Hi guys and fellow devs,
Just wanted to hop in the postmortem wagon and let you learn a bit more about how I worked on “One”, my LD28 entry. English isn’t my mother tongue, so be ready to read approximate french-glish.
If you’re interested, you can first test my game here.
When I heard about the theme, I got a little disappointed because I voted against it, for the simple reason it didn’t inspire me that much. I almost gave up on participating. My first idea was to make a game about getting only one seed in an arid world, but it was too complicated and, in my opinion, not original enough.
I was a bit depressed that saturday, the sky was dark. Thinking about the LD smoking my cigarette outside, I suddenly decided to cheer myself up by cheering other up, and I decided to make the happiest and cutest game I was able to do in 48h.
With that in mind, I thought about the theme again and remembered that one dream I used to have which filled me with happiness. In this dream I wasn’t flying but jumping so high, and falling so hard ! It was fun and magic. I decided to turn that into a small game.
For those who didn’t play the game, the game is about a little child who learn to jump up to the stars. Little light balls help you to get higher and higher.
I’m what you could call a experienced dev, with more than 20 games released in my career, and 4-5 game jams. After several years, I’m now experienced with scoping a game. My advice is to always go for the simplest idea you can have. Because during the course of development, either for a full game or a jam, you’ll always spend twice the time you planned on small things like researching, debugging, adding signs and feedback, etc. We always tend to underestimate the details, so focusing on the simplest idea and growing from there is often the best solution.
I used Flixel, which is, in my experience, one of the best technology for game jams, for two reasons : it’s perfect to create very small projects in a very short time, and it’s meant to be distributed online, as it’s Flash based. The second is useful for LD because people tend to test games with Web version more (it’s far from being enough to get a lot of ratings, but it helps a bit).
My idea for One was so simple I managed to tackle gameplay code in a couple of hours. I love when it goes that way, because I know I can use plenty of time to make art, music and moreover add signs & feedbacks.
Several people have been surprised, playing One, that there isn’t any instruction. Well it’s been a choice. I love to do game jams to experiment with ergonomics. Having no instruction is a risky challenge. If it’s done right it helps immersion and focusing on the message of the game. If done wrong, it simply ruins the whole experience. So far, I don’t think anybody really got stuck in the game, so I would say I’ve done it right this time !
Here are a non-exhaustive list of simple things I implemented to make sure players learn how to play by themselves :
– Control scheme : as intuitive as possible, only three buttons (left, right and up). Duplicated on ZQD and QWD
– At least one bonus is visible on screen at start, encouraging to reach it and learn to jump and move.
– Audio feedback when touching bonus and also when reaching the current max altitude, hinting a bit on what to do.
– Midgame, my texts help a bit, by notifying that there’s more to discover upward.
I’ve worked with Photoshop. I’ve made backgrounds mainly using a brush to get this cloudy aspect. I didn’t want to spend too much time on animation so I made only a few poses of the character, mixing pixel art and painting techniques.
Surprisingly, I spent most of my time on music, with at least 4 hours spent on it. I must say I got a little carried I really enjoyed making it, so I wasn’t able to stop until I was satisfied with that small piece.
What went right
This LD went really well, for the main reason I did a game with a message and an intention in mind, I think. Working with the purpose of sharing a bit of love and poetry is wonderful. I managed to do a little something I’m proud of in far less than 48h because I didn’t get too ambitious and managed to focus on a simple idea and make the best I could of it.
What went wrong
The game was a bit oversized, and loaded from a website it discouraged some of my early testers. They complained it wasn’t working because I forgot to add a preloader : the page showed a blank page for around a minute. I hope those early testers didn’t rate the game too bad. I also stupidly forgot to proof-read my texts and let a small typo in the game (which I corrected later, as I learned it was allowed).
Make game with love, message and passion, focus on a simple idea but don’t forget about the little details ! Happy new year everyone, and let 2014 be filled with hope, love and plenty of wonderful games ! I think games can help the world be a better place, so keep going guys, I love you all.
You can reach me at contact [at] cuvegames.com if you have any question or feedback which I would love to have.