After only sleeping three hours tonight, here I sit the night after the compo and gather my thoughts. It’s not a post-mortem as the game isn’t dead yet. You are very welcome to play Unintended Acceleration and let me know what you think. It’s basically an open world racing game where you can’t directly control your speed.
Here’s what I wrote in my I’m in post, which shows what normally happens when I join a Ludum Dare:
I’ll probably follow my ordinary process of waking up around 7 on Saturday morning (Central European Time), check out the theme, have a long breakfast while trying to focus on thinking about the theme, getting anxious around noon when I still have no idea, start sketching in the afternoon, then think what the hell, this idea will have to do. And five minutes before the deadline at 3 on Monday morning, I’ll still be coding before finally submitting and thinking of all the features I wish I had the time to implement.
So how did it go?
This time it was different. I didn’t linger on choosing the game idea, and instead went with the first idea that popped into my head. I didn’t try to do anything clever with the idea, and chose to do something with “Two button controls”. Not too long ago I read an article about the problem of unintended acceleration in cars, where some faults gets the engine stuck in acceleration mode. While often lethal and tragic in real life, I thought it would be interesting to try out in a game, and as it’s not possible to brake or accelerate, I could make a car game with only two buttons: left and right.
My son started drawing a level as soon as I told him the idea. Because of the compo rules, I was only slightly “inspired” by his drawing.
I fired up Unity and started implementing the game mechanics. Driving is always fun in games, so it looked promising. But after a while I started doubting whether it would be fun anyway, and all the boring parts like win/lose states, restarting and counting damage were left to be implemented. In those cases I usually start working on something different to get my motivation back.
Music and Sound
At the start of the second and last day (as I’m in Europe, the compo is only two days), the game was playable but lacked polish and any level design at all. So I started working on the audio. In my opinion, racing games should have guitar-based music, so this is the first LD game where I have used a “real” instrument. I recorded a few tracks with the guitar and added drums, bass and an organ in GarageBand.
Some of the gear I used for recording music and sound.
After recording the music, I went out to try to capture sound for the car’s engine. I stood by the red lights trying to get close when I captured the sound of the cars when they accelerated, but it wasn’t easy to get clean sound from one single car. Then I stumbled upon a car parked at the curb with its engine idling while some guy was having a hamburger in the driver’s seat. I got as close as my self-consciousness allowed me to, took out my Zoom H2N device and recorded two minutes of the engine noise. It took some work to make a few seconds of it loop in Audacity, but it turned out so much better than the sine waves I used earlier.
When I listened to the recorded audio later, I found some noises like something hitting something metallic. I don’t know what made that sound in the first place, but they were perfect for the collision sounds.
Level Design and Modeling
In the end I just had to do some level design. Up until then, all I had was flat ground and some boxes for building, but then I used Unity’s terrain editor for most of the level. I hadn’t used it before so it was a gamble, but luckily it didn’t hide any big surprises. My 6 year old son wanted some boulders that you could hit with your car and they would move, so I modeled a rock and put a few of them in the game.
Apart from the terrain editor, I used Blender for editing the 3D objects. Cars should be red, smooth and reflective, so that’s what I did. I’m not a good modeller, so I didn’t bother with windows on the car. It looks a bit like a toy car. That’s why I made the buildings out of wood. I imagined the game was something a child played with a toy car and some wooden boxes. It reminded me of the Terry Gilliam movie Time Bandits. Sorry for my pretentiousness, but the “city” is actually a bit inspired by another Gilliam movie, Brazil (before I changed the texture from flat gray to wood).
The wood texture is from this locker in our office.
A few hours before the deadline I thought the game was pretty much finished. Then I realized that the game needed a minimap, a counter for how many cones you have left to find, a damage meter and polishing like fading in/out the screen and the music. Work tends to expand to fill the time available, so in the end I submitted the game three minutes before the deadline. As usual.
A screenshot from the compo entry.
In the end, I think the game turned out pretty nice for a game jam. Of course I can think of millions of possible improvements, but I’m still happy about how it went. Please let me know what you think.
EDIT: The game name obviously sucks as I keep on calling it Uncontrolled Acceleration instead of Unintended Acceleration. Fixed that now.