The planning for the game started ahead of time. There were 2 things I wanted to have set in stone before a theme was announced, and that was a genre and a name. I wanted to pick a genre that could easily be tailored to any kind of game, but the one I chose far ahead of time was a Metroidvania, mainly because I have a project on the backburner that is a metroidvania, and if I can get a similar kind of game out of my system, I can feel content with keeping my planned project on the backburner for a long period of time (in order to work on my main project at the moment, which is an RPG). The name was something I also really wanted to lock down. Last time I wasted about 30 minutes near the end coming up with a name, which I felt wasn’t a good use of time for the competition. This time, I pegged down the name Arzea ahead of time, with the intention that if something better came to me while working on it I would change it.
When the theme was announced (thank goodness it wasn’t randomly generated, that was one I just wasn’t feeling in the mood for, and would have required me to change my genre I believe), I immediately started planning out various parts of the game. I chose to go with a magic theme, since I wanted something different than I’d done before, and in the process I also started thinking up story elements for “Alone”. In the end I interpreted it as being the only one of his kind in a place overrun with monsters, but it seems most people interpreted alone as being a single entity. The main character had always felt kind of alone being that he was different than others, but being thrown into an unknown world made him feel even more lonesome than before. I feel I didn’t get a chance to tie very much story into the game, but I felt that it was definitely one of the better areas to skip for time.
Once I had the basic gameplay elements and story pegged down, I dived straight into art. I went with basic dirt and grass tiles, and just went on instinct for how they should look. I was very happy with how the first draft turned out, and there was very little modification after that. By choosing a magic theme, I was able to magic a wizard main character which was a big plus, as it let me keep things really simple with the hat and robe. I also ended up drawing some objects that I didn’t have time to fit into the game.
Once tiles were done I dove into the map generation code. I wanted to keep it quick and easy, so I decided to autotile pretty much everything, and just draw the top tile layer with a single color. I had seen a neat effect with backgrounds in other games (my biggest inspiration was Level Up!) so I did something similar which worked really well, as it was also very easy to autotile. My tiles ended up tiling extremely well (I was incredibly surprised at how well, since I hadn’t put any thought into it while drawing them) which made it really easy to quickly map up a world.
The movement and jumping were very familiar as I’ve done a few platformer games in the past. I think my jumping ended up feeling a bit more floaty than I would have liked, but overall it felt pretty tight to me. Once that was working, I added my first spell, the fireball. This time around I was able to quickly add particles, and the particles were one of my favorite parts. It was fun working with the colors to make the particles look neat against the background, and I also liked trying to make unique particle effects for each spell. Once the fireball had particles I moved onto adding the other 5 spells I had planned. This was long and tedious, but I managed to work through it without losing my motivation, and was able to move on.
After that I added some very basic enemies, and then expanded the world. From there on out it was mostly adding small things repeatedly, such as keys and doors. I worked all the way up to the deadline, but in the end I felt the game was polished and complete, even if not as complete as I had originally envisioned.
What Went Right
Planning – I feel my planning worked out well. I saved time on choosing a generic name and genre before hand, and putting all my thoughts down into a document before I dove into coding game me a good linear track of what I needed to work on. I wasn’t stuck figuring out what spells I needed in the middle as I had planned it all out from the start.
Art – The art wasn’t something I was expecting to go so well, but even with my very limited pixel art skills I was able to come up with something quickly that I was extremely happy with.
Genre – Since I had been wanting to work on a metroidvania for some time, choosing to do one gave me a lot of motivation. However, there was a downside in that I really did want to do a full fledged metroidvania with all the bells and whistles, and when it came down to it, I had to strip it down to a very basic form in order to make the deadline.
Tools – Using flash with flixel was again a really good choice, as I now have a year and a half of experience with it under my belt, so I could focus on making the game rather than fighting with the language.
What Didn’t Go Right
Tweaking – There were some bugs and some tweaks that really needed to be fixed for the game to feel less tedious. For example, there are some problems with the spawning logic, so sometimes thing don’t spawn properly (which is very important when that thing that didn’t spawn is a boss). Also, the respawn way turned out to be buggy in that things would respawn as soon as they were off screen if you kill them. These are the first things that will be tuned/fixed for a post-competition release.
Scope – While I feel I did a much better job than last time of limiting the scope of the project, I still had intended quite a few other features that didn’t even have a chance of making it in (pause menu, map, achievements, spell swap popup). In the end I felt I was able to cut things that weren’t essential and it still felt very complete, but I would have liked to have more.
Performance – If you have a low end computer (I managed to test with my netbook right before the deadline) you may have problems with playing. I was surprised at this, but I didn’t get a chance to look into it before the end of the competition.
Theme – While I thought I had hit the theme much better than the last couple times, it turns out that it wasn’t quite enough.
What Comes Next
I’ve already begun working on expanding the game for a post competition release. I want to include some of the features that I had to cut for the deadline, along with expanding the world to be much bigger. As a comparison, here are the original competition version worlds, and the expanded world (not yet finished):
I’m probably not going to put too much work into it, as I would really like to get back to work on my current main project, but hopefully it will feel much more balanced and fun before I release it!
Here are the links to the game:
Play/Rate The Game:
Watch The Timelapse:
Read The Journal:
Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy the game!