Ludum Dare 34 — December 11th-14th, 2015 — Theme Tied: Two Button Controls, Growing

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Ascending Roots

by TimBeaudet - Jam Entry

LudumDare 34 Jam Project Created by:



Programming: Tim "BlackBird" Beaudet
Music/Sound: Jeremy "mmango" Bell
Lead Artist: Daniel "Kvasir" Akesson
Artist: Toms Stals
Design: Oliver "olligobber"
Voice: "Tea"


Controls:
A and D or arrows to move left and right
W and S or arrows to climb up and down
X or K to water
Z or J to reset


Known Issue(s):

Possible black screen with audio only on PC, fixed by use Legacy GL version. Please let me know if this occurs for you and what graphics card you use. Updating drivers -may- also fix the issue, but not always.


Post Compo Soundtrack: https://soundcloud.com/jbellstudios/ascending-roots-ludum-dare-34-soundtrack

Downloads and Links


Ratings

#27Audio(Jam)4.19
#37Overall(Jam)4.08
#51Theme(Jam)4.30
#65Mood(Jam)4.04
#111Fun(Jam)3.74
#195Graphics(Jam)4.04
#367Innovation(Jam)3.33
#1562Coolness45%

Comments

Cyranh says ...
Dec 14, 2015 @ 9:59am

Doesn't start. Get an error saying glew32.dll is missing on my computer.

LudumFans says ...
Dec 15, 2015 @ 1:50am

Problem with the glew32.dll

TimBeaudet says ...
Dec 15, 2015 @ 2:31am

The glew32.dll issue should be fixed, it was missing from a previous beta package. The final package is now live for both MacOS X and Windows. Enjoy, and please leave us feedback.

ashdnazg says ...
Dec 15, 2015 @ 9:13pm

Mind blowing amount of content and levels!
Amazing graphics, great music (it only felt repetitive because I was playing the game for so long).

Since the focus here is the puzzles rather than being pixel perfect I think it could be better to prevent watering in places it doesn't do anything.
Also going down trees in narrow places requires some very careful (read: many failed attempts of) moving.

I really enjoyed this!

kaype says ...
Dec 15, 2015 @ 9:13pm

This reminds me a lot of the little handheld games I would play as a child. This is very relaxing! The art is a little hard to see on 1080p displays but the game was still fun none-the-less. I got stuck on one of the levels though. I don't think it might've been a bug with the game, it was probably just me not doing it correctly.

Very relaxed, 4/5. The music also helped a lot.

Here's some of my gameplay footage (720p30fps):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aN1dcujiKjg

ahmeni says ...
Dec 15, 2015 @ 9:17pm

Fantastic art, fantastic little game, amazing work guys!

Haokarlos says ...
Dec 16, 2015 @ 1:12am

Hey guys, I'm having problems with the OS link!

Dec 16, 2015 @ 1:26am

Interesting concept. Would have loved to be able to move diagonally while on the plants.

kerneltt says ...
Dec 16, 2015 @ 2:00am

good game

Dec 16, 2015 @ 2:40am

kaype, cool seeing someone outside of the development team play the game:) the problem you ran into is basically that you can only hold 6 water maximum and the game doesn't convey that very well:/ something we didn't have time to resolve during development unfotunatly. -Kvasir

Verrazano says ...
Dec 16, 2015 @ 3:30am

Good puzzle design and early tutorial. I didn't even really need to read this page to figure out the game. I liked the graphics a lot, nice and pretty. However the vines to me where initially unclear, it was hard to tell whether or not I could climb over an edge on a vine that looked like it reached. Music was good to. I think my biggest gripe and one of the things I think should have been polished more in this game was movement. The movement was slow, and move around on vines really sucked, you got caught on things a lot even though it didn't look like it, especially when trying to get over an edge. Another thing I found frustrating was falling, I understand it was kind of used as a device in the mountain puzzles, but I think it really should have been without, and maybe just found some way design levels around it, or at least make the fall longer, it seemed really short. Sorry for text wall that may have seemed mostly negative, I did like the game though, it seemed like a very complete game and I got to the end and collected my golden watering-bucket. :D

WetDesertRock says ...
Dec 16, 2015 @ 4:15am

I liked it, I think the overall aesthetic worked well for you all, the music felt planty, the graphics had their own unique style which was neat.

I felt the main thing that could've been worked out was polish. I seemed like things worked, but they _just_ worked. For instance, going up and down plants worked, but going down them seemed too slow, would've been nice to have it so you could slide down the plants. This is especially important because you couldn't really fall down from the plants. It was also hard to start climbing the plant when it was coming up from a one wide gap in the floor.

The music was nice, however I was kinda wanting more of it. It seemed well done through out and worked nicely for the game, but I almost wondered if you could've made a variation on it (keep the material but change some, kinda a cheaty way to get more music in a jam environment), and used that for the second part of the game, especially when you would spend more time on levels.

The sound design was nice, but a bit flat. What I mean by this is that it portrayed your interactions with the environment, but it didn't give the environment its own sound. Stuff like wind, leaves rustling, mice, birds, anything you hear in the woods you would add in. Tim, I know you spend a lot of time hiking! Next time you head out into the woods, figure out what conveys your location to your ears. What makes the woods sound like the woods? Not just the sounds, but how do they bounce off the trees and leave their origin? Are they mostly higher or lower frequency? Just kinda close your eyes and appreciate the soundscape. Even if you didn't do the sound design for this project perhaps thinking about this would help you later on. Another thing contributing to its flatness was the fact that it didn't have a huge variety of sounds.

The art was really interesting, and had its own style which I enjoyed. One thing about it is that it seemed a bit cluttered an in the way of the understanding of the scene. For instance, the leaves sometimes seemed like I should be able to walk on them. It also seemed like the focus was on the whole scene, rather than the foreground and character/gameplay elements. Perhaps these magical plants could give off a glow like the floating water buckets. Consider making the individual palettes for non-important background or other elements less contrasting, that would make them seem less important. Similar to the sound design, I think more activity could've been created. The forest is a really active and dynamic place to be in, there is always activity. You are surrounded by life, that is something that could be conveyed in this game. One way to do this could be making the background flow or react to imaginary wind. Make grass entities that blow, leaves could float by, mice scurry around.

The level design was interesting as well. The first few levels were really easy and didn't seem to go anywhere. Then suddenly we had "Into the Trees" which was much more difficult than the rest. Made me realize I had to plan out exactly what I had to do. It seemed like there could've been a bigger build up in the difficulty. The later levels also seemed a bit easy, just had to look out and it came apparent the necessary flow to it. I'm no good at level design myself, so I can't really help out. Only thing I've found is that when I'm doing level design, its always the last few levels that are of a difficulty that I wanted them to be. Of course its a jam so I don't know how to overcome this. For a jam game, I think the levels were pretty well designed.

Props to everyone on the team, I think you all did a good job. I enjoyed the game and thought it well done. What I posted above is places to expand a team member found that they didn't have much to do. Not everything has to be done sequentially (as I'm sure you know), such as the sound design can come before the art, vine climbing can be done before vines, levels can be thought out and drawn on paper thinking of more effective objects to include to make them more dynamic.

Good job ya'll.

the31 says ...
Dec 16, 2015 @ 5:23am

Wow, dastardly puzzle platformer you guys made. Nice! I've gotta agree that what it needed was some polish: I think it was too unforgiving for how relatively slow it goes. Especially on "Into the Trees", I would get far into the puzzle and accidentally water some random ground next to the plant I wanted to water. Increasing the speed or decreasing the punishment would be nice, I think. (Walking into fire could just push you back instead of killing you, you could prevent watering unless it's going to do something, and maybe even shrink the levels where possible so there isn't as much walking.)

Art and sound were great. There were a few things that didn't quite mesh (or maybe just two: the hand-painted-looking bush and glowy watering cans stood out) but overall it was a very nice style and mood.

After reopening it to see what level it was that I quit on I noticed that my progress wasn't saved. :( I noticed that it put me back in the level when I went to the title screen, so I was hoping it would. Oh well! I had some good fun with it.

TaoPhoenix says ...
Dec 16, 2015 @ 5:44am

By the overnight into Wed Dec 16 2015 US East Blackbird put up a different build that can sometimes help players running XP avoid "invalid app" errors so I got to play it just now.

I'd call this game a really solid entry, easily 3-4 on a lot of categories.

There's a couple of different types of puzzle games - the ones with "sneak shots" where a player can get really frustrated (some like it though!) with obscure things to do to advance the action along.

This one tries to "play fair" in that it's about the pattern sequencing of the water vs the max capacity 6 drop cap and which way you go which direction and so on.

So I just ran through it with the help of the devs and with one exception once I got past "some funny stuff" I did just fine on all the levels except one.

More detailed stuff in a second post just to avoid walls of text.

The art is solid, there's some soft music, and the puzzles are ultimately very doable. There's one level in the middle Into the Trees that some of us think is actually harder than some later levels so don't get discouraged!

TaoPhoenix says ...
Dec 16, 2015 @ 5:58am

On the more technical side, a chat with the developer lead yielded the following "fairness tips".

- A couple of the levels have small sprouts that are really hard to see and know they're there. One idea is to just "burn lives" because there's no timer, no game over, each level has a restart, and no need to rush.

- Wander around just trying to water everything in sight to find out what grows. The game "plays fair" so it's about interlocking your water usage, not "find the hidden sprout".

- When you're putting out fires with the water, *don't stand on top of the "smoldering logs" * (that only catch fire when you cross over them once) - you have to stand to the side to put the fire out.

- Mushrooms and other "background" plant lichens don't grow - only the main green sprouts and vines grow.

- Wander around "wasting a couple lives" learning which are "legal" jumps and which are unsafe (you die). Otherwise you could miss a legal move because you thought it was an unsafe / illegal jump down (falling off a raised element.) Some work, some don't.

TaoPhoenix says ...
Dec 16, 2015 @ 6:17am

More stuff:

- Because there's no time limit, no "lives lost", and full level restarts, go slow, use small taps of the movement keys, make sure you don't scramble your muscle memory trying to do some kind of speed run, because if you mis-click and lose a water droplet, don't waste your time because chances are you're hosed and can't finish the level. just start over.

- The level "Summit" isn't all that hard, but there's a vine on the top level in the middle that you can't see that's the finisher. This game "plays fair" so it's about the water droplets, not trying to find hidden vines.

Two strategy tips:

- The *implications* of only holding six droplets is that you can't "fill up with less than 3" so you waste the last drop you need somewhere else. So make "partial progress" growing something you need.

- In a couple of cases you have to run across a smoldering log and grab the water and back before the fire lights up.

- The trickier levels have "loops" so watch what order and direction you cross the smoldering log because that one's free but it wastes a water coming back and if you do the loop the wrong way you'll likely be one water short somewhere near the end.

Good luck!

I will also be reviewing this one over at DonationCoder.com with mostly a mirror of these notes, along with some other Ludum Dare 34 games!

http://www.donationcoder.com/forum/index.php
http://www.donationcoder.com/forum/index.php?topic=42010.0

olligobber says ...
Dec 16, 2015 @ 11:25am

Tao said "In a couple of cases you have to run across a smoldering log and grab the water and back before the fire lights up." - TaoPhoenix

This is untrue. In fact, I attempted to design the levels so not only was it unnecessary, but it was difficult to do. I missed it in a couple of spots, but the entire game is solvable with no worries about timing, as long as you don't linger on top of fires.

amras0000 says ...
Dec 16, 2015 @ 2:40pm

Great work. Puzzles were brilliantly designed, and paced just right. Music and audio design perfectly suited the graphics ands setting. Beautiful game all around.

Minor complaints:
It was difficult to tell how many units of water I'd need to grow most vines; I usually had to work through trial and error to figure out which platforms were reachable with 1 water, and which I needed 2 or 3 for.

The platforming on the vines felt very stiff, and getting down 1-block-wide holes was very messy. I had to hit 'up' to actually mount the vine in a way that allowed me to climb down.

Very minor complaints:
Some of the graphics had outlines and other graphics didn't, which seemed a bit jarring at first though the style grew on me throughout the game. Very nice looking otherwise.

The final level (summit) seemed a bit too easy... just grab the water on the right, move back down the ramp before the fire starts, grab the water on the left, do the same thing, climb up the plant in the middle, step to the left, grow the nearest plant there, climb it, put out the fire, take the water, water the plant to the left of center, leave. There was a whole lot of level outside that central area that seemed like you intended the player not to run back after grabbing the first two bits of water?

In summit, on the top level, there's a plant that grows out from the level below, between the two sprouts. If you grow it all the way up, it clips through the platform, and if you then try to climb it, the protagonist gets launched into space and dies off-screen.

g12345 says ...
Dec 16, 2015 @ 7:57pm

What should I say, this was a longer puzzle than I first thought. But when I restarted the day after (well, it doesn't save) I completed it in one go.

The graphics looks really good in this game. All kinds of shrubbery and detailed background with simple green trees in the foreground. I'm not good at judging music so I can't comment on it, but I don't think it's bad.

As for the gameplay, I feel like all the kinds of deaths are a bit too forced, and most of those deaths could probably be handled easier by not allowing the player to go there instead. At the Summit I tried to drop from a vine to a platform, but somehow I felt too far and touched a fire block instead, which I felt was really unfair. And because of those fire deaths, it means that I have to approach the fires very carefully every time and that really is annoying.

The level design looks nice, and I understand it's hard to design puzzles in a weekend. The difficulty curve is a bit strange, and I believe the third level was the hardest one, while many of the later levels it's possible to skip some of the water items.

But overall, it's an atmospheric adventure with some puzzles in it. If I made an post-jam version I'd suggest you to re-tune the puzzle difficulty curve, and weed out some of the unnessary deaths. But as it is now, it's still good enough for 4+ stars in most of the categories (at least for me).

Tom Gardiner says ...
Dec 17, 2015 @ 11:47pm

While I can't vote because I didn't submit myself, I want to comment on my thoughts as this is a very interesting game.

The level design is amazing, I can't fault it apart from the sharp difficult spike after the first couple of levels (I forget what the suddenly difficult level was called). I also really liked the music and the sound effects, it made me feel strangely nostalgic and actually made me feel like I was on an adventure, something not even many AAA games can pull off for me these days (actually, they very much bore me, so great job :D).

The graphics were good, although I feel like there are points where tree roots could have been more obvious (there was a level I was stuck on because I didn't know roots were there).

In terms of programming and polish, quite a lot could improve this game to the point where it's really fun to play and makes it more immersive. There should be an option for fullscreen mode, it's slightly harder to play without this as the laptop I'm playing on has a relatively high DPI than what I'm used to, meaning I also didn't really appreciate each pixel as much. The player's movement should be more fluid, and move slightly faster. At the moment it just feels slow to play, and the difference between movement should not be so obvious (eg. walking, then movement suddenly stops and starts climbing down a tree). I think adding a camera to the player would also help with the immersion, smooth following the player as they move around (I'm aware that because of this you wouldn't be able to see the entire level to solve the puzzles, so unless you added another key to show you the whole level this point could basically be ignored).

The game crashed at some point during the gameplay, just as I was ascending one of the trees near the end of a level (I think I may have gotten to the top of it and landed on the ground before it suddenly crashed). The log it produced was not helpful at all:

---------
Crash Log
---------

On: 12/17/15 23:22:56
By: C:\Users\Tom\Downloads\ascending_roots\AscendingRoots.exe
Type: UNKNOWN

Stack Trace:
-----------------------
-----------------------


Overall, if the game had more polish (I love me some polish, I stupidly add polish before the main game mechanics most of the time...) I personally would definitely rate this game between 4 and 5!

(I hope most of these points actually made sense as it's just a kind of rambling of thoughts)

TimBeaudet says ...
Dec 18, 2015 @ 4:26am

Wow, thanks everyone for the amazing comments and I hope they continue coming. Every member of the team gets the feedback and we take it all to heart so we can learn and improve for next time. It seems across the board Into the Trees was a tough level, and the roots at the smallest stage needed to pop out at the player to be more visible. I agree with WetDesertRock that having a glow effect on it would help with these "lost roots" issues.

Tom, that crash is very unexpected, actually also unexpected that you got a crash log since the build is a release version, which is also why there is no stack trace. I'll have to look into why that was created in the first place, but also kinda wish I had shipped with symbols so it could have got a stack trace or more information. If I had to guess, either the fling/space bug caused a bad math operation.

The movement could have been faster, and at one point it was. I slowed it down because I felt it helped the mood. However the points made about slow movement and death penalties will be taken into account for future games. The fire could have just pushed the player back, and we probably should have made it impossible to just waste water on the ground to avoid a key misfire.

It was a blast to work on this project with the team!

Adreqi says ...
Dec 18, 2015 @ 10:12pm

technical/debug part : crashed on summit :'( I was on the last platform before the top, going on the left to get the water to grow the last vine (if ever it helps). Also, I had to run the legacy GL version, with AMD R9 290/catalyst (the new "crimson" drivers suck).

The game itself:
Pace is quite slow (especially the vine climbing) but I guess it's for the mood, which is really great. I spend way too much time on this game compared to what I initially planned, that at least makes it a brilliant success. Music really feels relaxing, art is a pleasure to the eye, level design, well I can't judge that because I suck at level design, but I liked it anyway. Great job !

arzi says ...
Dec 19, 2015 @ 1:37pm

I really liked the music :)

olligobber says ...
Dec 20, 2015 @ 6:06am

Adreqi, the legacy GL version was made so it would work on my Asus R9 290, so I think it's common on AMD Graphics cards. The new version of the engine shouldn't need legacy GL though.

euske says ...
Dec 20, 2015 @ 7:15am

A nice puzzle! I found the controls a bit wonky (and sometimes unforgiving) as other people said. Also, I sometimes thought graphics are *too* detailed, because in a game like this a subtle difference of appearance makes the player suspect there might be some hidden elements. Overall, a good job.

Jwatt says ...
Dec 23, 2015 @ 6:51pm

Okay, let's get this out of the way first: 5 stars for Audio, easily. I could see this claiming a top 3 spot in the Audio category overall, comparing this to the Jam entries I've played. A case in point of how it really does improve the whole experience when people have a dedicated sound designer in their team.

The puzzles were just the right easy/medium difficulty. Nothing too challenging. Some fairly clever uses of the simple mechanics that I was anticipating to see, like your limit of 6 drops coming into play, and things like fires spreading to other blocks. I don't primarily think of this as a puzzle game after all, but more like a Knytt-style exploration game which happens to have environmental puzzles in the mix.

Speaking of that, I did note how the levels have all sorts of neat nooks and crannies. Sometimes there's a longer walk to get somewhere, sometimes there's purely decorative fires out of your reach here and there. All this gives you the impression that levels don't exist only for the puzzles' sake, which is important for the sort of immersion you were surely going for. This game really has a sense of cohesion about what it want to be and convey.

Graphically it's a bit hit-and-miss. Many of the sprites look like a "first attempt", but then again, there's a lot of content visually and none of it is ugly per se. I'm not sure if I should count the lack of contrast between foreground and background as a criticism, as the game's pace is slow enough for you to stop and parse the landscape for a while. But I'm sure all of what I'm saying has to do with acknowledged time constraints, and post-jam development would be a good time to round off some of the sharp corners in the visual look.

Overall, this really managed to engage me for a while. I think you did a great job making an experience that seems complete as it is. It left me with a positive impression, with just slight quirks that I see have been mentioned and taken into account.

Dec 23, 2015 @ 9:53pm

Haha, finally someone pointed out my shoddy work :) I fully agree the graphics are a bit of a hit-and-miss. i spent so much time on the animation of the character and the vines that when i got around to the tiles and the fluff it just kinda went awry, the tiles are OK but turned out to noisy considering their size, the run animation looks a bit wonky tbh, and then there's the stuff that just looks flat and like it doesn't fit into the world well :/ i can't say it's my best work but then that's how Ludum Dare is sometimes :)

Gunzil says ...
Dec 24, 2015 @ 4:33am

The visuals are really nice! I like the progressive changes in environments as you move between levels, they tell an implicit story about the journey your character is going on.

The character feels like they walk a bit slowly at first but once the environments get more dense this becomes less of a problem. I'd also like a way to go down vines quickly since dropping off will kill you at certain heights.

I like the tutorial signs with controls on them, it's a very natural way of easing the player into the game. Having the reset button and water button next to each other feels dangerous, though. Z is jump in some games. I was afraid I was going to accidentally reset the level a lot.

alfie275 says ...
Jan 4, 2016 @ 9:57pm

Got to the top and got my gold watering can :P

Jan 11, 2016 @ 10:46pm

Really nice graphics, fun game! I included it in my Ludum Dare 34 compilation video series, if you’d like to check it out :) https://youtu.be/qJFJJ6gq7Ak

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