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Archive for the ‘LD #20 – It’s Dangerous to go Alone! Take This!’ Category

The Evolution Of Diamond Hollow

Posted by (twitter: @arkeus)
Thursday, August 18th, 2011 1:42 am

With LD21 rapidly approaching, I wanted to do a Post-Post-Mortem of my LD20 entry, since in addition to improving the game to make it ready for wide release, I’ve been working on a sequel for the last 4 months. Links for those who don’t want to read:

Diamond Hollow on Kongregate (380,000+ plays): Diamond Hollow
Diamond Hollow II: Coming soon…

So let’s get to it!

In the beginning (approximate 7pm PST on the opening day of LD20), there were a couple of block games. These block games were well intentioned, but I could tell they weren’t going in the direction I wanted them to, so I quickly tossed them in the trash (the last one actually went into a filing folder somewhere to deal with at a later date).

My goal was to make something that players would find fun. Being the superficial dev I am, I quickly took to the past winners pages, and found that players like platformers. Great! So I immediately switched focus from block/puzzle game to platformer. I decided to go with a tower climbing theme, and this was born:

It was very generic; it was very simple. Now that I had the basics down in a way that I thought I could turn into something fun, I began drafting out what features I wanted in the game. Among these were:

  • Randomly generated infinitely high level
  • Quick paced movement and jumping
  • Gun shooting with the mouse
  • Enemies to kill
  • Something to collect
  • Upgrades to spend your collections on
The first few points I was able to get started on immediately. I tightened the control scheme, added a way to randomly generate levels, and popped it all together and came up with the following:

It was looking good! It was at this point I needed to choose a theme. While it was a tower climbing game, I wanted to do something not tower related. My first thoughts were climbing a castle (but that would have just been a tower so I threw that out), and climbing up through the branches of two large trees on either side of you. However, my powers of art are extremely limited, so while I would have enjoyed a tree climbing theme, it would have looked pretty terrible and have taken too much time. However, dirt was something I knew I could do easily (fill brown, add noise filter, DONE) in photoshop, and the first thing that popped into my mind was a cave. So quickly I hopped to photoshop, and the pictures above immediately grew into:

Awesome! But then I hit the “collect” point. What can you collect in a cave? Rocks? Bats? Diamonds! It wasn’t the most elegant solution, but with the clock ticking, I hopped on it, and it wasn’t long until I had cute little diamonds sitting to collect. At this point I also added my first enemy, the slime:

Things were looking great now! I could jump up a cave, collect diamonds, and avoid cute little slimes that liked to wander back and forth (why? because they are slimes of course). However, in order to hook players I needed upgrades. Many people find upgrades cheap and hate them, but they are like crack in the world of casual flash gaming (and I, like many others, feel drawn to upgrade anything and everything). However, in preparing how I wanted to do upgrades, I started thinking of other aspects of games that hook me. The main one that came to me was Achievements. Achievements usually mean nothing, but they can make a game much more fun by giving you goals, and goals in games are always great.  For example, killing goblins for hours can be boring, but when you’re doing it for a quest or achievement, you feel driven to do it, and you feel like it means something. If I’m going to have you climbing an endless cave, I might as well reward you as much as I can.

So I took to photoshop, and in a surprisingly short amount of time (according to my timelapse), I had a protype mostly complete:

This is what pushed me over and kicked my motivation into overdrive. As soon as I had this working I blogged it. There was just something about it that made me want to play the game myself, and it sounded like others liked it too.

I continued to work to polish the game, add a few more enemies (plants that shoot at you), and get the game in a generally fun state. However, sunday morning at about 4am I ran into a hurdle. I had never actually used FLStudio before, and after downloading the demo, I found I probably should have practiced. I started putting random beats together, and would constantly start new projects because every song I tried to make was like terrible terrible noise. I googled some tutorials, but found nothing all that great. After looking around for something to save me, I found some videos showing how to put together simple beats and use instruments. I put together a basic background beat, threw in an obnoxious sounding tune on top of it, and called it good (it still kills my ears when I hear it though). When trying to save it, I realized it would be good if I could save the actual project, so I attempted to buy the full version to save my “creation”. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem to like my credit card. I tried again. And again. Strange. The funny thing is, when I attempted to go for breakfast, my card was also declined. It wasn’t until Monday night that I learned that me trying to buy a strange program (FLStudio) on a strange website at a strange hour in the morning (5am) flagged the fraud check on my card, and they disabled it thinking I had it stolen. In the end it is for the best that I no longer have anything more of an mp3 for the “music” I made that morning.

After a nice 8 hours of sleep, adding sound effects went much easier thanks to as3sfxr. I got through that, balanced the game a bit, and ended up with pretty much a final product.


The last thing I needed was a name. I asked a couple of friends what they would call a game about collecting diamonds in a cave, and I got some absolutely terrible suggestions (that I’m happy I didn’t go with, because some were names of other games about caves they had played at one point but forget). Eventually, after using for a bit, I settled on a simple “Diamond Hollow”. It wasn’t exciting, daring, or clever, but it got the job done.

And with that… It was complete! And before the deadline, even! Overly excited, I submitted it and took a sigh of relief.

The next day I woke up refreshed, pulled up the game and started to play. Immediately I realized my error. The game was not balanced at all. Knockback was frustrating, the game was hard in general, and some of the achievements were way overtuned. Fortunately, while it was too late to change for the contest, there was still a life that Diamond Hollow could take after the competition.

Wasting no time I immediately got to fixing things. The first thing was the music. It had to go. Without the restrictions of having to make it myself, I turned to music licensed under the creative commons, and found something upbeat and catchy. An instant huge improvement. I then started rebalancing things which turned out to be a much bigger feat than expected. Changing achievements to require less skill is easy, but when you make gameplay changes that affect how easy the game is overall, all of a sudden your rebalanced achievements need re-rebalancing. It was a headache, but it got done. I then adding more polish to the game, fixing things like spawning, diamond locations, just to make the game feel less “thrown together”.

My goto place for flash games is Kongregate, so that is where I settled on for a home for Diamond Hollow. I wasn’t expecting much, as this game was made in a very short amount of time (well under 48 hours, even if you count the improvements I made). I was thinking it would get a low to mediocre response, and it was going to be something I would just watch and see how it progressed so that I could learn from it, and use player feedback as a way to improve my game development skills for future projects. But it turned out very different.

As soon as I posted it, it got an “okay” rating, but I began getting tons of feedback. While I had intended to use the feedback for future improvement in general, it all felt like improvements that the game should have had in the first place. I began compiling the feedback, coming up with concrete things to change to address the issues, and got to work. Every couple days I would work on implementing the latest round of feedback, release a new version, and announce the changes. It turns out that players like it when a developer listens and implements their feedback, and the effect was incredible. My “meh” rating went up by quite a bit until it was a “pretty good” rating. My plays started growing quickly, I got featured on the front page, and soon enough I obtained badges for my game. At the time of writing, the game has over 380,000 plays on kongregate. This was really exciting!

Then the feedback changed into bigger things. People wanted to explore. People wanted bosses. People wanted an “ending”. At this point I had to start rethinking my actions. There were a lot of things I would have liked to put into Diamond Hollow if I had the time during the competition, and there were a lot of features that players think would improve the game a ton. However, these would require major rewrites of all the code, at which point I might as well just start over from scratch. And that is where Diamond Hollow II was born.

Like with Diamond Hollow, I began by drafting out the features I wanted. Given I had no time constraint, I was able to include a lot of things, but I also had to limit myself. Did I want to get myself into an overbudgeted project that I would never finish? That was something I wanted to avoid at all costs. Among the list of features, I had the following:

  • An ending
  • Multiple guns
  • Bosses
  • More achievements
  • A story mode
  • Particles
  • Varied graphical environments
  • More enemies

With these goals down, I got to work. Rewriting the engine from scratch, I was able to greatly optimize it, allowing me to implement all the features I wanted, without it being slower than the original. However, I hit some major snags along the way in the form of content. Creating levels was taking quite a long time and it was starting to make me rethink having a story mode with hand crafted levels. Perhaps I could randomly generate the levels? Would players know the difference? In the end I stuck with it, and eventually managed to carve out the shell of a story mode. Then I began to fill it with enemies (new and old), and tons of improvements including new graphics, powerups, more upgrades, story text, and bosses.

Bosses were one area where I had a ton of fun. I needed to keep the bosses simple, in order to make them accessible to a casual flash player, but I was able to greatly vary them, and add different abilities and phases to them to make them a lot of fun.
After 3 long months, story mode was done. It was strange that for a project that I expected to only take about a month to complete, I had finally finished the first mode of the game. Thankfully, with all the framework in place, the other modes wouldn’t take nearly as long.
I immediately started work on the escape mode. Escape mode I wanted to be very similar to the original game. The idea was the same, in that you must climb as fast as you can while trying to survive. However, with story mode I had taken away the automatic-scrolling screen, and the game just felt so much more fun. With that, I didn’t want to return to the scrolling, but I wanted to keep with a sense of urgency so I compromised. Rather than racing against the screen, you are racing against a constantly rising lava level. This allows you to move up and down freely, as long as you stay out of the lava. The next mode was intended to be time trials, but after having played the game so much, this just didn’t feel too much like a time trial game. So I decided to scrap that mode, and instead implement that as a couple of achievements to beat some of the story mode chapters in a certain amount of time. I replaced the idea of time trial with boss mode. Because I had a lot of fun making (and playing) the bosses, I implemented a mode to try to defeat them all one after another. But that wasn’t enough. I then took it a step further and implemented a heroic boss mode, where the bosses are stronger and posses new abilities. This was my way of catering to the hardcore crowd, and give them a very challenging mode, without taking away from the experience of the average player.
It was at this point that the game was finally coming together. However, I still had a couple ideas floating around, so I implemented prototypes of them quickly, and after doing so, felt that they didn’t seem as fleshed out as a full mode, but I felt they were fun, so I put them in as minigames.
Diamond Hollow II is now getting the last finishing touches, and will be put up for sponsorship soon and released not long after.
Overall, the last few months have been great, and it’s crazy to think that everything behind Diamond Hollow 2 was born from Ludum Dare. I don’t think I can give enough thanks to all those involved in Ludum Dare that make it such a great experience, and to the other entrants that serve as the best motivation a game developer can get.

LD #20 Update – “Alone”

Posted by
Tuesday, July 5th, 2011 3:14 pm

Well, after about 2 months of bug fixing, content adding, level designing (God I hate level designing), doing exams (urgh), and waiting (so much waiting), I got my game for Ludum Dare 20, “Alone”, sponsored by MoFunZone 😀

You can play it here:

It was my first (full) Ludum Dare, and I have to say, I loved every second of it, and the game I eventually finished with. It was an awesome thing to do, and as you can see, actually got me motivated to work on and finally sell a game.
















The game is going viral on the 10th of July, so keep your eyes peeled for this appearing on Newgrounds and Kongregate and the like soon 😀

IDE Screenshots from Tri

Posted by (twitter: @RatKingsLair)
Tuesday, June 21st, 2011 6:29 am

I was too lazy/stupid to make a timelapse, but at least I created some screenshots while I worked on my Ludum Dare #20 entry, “Tri”. And finally I uploaded them! Here they are.

Ludum Dare on Reddit

Posted by
Tuesday, May 31st, 2011 9:10 pm

Lets get some upvotes on reddit for the LD 20 results…

Hey LD.

Posted by (twitter: @moltanem2000)
Thursday, May 26th, 2011 11:15 pm

You’re awesome.

I was going to post the usual frustrated-about-voting-results post. But I let it sit there for a while and realized it was useless. I just wanted to say thanks for the great LD as usual, and thanks to everyone who commented on my game! And a really big thanks for those of you who gave me a rating for community even though the game didn’t even work for you. The comments are always my favorite part of post-compo fun and I’m thankful for those that I got.

I tried to put all the over-thinking of it and strategics away this round; I Named the game what I wanted to, not something that would show up on top just for the sake of it showing up on top. I didn’t like the theme; I threw it in the gutter and made a game I actually enjoyed. Hell, I wasted an hour making “box art”. I just had fun and I hope y’all did too. I’ll see you at the Mini-LD!


Attack of The Heavenly Bats – success story

Posted by (twitter: @Sosowski)
Thursday, May 26th, 2011 4:23 am

I was told to write a post describing why my game is awesome and how did it come to it. I’m going to be pretty shameless, please forgive me 😛 There we go then…

Attack of the Heavenly bats


Regarding Change of Heart

Posted by
Wednesday, May 25th, 2011 8:32 am

Wow, my entry Change of Heart was #1 in audio and #7 in innovation. I would have never expected it.

Thanks guys. I’ve never had a game win an award before.

I should probably stop now and retire but I think I’m going to try to utilize some of these audio skills in a more action oriented interactive type of game. So let the fun continue with the mini this weekend!

Hey, and just to get the party going here, here is a little song I performed the other night (House style dance genre):


My LD20 warmup-game

Posted by (twitter: @IcarusTyler)
Wednesday, May 25th, 2011 1:36 am

So I made this a few days before LD20, to figure out if I can actually accomplish making a game in a short time, and also to finally get this idea out of my head.

There are Hitler-Clones. Go get them.

Go play here.

Also, mini-LD sounds fun. I shall be participating.


Play Against the Wall – Post-Competition Update

Posted by (twitter: @michaelpconsoli)
Tuesday, May 24th, 2011 12:32 pm

So the scores are in and LD20 has come to a close! Though I didn’t get any awards, I’m happy that I scored some points for innovation. Now that voting is over, I’ve decided to share the post-compo version of the game. I’ve fixed most of the gameplay issues that plagued my entry and likely led to its reduced score. Here is an overview of what I’ve added:

  • The word now procedurally generates itself as the player moves through it, making it effectively infinite.
  • Sounds for player movement, the environment, and brick movement.
  • A skybox, windmill building, new models, and other artistic elements.
  • A messaging/menu system that provides a minimal tutorial.
  • Character scripts that have reduced sensitivity, better handling mechanics, etc.

To come:

  • Options screen so that players can tweak controls and a/v settings.
  • Inventory system.
  • Elevators, roads, shops, farms, and new brick types.
  • Story/NPCs etc.

It’s been fun working on this project, and I’ve learned a great deal in terms of game design and programming. Check out the game’s website for future updates and downloadable versions of the game. I’d like to hear your feedback!


Posted by
Tuesday, May 24th, 2011 5:02 am

Another LD over, not sure how I feel about my scores this time – on the one hand, the scores are a mess, on the other, my game was a mess so I wasn’t going to take them too seriously anyway. :)

There has, however, been another epidemic of unjustified all 1/all 5 votes, and as the number of entrants grows this is sure to keep happening more and more. On the bright side, while I was a bit busy/lazy this time round, there’s 5 people who managed to rate all/nearly all the games (someone even managed 101%! :) ), and 21 who rated at least 25% of them. It’s possible that those figures include the people responsible for giving nonsense ratings, but even discounting them there’s a good enough base there that I think it might be a good idea to set up some kind of volunteer judging panel who could be trusted to rate and comment on a certain percentage of games (with each game distributed evenly amongst the panel) and give the ratings a bit more meaning. I feel a panel like that should be somewhat selective, but also in some ways more open – for example, someone could be allowed on through past LD experience (entering and rating), but even non-entrants with reviewing experience could join too – basically the LD organiser’s choice, or perhaps open to a community vote. Seeing as a number of indie game sites/blogs cover LD entries already I’d like to think a few would be happy to help out with that, and external help with rating would also reduce the pressure on those entrants who feel obliged to rate but would rather focus on developing their LD entry further while it’s still fresh.

That said, even if a few spoil it for the rest, I like that the current system gives everyone involved a voice and it might just not be LD without that.

Wanted to make a quick open world game “How”

Posted by
Tuesday, May 24th, 2011 4:50 am

I like to learn how to make an open world game, I have some great ideas I would like to know how sould the programming look like or are any recommendation on books out there, pleasea tell me whats needed.

First and Last Ludum Dare

Posted by
Monday, May 23rd, 2011 10:24 pm

I am completely disillusioned with Ludum Dare. I first heard of this competition from a friend telling me to try it out saying how amazing it was. He convinced me to go ahead and enter. Then I burn an entire weekend only to find that in 21 days my entry recieves 22 ratings from 288 submitters (7.639%). Of those ratings, many are blatantly done without reviewing the actual submission. Some were obvious downvoters, others gave undeserved 5’s all around the board, while others just gave random scores, or NO score for categories I KNOW  I had, showing me they didn’t even bother playing the game or looking at my community page.

Then I see other submissions with over 100 ratings making me assume there is some kind of advertising/word of mouth meta-game in play which is always a disheartening thing to see in any competition. While I do agree the games that won top 20 deserve those 20 slots, the games that fell elsewhere were completely lost into the void, with no quality control on their placement. I don’t know how you can improve a rating system that depends on a biased party to make the votes, but as a first time participator, frankly it’s just a joke.

Essentially I am a pretty upset that for a competition that has been running as long as it has; so many submissions have fallen through the cracks, and that I unwittingly set myself up for disappointment by entering.

TL;DR – The rating system brings no incentive to participate again :(

Gotta love the downraters

Posted by
Monday, May 23rd, 2011 7:24 pm

So I look at my game when the results come back, and see results I was expecting. This game was a test, so I am not suprised that it got mostly 2 and 3 overalls. But what’s this? columns of 1’s? My game surely wasn’t that horrible! Even if they didn’t like the humor or the graphics etc, I know I did some community work. What were they expecting, an essay?

Well after mild frustration but a little bit of self pity, I went on and looked at other games I found to be quite polished. What? More columns of ones? Are these people crazy?

I guess these people don’t have enough time to play or something, even then they shouldn’t be voting but instead leaving it all alone.

Ludum Dare 20 Results!

Posted by (twitter: @ludumdare)
Monday, May 23rd, 2011 6:56 pm

It’s been a long 3 weeks for some, but Ludum Dare 20 has finally ended.

Here are your results:

Top 20 Competition Games

You can check out the top 20 competition games here (including ties):

Winners are decided by the Overall category. To see the complete list, hit the “Show All Entries” link at the bottom.

Categorical Top 5’s

Here at Ludum Dare, being the best game isn’t the only way to win. Games are rated in 7 additional categories, with a special “Coolness” category highlighting people that went above and beyond to be sure you got a vote.

*NOTE*: You can click on the titles of the categories for Top 20 style lists per category.

More Great Games from the Jam!

The Jam is huge – simple as that. With 64 games this time, the Jam is now larger than some of the earlier Ludum Dare events. I regret that we still don’t do more for the jammers, but don’t fret, we are thinking of you. We’d like to encourage everyone to check out the Jam games, and leave a comment. Here are four to get you started:

Rainbow Riding Hoodz by Mr_Hk_ and team

Tri by ratking

Lonely Fortress by Winterblood

Again, this is just a taste of some of the great games to be found in the Jam.

See them all here:

ALL JAM GAMES (64) <--

Seriously, go check them out!

More Ludum Dare 20 links

Keynote!, with Sos
Theme Voting Results
Entry counts in the final minutes, by me
Wallpaper of all entries, by ExciteMike

Interesting Tags: montage, motivation, foodphoto, food, deskphoto, desk, timelapse’s 250 Indie Games You Must Play

Editor of Michael Rose has recently released his new book “250 Indie Games You Must Play”. I know we’re a pretty significant source of great freebies and not-so-freebies (see the featured games in the sidebar), so I fired off a question last night: Did any Ludum Dare games make the book?

Mike had this to say:

Yep, quite a number [of times] actually :)

We here at Ludum Dare love talking about ourselves, and though we may not have coffee tables to prominently show a book on, coffee is a significant source of caffeine, so I’m sold.

Visit your favorite Amazon and pick it up.

Ludum Dare breaks 2000 on Twitter!

As the organizers, Phil and I tend to amuse ourselves each event with little statistics to gauge the growth of the community. One I’ve been keeping a close eye on for LD20 is our twitter follower count. Early this morning, the @ludumdare twitter account finally broke 2000 followers! Wow!

We use the twitter account as a way to share little updates. Reminders, press coverage, and the occasional amusing quip we catch in the Twitterverse or on IRC. If you’re in to that sort of thing, and do the twitter thang, follow us!

Also if you haven’t already, sign up for the mailing list. Even if you do hound twitter reading each and every post, we make an effort to get the most important news to you via e-mail too.

Ludum Dare 21 – Coming August 2011!!

Like usual, stop by again in August for our next regularly scheduled event. We’ll try to have a date nailed down a month or two ahead of time. Don’t forget the mailing list, and Twitter.

May Mini LD #26, hosted by drZool

I agree, August is quite a ways away. How about this weekend then? Yes, tune in Friday for a brand new MiniLD event hosted by drZool. He’s been teasing with D’s all month… I wonder what he’s up to?


If you have any suggestions for us (website, observations, etc), we continue to collect them in the comments here:

Thanks everyone for coming out and making Ludum Dare 20 such a big success! We’ll see you again in August!

– Mike Kasprzak (PoV)

“Take This Triangle” Micro Post-mortem

Posted by (twitter: @isoiphone)
Sunday, May 22nd, 2011 11:34 pm

Just a few hours left. Time to post-mortem my game…
Take This Triangle is a 2d defense game inspired by vector graphics from the old-school. Spring physics from the new-school, and doobers from the school of Zynga.
TTT was written in C/C++ using SDL and completed in the 48 hour period and is playable on OSX and Windows here. If you want to play it on another platform it should compile just fine.

Figure 1: Estimated Time Usage

What Went Right

1. Vector Graphics

A massive amount of time was freed up by choosing to focus on what I don’t suck at (writing code, play testing games) and dodging what I do suck at (trying to be an artist).

2. Fun Core Mechanic

Dragging a springy things is fun. Clicking on doobers is fun. These two mechanics together worked well.

3. Small Scope

I managed to avoid feature-creeping the game or trying to undertake something too complex for the given time frame. Executing a small idea well is much preferable to a executing a larger, broader, but more rushed idea.


What Went Wrong

1. Starting at Zero

When the competition began I had an IDE and an zero base code. It took a few hours before I could begin writing game code. Preparation is key.

2. Distractions

Staying focused is always hard. I spent a lot of time doing other things (including sleeping) instead of remaining on task. See figure 1.

3. Polishing Too Late

I wish I had started improving  the art and adding particle effects in earlier. A screen shake, glowey lines, more particles, more feedback on the dragging / aiming, more tweaks to the difficulty curve, badass grid effects. Sooo many small things I would have liked to polish.



Over all the process was enjoyable. I am proud of my game, it is one of the few experiments I have made that I find myself returning to in order to kill a few minutes.

Please check it out!!!

As always, LD was a learning experience for me.

Amazing to see so many great ideas executed by so many awesome people. Enthusiasm and skills abound in this little indie community!

Great work everyone.

“Who Goes There?” Postmortem

Posted by
Sunday, May 22nd, 2011 5:52 pm

I’ve been meaning to write this postmortem for a while, but keep putting it off because my thoughts on it keep changing. After watching a few people play my game first hand, I think I’ve finally figured out what worked and what didn’t.

If you haven’t played it yet, then please go and play it, going by the number of comments I think that having a game beginning with ‘W’ means most people haven’t tried it. Thanks.

So, what went right and what went wrong?

Right: Animal companions
I knew when I saw the theme that I wanted to do a zelda-like game. I’ve not done one before so it would make for an interesting change, but I thought there’d be a whole bunch of zelda-like games, so I needed a ‘hook’ to make it different. That’s where the companions come from.

Each companion grants you an offensive ability and a puzzle solving ability. For example cats give you area-of-effect fireball bursts which can kill enemies and melt ice barriers. Ice weasels give you line-of-sight ice bolts which can kill enemies and build ice bridges over holes. Snakes cause room-wide earthquakes that can flip switches behind obstacles, and birds let you jump over enemies or objects.

And they all look different too! I spent a lot of time drawing different walking animations and idle animations, so it does genuinely feel like you’ve got a different companions helping you though the world.

Right: World navigation
Originally the game was going to only have single-screen, non-scrolling rooms. However on the first day I decided that would be too limiting, so rooms can actually be any size – if they’re smaller than the screen they’re centered, and if they’re larger then the camera scrolls around with the player.

Transitions are based on early zelda games, and although tricky to get right I really like how they came out. With single-screen rooms and no transitions you don’t really get a sense of walking through the world, but with the transitions you seamlessly go from one room to another so you actually feel like you’re exploring a single giant space.

Right: Graphics
There’s definitely prettier games in this LD, but I’m very pleased with how the graphics came out. Yeah, the low-fi pixely look is pretty over done these days, but it means I could get a lot of pretty decent graphics done very fast and keep everything looking consistent throughout.

This is by far the most art-heavy LD game I’ve done – an animated player character (in four directions!), four unique NPCs, four unique companions (with walking and idle animations), three enemies, plus the environment, gui and effects. In total there’s 120 unique sprites!

Right: Dungeon
There’s two ‘dungeons’ in the final game, the tutorial and the proper dungeon. The tutorial seems to work really well – everyone I watched got though it with only minimal head scratching and it explains everything it needs to.

For the actual dungeon my main goal was to make something non-linear so players would feel like they’re exploring something, rather than just following a long corridor. I think it pulls this off well – in fact I suspect it’s too non-linear, which overwhelmed some players. A smaller, easier dungeon to start would have been good but I didn’t have the time.

Wrong: Setting
Since the original inspiration was The Thing, the ice base theme fitted well when I was trying to think of non-zelda-like settings. However the combination of lack of time and lack of drawing skill meant I ended up with a fairly vague environment that didn’t really look how I wanted it too.

Originally I’d planned on having separate indoor and outdoor sections, but lack of time sunk that idea – I just didn’t have time to draw another set of environment graphics and the required code to hook them in.

Readability was a big factor too, and one area where the low-res look causes issues. Everything is drawn to be obvious as to what it is, and to be visually distinct from each other. Adding in extra environment detail would have made the puzzle elements of the gameplay harder to grasp.

Wrong: Dungeons
Quite simply, I ran out of time. I actually had two full dungeons designed on paper, but it took me over two hours to physically type in the first one (rooms were just text files with Xs and Os to designate walls and buttons, etc.) and make sure it was solveable, so I didn’t have time to add the second one. (Oddly, the one in the actual game is the second one I designed).

Because of this, the one dungeon that is in wasn’t properly playtested. Which brings me to…

Wrong: Balancing
Again, I ran out of time. Two things are pretty obvious now:

1. The player’s walking speed is far too slow. It probably needs to be about twice as fast.

2. The game is far too hard.

The first is a problem because it frustrates players, and means they give up as soon as they die. The second is more tricky to pin down.

Partly it’s because it’s an exploration/puzzle game, and so I obviously know the correct route through the dungeon. I find it really, really easy. But if you don’t know the route, it’s really, really hard. I should probably have made the dungeon more linear (or had a ‘starter’ dungeon). Also, I think being able to die was a bad idea. If you die you have to start the game from the beginning, but to compensate I gave the player lots of health and lots of places to heal themselves. I think instead I should have given them less health (maybe three hearts?), but made ‘dying’ just place them at the start of a room again, with full health.

So there we go. Overall I’m very happy with it, it’s by far the most polished LD game I’ve managed, with by far the most content. I’ll probably go back and tweek things, and add in the missing dungeon (assuming the judging result doesn’t say that everyone actually hated it).

If you’ve played the game, I’d love to know if you agree/disagree with anything above.


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