a webcam, set up a Twitch stream and scheduled our work for these days. We also read a number of LD postmortems for tips what to watch out for. It appears even guides on game jam survival are published, here’s a funny one: http://www.amazon.com/The-Game-Survival-Guide-ebook/dp/B007R0NTF4

So we were all set not to loose a minute when the contest opens.

Day 1. Brainstorming was the time eater. The plan was it would take about 4 hours, while in fact it took almost half of the day. First, we’ve had a heated discussion on how we can interpret minimalism in terms of level design and sound. Maybe we should stick to a low-res screen… The ideas were gushing forth!

After that, we moved on to discussing the core mechanics. We did not have time to elaborate neither on the game world, nor the story/characters. When the first day came to an end, we only agreed on the following: the game is about cubes that can move in a chain, like a snake. In addition to that, we started to create assets to be used in the game.

Deja vu Post-Mortem day 1

Day 2. Houston, we’ve had a problem. When it came to the world design and narrative, it turned out each team member had a different vision. And nobody wanted to capitulate. After a lot of stressful arguing, the game that started as a simple 2d puzzle platformer became a 3d isometric puzzle game with a story.

Then the thing went on wheels. We’ve sketched the world map on paper, for prototyping and even testing the game balance (it proved to be a good idea). Music was ready in no time and was spot on thanks to our great musician. So we could focus on creating puzzles. It was quite a challenge, since we had no prior experience in designing them. But that’s what made it probably the most interesting and fun part!

As the second day ended, we had a number of puzzles done. What else? The basic world template was ready. Sound, including all SFXs – check. Still, there is no UI, no game yet, and a lot of work to do.

Day 3. It’s time to put this cool game together! As the day dawned, we’ve started in high spirits and quickly designed rooms one by one by transfering the paper 2D model into 3D. One of us created text triggers for rooms, another one linked rooms together into a world.

Running really short of time, we threw out around 9 rooms. The gameplay did not suffer one bit from that, while it gave us a chance to finish the game in time.

It was almost night already when the game was completed. And by completed I mean TONS of stuff was yet to be polished and fixed. Bugs, level design fixes, improvements… Still, we made it! As the imminent deadline came, the game was ready and uploaded. To tell the truth, at least three bugs are left unfixed. It is also possible to cheat and completely bypass the puzzle-solving mechanics. Well, if you find a way :)

Deja vu Post-Mortem day 1

What went right

* Music & sounds production
* Task management, so that all team members worked efficiently
* Project schedule

What went wrong

* It took the whole 2 days to agree upon the vision
* Long & stressful brainstorming
* Didn’t have time to add sounds

Conclusion

Ludum Dare is definitely an inspiration. We are eager to participate in next competitions: avoid the pitfalls, perfect what was good, and make another great game!

You can play the Deja vu game here: http://www.ludumdare.com/compo/ludum-dare-26/?action=preview&uid=22220.
Feel free to drop a line or ask a question. Rating is much appreciated as well. Thank you!

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