The theme for LD30 was Connected Worlds. I loved that theme. It was spcific, but at the same time left a lot of space for a personal touch.
And, somehow, I managed to fuck it up.
I remember having at least a couple ideas I could implement that I really liked. I worked hard for most of the two days to complete at least one idea.
But all I ended up with was nothing. Zero.
I was so frustrated with myself, I promised myself to not make the same mistake again (although it’s been 5 LDs now that I say this).
So, here is a quick run up of what I fucked up last time, to use as a reminder to not do it again this time.
First reason I want to punch myself in my right testicle is
This is a big one. Time waste comes in a lot of fashions. From the simple “watching youtube instead of working ont he game”, to something more design oriented.
48 hours is a microscopic amount of time to develop a game in, not wasting time, should be the n°1 priority.
The most important thing is, are you working on your game? If you aren’t, you should. Every hour is precious and should be dedicated to your game. You can watch fail vines on youtube when time isn’t such a critical factor. As in, not during the compo.
But where the biggest time waste lies to me is in game design decisions. So, if I can promise myself to focus on the game, we should move onto…
So when I get the mental strength to work on the game, I pick up an idea that I really liked. But it was as easy to implement as it is to teach a rock to swim.
It was just impossible to do in the timeframe I had, and that was because of some bad basic choices.
Basically, the game was a sort of point and click game where you find an abandoned phone on the street and have to discover what happened to his owner by digging through it.
The concept was really cool. I still want to implement it in a game, sooner or later, just not in a jam. I wanted to have a full smartphone experience, where you can watch videos, read texts and make phone calls. Overambitious much?
The problem with such a design is that it requires multiple states, meaning that I had to program each state in a different way according to how the user could interact with it. Usually, the lower the amount of states, the easier the game is to program, because it cuts out a lot of bugs that could happen at runtime.
I didn’t know that at the time, and jumped right in the development, finding myself in the mud up to my neck by the first 24 hours.
In the past LDs, I had to restart an idea almost every time because of a bad choice and overshooting. Throw it in the trash and start from zero with 8 hours already on the times. Man that sucked. Just choosing the right idea can save a LOT of time.
So yeah, it is really, really important to find an idea that can be developed efficiently, and even more so to adapt the idea during development to optimize the time for development.
So, we get it. Be smart. But unfortunately, the biggest problems come from another part of the game, which is…
The Aesthetics Pit
This is the biggest mutilator of LD games right after the two above. I lost at least a couple compos over this.
Graphics, music, story… We can all agree that they are what makes or breaks a game. And it is fine to work on the art of your game to make it look pretty and cute.
But this comes only AFTER the core gameplay is done.
I finally understood, probably a little late, that if you start working on your final aesthetic touches without having a playable core gameplay in place, you are driving all out into a pitfall (unless you REALLY know what you are doing).
Programming is a difficult and long process, and chances are that a lot of stuff will go wrong. If that is the case, it is better to sacrifice the time you would have given to graphics or music to fix the core mechanics.
Remember that you can submit a game with programmer’s art (and get good scores for it too), but you can’t submit a bunch of sprites without a game. This ain’t DeviantArt.
And that’s all folks. This isn’t exaustive, but I’m sure that if I can avoid this Holy Trinity of bullshit, I will weep out at least 90% of time wastes during the compo.
Hope this was useful for you, it certainly was for me.
If you want you can check out my past LD entries and postmortems here for more useful tips.
See you this weekend. And good luck!