I know this might be a bit late but I’ve had a busy week, so here goes anyway. This post is divided into three parts (sandwiched with unashamed self-promotion at either end). The first tells the story of the event and what I went through creating it. It’s quite detailed, so if you’re not interested in that bit please jump ahead to the post-mortem and feedback sections, in which I critique my work and reflect on feedback from you guys so far.
For Ludum Dare 30: Connected Worlds, I created a game called Harmony, one of the many space-themed entries that made it into the gallery for the event. The game revolves creating an equilibrium in military (often accidentally spelt with two ‘L’s throughout the game, forgive my sins) and economic powers between the inhabitants of six planets so that they can live together peacefully. This is achieved by the player carefully selecting the geographic properties of the planets each of the six races start on and using various powers throughout the game to influence the rate of growth of the civilisations.
The game essentially takes place over three phases: the setup phase, in which the player creates the planets and settles the races; the pre-space phase, in which the player is given time to balance each of the races strengths pre-emptively; and the final space phase, in which planets start to interact with each other, the results of which can be catastrophic should the player have failed to setup and balance in the earlier points in the game.
You can read the story (with pictures!), post-mortem and feedback after the jump.
I wanted to devote a few minutes to thinking about the last few days – the preparation for Ludum Dare, and eventually taking part in it.
(First of all: the pun in the title is not intended! I just noticed it. Fun times!)
This is the aftermath of this Ludum Dare – my desk is full of all kinds of stuff. And it’s already cleaned up a little – looked even worse before!
I did two things in preparation for this Ludum Dare.
I improved my game engine a lot in the recent days, so that I had something good to work with. That went nicely, I added a whole lot of things that I actually made use of in the compo.
I also did something I didn’t do for the last Ludum Dare, I thought about the themes a lot. I looked at the 20 “finalists”, sat back, and wrote one or two sentences about all of them. Well, almost all of them – I didn’t have any ideas for some… unfortunately, the winner, “Connected Worlds”, was one of those.
Still, this was a good exercise; I got to use my fantasy and be creative (which is fun!). Also, it wasn’t too bad that I didn’t write down an idea for Connected Worlds – a very basic part started to grow soon after the theme was announced.
The Compo Itself
I will split this into different parts, so that it’s easier to read and also easier to write
The theme is announced: getting a fundamental idea
This was a critical part. As I said it earlier, I got the base idea pretty fast – that is, two worlds in a splitscreen window, where you have to do things in both screen parts (worlds) to win the level.
But there was a problem arising: I had no plan how to push that further. Well, somehow I got to some jumping things, then I decided to make them slimes, and then they started to move to the right by themselves.
There was the game idea: move them in an intelligent way, so that they don’t get stuck. When one goes out-of-screen, the player has lost.
Still, this was a very slow process. It could have been faster. A LOT faster. You can’t really develop a game when you have no idea what you want to do, can you?
The first playable build, advancing from there
It took a lot of time until I had something playable. That was mainly caused by the missing ideas, I guess.
But after I had that, things were a lot quicker. I added more tiles, made the worlds’ backgrounds, and implemented power-ups (which I removed from the game later on, they were unnecessary).
Also, since I was livestreaming the whole thing (will talk about that later), I was able to gather a few useful ideas from my viewers. The most remarkable one is the eponymous rubber band between the slimes. This also added to the “connection” part of the theme. I am happy this was mentioned!
I absolutely loved making the graphics for this game! Especially the lowres ones, for example the slimes. This was also quite a quick process, with a nice outcome.
Sounds and music (first music I ever made!)
Making the sounds was also relatively simple with the help of Bfxr. The rubber band sound comes from an actual rubber band, though.
Creating a piece of music was fun! It also was the first time I ever made any music in my whole life. Considering that, I think I can be proud of the soundtrack.
Level design & testing
Level design is a completely different topic. That went horrible! I’m never going to make a game similar to this in any game jam – simply because of this one experience.
It really was a pain to do: paint some pixels on the level sheet, start the game, play the level, find out it’s impossible to do, change a few pixels, need 7 tries to get to the specific location, works, screw up on the next part, another 15 tries, make it easier, back to the game, …
I think you got the point by now. This, by the way, went on for probably more than 6 hours without a break. Nope, not doing that again. NEVER.
Eating and sleeping
I slept way too little, nobody can prove me wrong. That resulted in my being completely dead when the compo ended. It likely lowered my enthusiasm, too. Although, if I had slept more, then I wouldn’t have made it in time I suppose.
Opposed to my expectations, I ate and drank enough. Heck, I drank even more than I normally do! But that really was necessary, otherwise I would’ve gotten a bad headache.
Some thoughts about livestreaming
Livestreaming is a great thing in Ludum Dare, it is both fun for the viewers and support for the streamers. So, it is a win-win thing, isn’t it?
Yes, it is – for the popular streamers at least. For people like me, who are not popular and also maybe new to the overall streaming thing, this doesn’t apply unfortunately. I got 5 viewers at one or two occasions, but that was it. I wish there had been a bit more people coming to the smaller channels as well. I mean, it’s about watching people make games, isn’t it unimportant who the streamer is?
After submitting my game, I still had about three hours left. I used these to watch a few livestreams. The people there have come up with absolutely nice ideas, I have to say! Well, then the compo was over, and the only thing I could think was “SLEEP!”.
Here I am now, after having slept way longer than I usually do. I am editing my timelapse footage and writing this ‘post mortem’, which literally feels like after death.
I am waiting for things to normalize again… it is a bit of a strange feeling now.
But more importantly, the overall experience during the compo, all that excitement and fun (I had a lot of fun! This post is just more focused on stuff I could improve, that’s why it sounds rather negative.) lead to the wish of repeating this.
Stole computer setup from work – check.
Comfy jammies – check.
I kind of wish LD started tonight – it’s 7pm over here in Western Australia, tonight is undisturbed, and I’m ready to get started. Guess I’ll have to wait
On the plus side, I now have these shiny dual 27s at home so I can conveniently watch the season finale of one of my “girly shows” on a nice big screen, before the comp begins and I feel too guilty to watch anything.