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Planet Smasher Retrospective

Posted by
Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013 6:49 am

TL;DR: Somehow not a complete failure.

I’d basically written my game off as being completely terrible. It evolved from being a simple test of the game loop, and I basically felt like I did it because I had painted myself into a corner. However, there seems to be a lot of love for the game. A lot of people think the mechanic is interesting, but the game is too simple. It probably is at that.

If I were to do it again, I’d refine the mechanic by making the planets “stick” together instead of disappearing. This would change the difficulty curve of a level: instead of becoming harder and harder as the level went on, you would balance that somewhat by having a much larger “planet” with which to smash the smaller “left over” planets. One person suggested that I stop the planets from entering too tight an orbit, which was something I was considering, but the game becomes simply too difficult. With the planets “squishing” together, I could decide to make the planets bounce off the sun or keep distance some other way like suggested.

I didn’t tune the difficulty curve of the levels enough I think. They become slightly too difficult too quickly, which I think was picked up on.

On the sound / graphics front, it was noted that I had no sound and the graphics were very minimal. I definitely wanted a refined “fun” mechanic before I moved on to the more visceral aspects, and I just didn’t get there in the end. I’m actually far more confident in my ability to fine tune the graphics and sound than I am in game design, so that’s where I was concentrating this LD (and I will probably continue to do so in the near future).

However, one unforgiveable sin was having no sound at all. I really should have had a minimal soundscape and sound effects. I was disappointed with createjs’s sound capabilities. I was hoping I could pipe through sine waves and I couldn’t. I really wanted that minimalistic vibe, and I really didn’t want a point when I was putting sine waves into an MP3 and playing that.

I could also have chosen slightly more representative colours for the planets, the sun, and space, although, being firmly in the ludologist camp, I actually feel happier that they’re not representative — I want the game design to talk to the player, not the graphics. That’s one thing that’s great about a game like Osmos or Eufloria: You can be at planet-scale or at microscopic scale, it isn’t clear, but the behaviour of the system shines through. However, the bigger problem was I did nothing for the smashing of the planets. Disappear or not, they really needed to have a visceral impact on the player — the thrill of catching two planets in orbit and then having them smash together needed a far bigger pay-off than I was giving (which was none). It’s a lesson learnt though: a simple visual flourish actually has a huge effect on the game design. I wouldn’t have said that before this competition.

In the end I had a great time, and really want to try again, and that’s really the whole point, right?

I think I’m going to leave it there

Posted by
Sunday, August 25th, 2013 2:43 am

That wasn’t too bad. A thing. It exists. Two days-ish. I’ll be a lot more confident coming into the next one. The game design isn’t too great but it’s fun enough to play around with. I guess I’ll get onto judging tomorrow some time.

First version uploaded

Posted by
Sunday, August 25th, 2013 1:41 am


The scaling isn’t perfect, and the randomness is slightly higher than I would intend, but the skeleton is there: You try and “smash planets” into one another at high speed. The red dots are the planets, and the blue dot is like a “Sun” which the planets revolve around. This is very similar to my initial implementation. It suits my purposes well: It doesn’t fall into the trap of being a platformer. Unfortunately, the timeout itself feels a bit tacked on, like I needed to do it because it was “10 seconds”. It’s also not a very refined experience, but I guess I don’t mind.

I might want to change the planet + sun sizes a little as the rounds go on to fine tune the difficulty curve a little. Hopefully that’ll make it more fun.

If I’m disappointed in one thing, it’s that I couldn’t come up with a better idea than the very initial test I did to set up the event loop. I tend to do it a lot. Oh well…

First attempt

Posted by
Saturday, August 24th, 2013 5:26 am

I’m enjoying createjs, and the first little thing I’ve made is a simple physics system with newtonian gravitation. I was thinking about you (the giant blue ball) trying to “swallow” up the little red balls, but in the end the mechanic ended up unsatisfying. There’s something about Newtonian Gravity which is nice, but it doesn’t gel with the game idea of “capturing” the red balls, and I was loathe to switch the model with a different acceleration style.


In the end I might have to abandon this idea completely. I feel like the certainty of a sprite based system might have been the way to go, but also that you’re trading certainty for a ho-hum end product.

For that aspect, I think I’m comfortable not submitting on my first LD, but it might be a factor for a later one.

Just starting

Posted by
Saturday, August 24th, 2013 5:25 am

Nearly the end of the first day and I’ve only just turned my computer on — too many other things on. I thought the time away from the PC would at least get me some time to think through what I want “10 seconds” to be. As it turns out, I’m blanking. It contains the concept of time, which is hard to mess with. Multiple rounds of 10 seconds each, or a time organising game seem the obvious first ideas.

The second set of time mechanics is thinking along the lines that the “game” takes place in 10 seconds, and you have to pulp fiction your way around in the 10 seconds. The nice part is that you effectively create barriers for yourself. However, engine-wise it’s difficult.

The third is a thematic idea, where you say to a character they have 10 seconds to live, but they really don’t. The decision-making completely changes around because they are thinking of the extreme short term.

The fourth is just to do whatever and find a way to creatively insert the theme in there.

An extension to the first idea (“10 second rounds”) is the idea a driving game and “time extensions” a la Daytona. You have to drive for as long as possible and every “10 seconds worth of driving” your time re-fills to 10 seconds. Change this from driving to something else and maybe the idea has some merit (even though it is the “obvious” set of mechanics).

Technology wise I’ve picked createjs, never used it before. Someone suggested melonjs¬† because it’s a lot faster to get going, but I’m more coder less game designer, so playing with createjs (even if it means no game at the end) is going to satisfy me, even if it means my “real” gamejam happens next time around.

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