Someone playing Elastic Prison
Alright so here go my final thoughts.
I’m pretty happy with how everything went. The first day I spent a lot of hours just brainstorming, trying to come up with a really cool and simple concept. I’m a big fan of generated content and simulations that give the player something interesting and new to play with. Something that encourages the player to experiment instead of just running through everything completely deterministic. And I came up with a concept that was just way too abstract, and I wasn’t able to fill the blanks with working/realistic ideas. So about 10 hours in I somewhat hit a wall and was feeling quite stressed out. So I remembered to keep it dead simple and came up with what turned into my final entry. Elastic Prison, a game where the player controls a ball that is attached to an elastic band that keeps pulling it back to the starting point. And for the player to free himself, he has to cling & swing himself from one floating hook/ball to the next to maybe reach something that will remove this rubber band.
First I focused on how the player controls this ball and how the elastic band attaches itself to these hooks. I had something running pretty quickly and felt satisfied with the controls. Then I started to focus on the actual level creation. I knew there needed to be some variation so I created different kinds of hooks. I also put a few minutes into improving the performance so I could just throw everything into one big level. The next step was creating the level. I did so by making one challenge at a time for me. Every time I tried to make it different from the previous one, or even so that it builds on the skills that were acquired earlier. I tried to make later parts of the game really hard as I hear people are complaining a lot about games being to easy these days. So I could just barely play through these final stages that I created. Still it’s not impossible and after uploading my submission I recorded a 12 minute play through.
Using LWJGL was a pretty straight forward decision but looking back it might have been smarter to choose libgdx because it’s LWJGL + more nice stuff (mp3 support). It’s been smooth sailing with LWJGL though. Currently I’m working on porting my game to libgdx to maybe have it run on android or as an applet.
Sound and Artwork:
Those were the things I was most confident about and surely enough I was really quick. Ableton and Photoshop did their job well. The sounds turned out a bit quiet though.
I have to say I was quite surprised with the feedback. Yes people liked the concept, art and sound but had a gripe with the controls, expecting them to behave differently and not really being able to figure out how to master them. And they were quite frustrated about how checkpoints work, as they won’t keep you forever from going back to the beginning. Well I can see now how people expect the controls to work and it’s too bad that I didn’t hear that kind of feedback before I uploaded my final submission. While working on it I was told it is hard but fun, which is what I was going for. Now to the checkpoints. I guess the problem here lies completely in not communicating well enough how they work. The funny thing is that it is a really simple concept. Every hook behaves the same way. But some might hold you longer, depending on their size. You won’t end up at the beginning if you understand this concept and make sure to reattach yourself to these large hooks again when they stop glowing.
Once you get it it’s a challenging and interesting concept. And I thought it goes quite well with the theme. The player is trapped and tries to escape. Once he stops struggling he is in danger of being back where he has started.
I look forward to the next Ludum Dare. I’ll make sure to get more feedback while working on my game, and to keep it simple straight from the beginning. As for Elastic Prison, I’ll make it available as an Applet and maybe do some more with that concept sometime in the future.