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Eskort Mission Post Mortem

Posted by
Wednesday, December 23rd, 2015 1:12 pm

Introductions:

Hi everyone, I am Luc, I am an artist and game designer from the southern tip of Africa. This was my first time game jamming alone, my goal was to create a game for the compo, but alas, it was not ready in time. Below are the details of exactly what I feel went right in my first solo game jam, and what went wrong.

A brief Caveat to my game concept was that Eskort Mission was not on theme, I had a game idea before hand that I wanted to explore in the jam.

Saving Cats, one nazi at a time
What Went Wrong:

AI: this represents the first time I was tackling AI, and its spotty at best. My games enemies path-finding is mostly dodgy, the solutions to the collisions, even more so. I need to explore the Gamemaker grid system in more depth to fully fix the problem, but for now enemies are a bit too effective at running at the player, therefore are too hard for uninitiated players, and are not fun. Furthermore their path-finding can often drag them through vehicles and building unopposed. My tired minds solution was to have objects slowly move enemies out of their collision boxes… which makes for some weird bugs and sticky movement.

Tutorials and Communication: From feedback I have realized that players feel a bit lost. The procedurally generated maps become labyrinthine and finding cats was difficult for most player. The cats AI also stops following the player at a certain distance. Interactions with the cats therefore feels sometimes arbitrary and at worst frustrating because finding them and making them follow the player is difficult. To  mitigate this I find I need to add communicative devices to let players now how my systems are working.

There was also feedback regarding finding the way back to the chopper. I tried to provide an arrow with an “E” to make it easy to find ones way back, but given how many players got lost, this is evidently not effective enough at communicating. I need to explore other options, perhaps a mini-map, or a arrows in the heads up display.

Players also remarked on how the games goals were not explained. The lack of an appropriately explication of the games goals detracts from the overall experience.

bugs: There are some occasional graphical and drawing issues which cause some strobing between tiles.

 

What Went Right:

learning to code: I set out with a few challenges to meet in this jam, the most predominant of  these was my resistances to coding (what I do is not so much coding as scripting and will be referred to as such from here on). While I have scripted before, in both Unity and Game maker I was an artists and used them mostly as tools for getting my art on display. Forcing myself to create a complete game play loop within the 72 hours really taught me a lot about successfully creating a game.

the first thing I learned is that it is important to get a game play loop in as fast as possible. Too often I find myself stressing over the feeling of the shooting, The random generation of tiles looking good, or the specific timing of the enemy firing rate, and leave the games loop to the last few minutes of the jam, making my games feel like galleries of activities rather than games. Focusing on finishing the game play loop timeously allowed me to better assess the problems with the game play at an earlier stage of the game jam. This left me time to fix things things (though there are still many bugs and issues, make no mistake :D).

Making Lists: Completing my scripting tasks timeously would’ve been impossible without setting out lists of what I wanted to complete and at what times I wanted to do things. This both gave me a feeling like I was approaching completion, as well as keeping me on track for completion and ensuring I didn’t get distracted.

Planning: I had a plan of what I wanted to do before the jam, while this meant I strayed from the theme, ultimately this helped me be determined in creating the kind of game I had envisioned. However I was also flexible with this plan, compromising on frivolous details and many of the features of my original concept (which was about guiding reckless soldiers who resemble lemmings away from danger and to the Evac helicoptor).

Art: I did all the art in the Sunday of the jam, I was rather chuffed with how quickly I managed to get it all out. Though the tile sets were not quite what I wanted, and the solution to auto tiling was not very robust, meaning the layout of tiles was hap-hazard rather than planned.

List of excuses:

Ignoring the theme: In the end I acknowledge that this will count against me, and In future I may find that sticking to the theme will provide a enjoyable and stimulating challenge.

Not sleeping enough: This seems silly, but going to bed late in the morning really affected my productivity. On good sleep I was able to fix problems quickly that in my tired mind I was unable to work around.

Travelling and sickness: A spot of Gastro and having to catch a flight on the last day of the compo ate into time I would’ve liked to spend fixing bugs.

Conclusion:

For the first time doing a jam by myself I was proud to have made my thing, broken as it is. While jamming alone is a great learning experience, I did miss the company and camaraderie that comes from a group game jam.

I really hope you guys enjoy my little game about saving cats.

regards Luc

 

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