Posts Tagged ‘incremental’

Monster Lab Post-Mortem

Posted by
Wednesday, August 26th, 2015 2:41 pm

MONSTERLAB

I discovered so-called “incremental games” like CandyBox recently and was amazed by the amount of intrigue and interest such a simple mechanic could inspire. I wanted to explore the stripped-down style of those incremental games while tackling a simulation game. I wanted to answer the question – what does it take to make a text-heavy point-and-click simulation-style game fun? I think the answer I found was – more than I have here. I realized that half-way through but at that point it was too late to turn back.

Candy Box game

Candy Box game

Simulation games always make me think of Sid Meier’s description of games as “a series of interesting choices” – interesting being the key word. Every choice should matter. As I was trying to balance the game, I found that if I gave players too much money to start with, their choice of buying a cage or table wasn’t high-stakes enough to matter. Seems obvious in retrospect, of course, but this simple fact really sank in for me during the making of this game. A player’s choices must matter. And any choices that don’t matter should be removed.

I kept referring back to Oregon Trail, the 1990 PC game about trying to survive on the trail. I spent hours of my childhood totally immersed in Oregon Trail, and it was just a series of text choices and simple animation clips. The difference, though, is that it told a compelling story – you and your friends or family try to complete an arduous journey across a dangerous, rugged country, with many of your crew dying along the way. I think it was the built-in drama of such a story that kept us all hooked and clicking despite its simple graphics and gameplay.

oregon trail

Oregon Trail

I also re-learned how much the “little” things like sound effects and subtle animations bring a game to life. At this moment, MonsterLab is more like a playing a spreadsheet than playing a “real” game. 

So, what would I do differently in MonsterLab 2? First, don’t release it with bugs. 😉  Second, add sound and animations. Third, tune the existing mechanic – make all choices matter, and figure out how to balance the cost and timing of everything. And fourth, focus more on the storytelling and increase the volume of content available (different types of monsters, different experiments to run) and maybe a new mechanic where you have to actually chase or hunt the monster instead of just purchasing it. If only the weekend could have lasted forever, I might have ended up with a decent game. There’s always the next Ludum Dare, though.

Saman – Post Mortem

Posted by
Monday, August 25th, 2014 1:05 pm

It’s finally finished!

Saman is my entry to LD30.

Now that it’s over and done with, I’ll talk about what I think of the process and the finished product.

 

A Summary

The gameplay of Saman involves you controlling a rook (a creature made of rocks) who is defenseless by himself. He does, however, acquire gems from the depths and has learned by throwing them into the ceiling, he generates targeted earthquakes to save him from vile creatures that would do him harm. This aspect of the game involves you avoiding obstacles, (much like a classic arcade game) and feeding gems to the overworld.

On the overworld, a blue man is finding gems scattered outside of his home and invests them in things and buildings which will increase his fortune. This portion of the game is an incremental-style game where you spend the gems you collect on things which grow your fortune/score.

Both of these things happen simultaneously and if the rook dies, the game ends.

 

Theme

hated this theme. Before the competition started I brainstormed some concepts based on what the themes COULD be and I literally left this one blank, thinking this is one out of like 20 possible themes, how likely is it that it gets chosen. It ends up I was in the minority because it seemed A LOT of people picked this. I felt it was not quite as open to interpretation as others on the list, but whatever – I went with it.

After realizing the theme I took a few hours to think about concepts. I threw away things I thought would be over done (platformers with portals, space stuff, etc.) and started thinking about symbiotic relationships or alternate realities. The idea of a spirit world and something taking place in a graveyard appealed to me, but I couldn’t get a strong handle on the direction I wanted to go in. I had a sort of random muppets/fraggle rock inspiration and took that direction with the art style and concept where there are things who dwell underground and above ground, and their worlds interact somehow, but didn’t know much more. I was a fan of old arcade games like donky kong and frogger and somehow wanted to implement those ideas into the game. I also liked incremental games, and some of my other concepts had those as a primary mechanic, so had that in the back of my mind.

 

Time Management

This was my first LD48 so I knew I didn’t want to be TOO ambitious, but I also feel I work/iterate quickly so I wasn’t sure where to draw the line. I just started making SOMETHING and tweaked until it felt ok. The last day I woke up around 9AM I think and didn’t stop working until around 2 or 3PM, to finally get something to eat. My eyes were burning from staring at the screen non-stop and I just wanted to get the stupid thing finished – adding sounds and menus at the last minute. I was really burnt out in the end, despite me not really messing up my schedule too badly.

 

What I’m Proud Of

I don’t consider myself a good animator, but sometimes the animations turn out better than you expect, and some of them for this game fall into that category. I think aesthetically the game is pretty good and the core concept is sound. I’m also proud of the fact that I finished and released something I’m not 100% proud of. I will probably be my harshest critic, and I feel that’s ok and important for moving forward and releasing good content.

 

What I’m Not Proud Of

The sound and music was very much a last minute thing. I found a sound generator at tones.wolfram.com and was pleased after generating/tweaking some weird sounds. The music I’m ok with, despite it being pretty strange. The sound effects, however, are another story. I used bfxr for the sound effects and was in a rushed panic to get them in and didn’t have a plan to implement volume control. After putting them in and doing some final test runs, I found the sfx so annoying I put a mute button in place instead of replacing them (out of laziness and lack of time).

The concept I came up with was ok, I felt. There is a saying that goes something like ‘there is no such thing as a bad idea, only bad execution.’ I find that to be mostly true, and I’m not 100% convinced my execution was where I’d like it to be, even for 48 hours. I blame this partially on me having no real direction, and trying to add depth where it maybe didn’t belong. The end result is a game where you’re basically playing two games at once. this, thematically, is ok, but in practice is a bit weird. Partially I think this is because it’s not something I’ve seen done before, so there’s no real gauge on what it should look like. For example, there is no reason in the game world that the rook dying would cause the incremental portion of the game to stop – but mechanically there needs to be some incentive to work on that portion of the game and keep him alive. I also feel the two halves of the game should be expanded and have more depth, but 48 hours limits your ability to do this quite a bit.

 

The story and instructions are non-existent. I had art and a concept built out where the rook was taught by his mother that the gods absorb the power of the gems, and call down forces to stop their enemies. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to really make that part of the game. In addition, there are basically no instructions, other than the controls which you can access as you’re playing. This game has enough depth to where I feel even rudimentary instructions really are necessary, but it’s not something that often occurs to me, as you’re testing your game over and over (and obviously know how to play it). I opted to put some instructions on the itch.io page.

In the End

All in all, it was a fun test of my creativity, but this experience has left me feeling like I’ve released something unfinished, that I’m not entirely proud of – which is the nature of the beast for LD48 hours, I suppose.

[cache: storing page]