Barber Blues post-mortem
For this LD (my 4th already!) I made a game about shaving beards, called BARBER BLUES: living the dream. If you haven’t played it already, please check it out
How this game came to be
I approached this LD in the same way as I have the last few ones: spend the first morning thinking of various concepts, instead of diving directly in with the first random thought that comes to mind. I like to compare at least 3 different ideas, so I can pick the one that seems the most doable and fun. I’ve written some more about this process (along with some ideas that didn’t make it) here.
Once I knew I wanted to make a game about shaving people’s faces, I wondered if I could pull it off, so I started by trying to implement the shaving screen. Luckily LÖVE (the framework I’m using) has features to manipulate individual pixels of images, so I knew that by creating a picture of a beard, I could remove bits from it based on where the player clicks the screen. And since I can read the individual pixels from images, I can also compare two images (ie. the desired haircut with the actually created haircut). That’s really all I needed! The rest of the game has little to it from a technical point of view. I was so confident that I even added completely useless (but fun!) particles flying around while shaving, even though I had to still make an entire game around it.
By the time the shaving screen was fully implemented, it was already evening and I was a bit tired from coding all day. That’s why I decided to spend the time until bed on making a soundtrack for the game. Somehow blues / rock & roll seemed fitting to me for a game about beards and barbers. I first created some drum tracks using the awesome samples by Toontrack and added some basic piano parts using the Wurlitzer from Arturia. On top of this foundation, I recorded bass guitar, rhythm guitar and lead guitar parts in my little home studio. I had a blast, because before I knew it, it was 2 am. I quickly posted the soundtrack to the site and went to sleep.
This was a bit of a scary day, because even though I’m happy with my music and shaving implementation, I haven’t actually got a game around these things. So I spent the entire second day of LD frantically working to get at least the most basic things into the game. During this process I also changed the name of the game from the generic “Barber Shop” to the more fitting “Barber Blues”. I worked until deep into the night to get the different screens in, tell the intro story, draw the inside of a barber shop, make walking animations for my client character, connect clicking him to the shaving screen, connect the shaving screen back to the barber shop and finally implement the end screen for when the player runs out of money, because ultimately the barber shop always goes bankrupt (awwww, so sad).
I even needed some time of the submission hour to get my game in a presentable state, but all in all I’m happy with the result
What went right
- I’m glad I spent some time thinking of various concepts, instead of just going with the first one that came to mind. I wouldn’t have thought of a beard shaving game if I had started coding/drawing right away.
- It was very useful to make a mocked up outline of the entire game beforehand, as it resulted in having a clear idea of what to make the entire weekend.
- I really like how well I’ve implemented my shaving mechanic. Normally I just change numbers randomly until it works, but this time I’ve actually sat down and did the math, and it shows. It has been solid from the start.
- I’ve never made particles before, but I think I’ll never ship another game without them. Loads of fun!
- It was cool to record some improvised music, instead of having real compositions. This made it doable to record quite a bit of music in not that much time.
What went wrong
- I played with my shaving implementation too long on day one, which meant I had to make basically the entire game the next day. This resulted in unnecessary time constraints in an already tight schedule, which means some things I would have liked to add didn’t make it into the game.
- One of these things that I didn’t have time to implement is variation in how the clients look. They all have the same outfit and same white skin tone, which is something I regret a lot. I wish I had added some more diversity there.
- The inside of the barber shop is too bare bones and doesn’t even include any barber furniture. A plant would also have been nice.
- Balancing the game was hard. Sometimes I felt it was too easy, other times it was clearly too hard. On top of this, the actual payment clients give you is quite random, which makes it hard to judge whether it’s properly balanced.
- I would like to have recorded my sound effects a little better, but I was running behind. So instead of going up to my studio and use my proper mics, I just blurted something into my laptop mic. This is especially apparent in the door noise when a new client enters the shop. It might seem minor, but I really hate it when the sound isn’t right.
That’s it! Or is it?
I’ve considered making post-compo versions of my games before, but never had the energy to actually do it. But this time, I’m more serious about it. One of the features I would *love* to have is that screenshots of the resulting haircuts are uploaded to Twitter. Wouldn’t that be awesome to see? Making a post-compo version would also allow me to create some diversity in how the clients look, add some furniture to the barber shop and perhaps most importantly, properly balance the game to make sure it’s neither too harsh nor too boring.
I’ll make another post if and when I make this updated version, and I’ll update the LD page accordingly. You can follow me on Twitter to stay on top of things.
OK, that’s it. Thanks for reading and I hope you have fun with my game:
Barber Blues: living the dream.