Posts Tagged ‘honko’

Postmortem on HONKO’s WORLDS!

Monday, September 8th, 2014 3:46 pm

Hello! Designer/programmer/artist here. Here’s a little write-up on my Ludum Dare Jam entry, Honko’s Worlds.
It is a dungeon crawling game where you shoot enemies with beams, collect gold, potions, special weapons and keys.
It plays a lot like one of those top-down zelda games.


You can try the game here:

I started making the game planning it to be a competition entry, but decided to make it a jam entry halfway through the second day when it became clear the game wouldn’t have enough content by the 48 hour deadline. On the third day, now that it was a Jam game, CBoyardee offered to make music for it, and made three great tracks.

I am very happy with how the game looks, and with many of the game’s enemy encounters. Those I think are its strongest points, it turned out really good.


But many, many issues came from a lack of foresight and planning in general while I was doing this. I only had the vaguest idea of what the game should be during the first day, I was like on autopilot. I knew I wanted to make some sort of top down dungeon crawler, but that was it. Most of the ideas came together through pixel art: I was just drawing game-ey things (monsters, tiles, keys…) and imagined how they could fit together as I did em. I should have stopped and should have taken a walk or something, to get those thoughts straight and order up some more solid idea.

The biggest mistake, a consequence of this improvisation thing, was planning a much bigger maze than what I had time to finish and polish. Once I was done making a basic shell of a game, I started sketching up a plan for the dungeon’s maze, and made it really huge. I always underestimate how much time it takes to actually put those rooms together, even when the rooms are simple.

Here’s a map of the game I was planning:
map of the game

That maze I drew up and then proceeded to implement is about three times bigger than the final entry’s size (which is already pretty big!!)
Most of that larger maze actually works gameplay-wise and is filled with enemies and items, but I didn’t have time to give it any tiles/graphics! When there were just a handful of hours left, I blocked off the unfinished 2/3rds of the game and focused on adding to that first third instead.
As I mentioned in the original post though, you can actually visit that huge unfinished section of the game by exploring the finished section completely and finding two gold keys (their locations are marked with two Xs in the map above)
The unfinished area starts just north of the two consecutive gold gates. Of course, without tiles to see where the walls are, that area is more or less impossible to explore. If you reach that unfinished area at all, you can consider the game beaten!


One of the biggest consequences of all those cuts to the game’s maze is in relation to the theme (the theme of the Ludum Dare competition was “Connected Worlds”). The gold keys you can find in the current maze were supposed to be hidden in “side worlds” with their own enemies and visual styles, but I had to cut all of that. The idea was to have this castle be a “hub level” of sorts, from which different worlds were accessible.
To access a new world, you have to find silver keys within the hub level, which opened the way to one of the side-worlds.
To make progress in the overall game at a higher level, you need to collect gold keys in those side-worlds. This would let you access a larger portion of the castle. Those gold keys mark your overall progress in the game.
Its quite frustrating to see how many hours I spent laying down walls and enemies for those unfinished sections. If I had kept the maze small, the game would have had a lot more content, could have been a lot more complete!

One good consequence of cutting off so much of the big maze however: I could take the unique enemies I designed for the cut-off areas and place them all in the smaller game, making the enemy encounters feel very diverse. My original design, by comparison, was probably way too repetitive with its enemies.


Some other regrets with the result:
The subweapons. They are pretty generic, they don’t have much diversity, just extra damage, some spread shots and some projectiles that fly a bit further. I thought of the subweapon thing on the second day of the jam, but only started to implement them in the final few hours, so they’re not really elaborate. Ideally, I would work on them further, to make them feel more like magic spells. Something that is exciting to find, where collecting a lot of them feels like you are really expanding your inventory of actions. Some weapons could have non-combat applications, like freezing a lake to allow passage or breaking through a weak wall. Some could have special effects over the enemies hit, or have defensive applications. But this would also mean I would need to add some means of managing your subweapons inventory. Perhaps you could only hold 10 of those weapons at any given time, and could store them in some storage space accessible at save points. Speaking of which…

Save points. The game has no saving or checkpoints, and that’s a huge bummer. I just didn’t have time to implement those. I was already cutting off so much from the idea and had so much more to fit in, saving was just never on my radar throughout the jam. I need to make saving a higher priority in my jams in the future, it really sucks to lose 20 minutes of exploration all of a sudden!

Gold. There is absolutely no use for it in the game right now, its just some sort of score. Of course I thought it would have some use at some point, but it never coalesced during the jam. I would definitely add a shop that sold unique subweapons and potions, or could maybe upgrade your main weapon, or raise your maximum life.

All in all, I am pretty happy with this game despite all the flaws, and with some more work, it could turn into a solid little indie title. I have a lot on my plate right now, but I might revisit and spruce this up a bit sometime in the future.

I also put up a time lapse of the entire process of making the game: The pixel art, the design, the programming and even the last-minute sound effects.
You can watch it below:

thumbnail of timelapse

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