Ludum Dare 31
Theme:
Entire Game on One Screen

Judging ends in:
It’s time to Play and Rate Games!

PlayRate80Star

Posts Tagged ‘postmortem’

Fill the bar: Postmortem

Posted by (twitter: @YarKravtsov)
Saturday, December 20th, 2014 3:42 am

Hi, everyone! Now it’s my time to show you postmortem of my compo entry “Fill the bar“. There are many details, thoughts, screenshots, useful links and other stuff. Click below to start reading.

postmortem

Read the postmortem

There you can read how to:

  • Learn to make low-poly art in 2 hours
  • Learn to compose music in 1 hour
  • Use new UI feature in Unity 4.6
  • Create original interpretation of theme
  • Level design entire location from scratch to finish
  • Make professional voice over in few minutes
  • Fit full game in 2MB

And watch it all on timelapse video.

Posted by (twitter: @Wertle)
Friday, December 19th, 2014 11:08 am

2014 has been the year of many game jams (for me, relatively), and one consistent trend has been that each jam gets more and more chill than the last. LD31 is probably the most low-key, easy-going jam I’ve done to date. All the same, I’m quite pleased with our game, One Does Not Simply Walk Into More Doors.

LD31screenshot2

Looking back on why this jam felt so relaxed,  I think most of it came down to experience and attitude and how that shaped our process. Also, figuring out a jam workflow between two designers who have different game-making tool preferences ended up being really efficient…

(more…)

BIRDS! Post Mortem – Ludum Dare 31 (Jam)

Posted by
Wednesday, December 17th, 2014 6:07 pm

BIRDS1

 

Our Game

Our LD31 entry is “BIRDS!”. You can play it here:
http://ludumdare.com/compo/ludum-dare-31/?action=preview&uid=34236

BIRDS! is a tranquil, light game where you can annoy or scare a gathering of birds. You can lightly disturb the birds, force them to move around, or if you’re not careful, scare them away entirely. The game starts in “Chill” mode, and is open-ended. You can switch on the power, and enter “Shock” mode where you must protect the birds from electrical surges before too many birds get fried.

 

Background

Loi LeMix – Artist
Rex Soriano – Programming
Barry Rowe – Programming

Our team was made up of  three active members of @GameDevLouKY (http://gamedevlou.org). Loi and myself have been working together since Ludum Dare 30 where we first collaborated on Sneaky Nessie. Rex joined our team for the Jam.

Tooling

I’ve been working in Java with libGDX for game development for a little over a year, so we went with it as our framework. I felt I could get up and running most quickly with it, and Rex was comfortable picking it up along the way. We used IntelliJ for our IDE, Git (hosted on Bitbucket) for source control. Loi used the usual artist’s sorcery for visuals (Photoshop/Illustrator).

Location

We worked the entire Jam at the Game Dev Lou “real-world gathering” working alongside at least 7 other teams. (See all of the GameDevLou games here: http://gamedevlou.org/?p=876)

gdl-ld31

Taken during our Sunday night Demos

 

Brainstorming

When the theme was revealed we were pretty stunned that Unicode Snowman didn’t win, and it took us a little time to get out of the winter/snowman mindset. We did eventually break through that, and came up with several ideas. Without describing the concepts in detail, here is a quick list of some of the ideas we had, in no particular order, before settling on “Birds on a Line.” Imagine what you will:

Elemental Fists
Reverse Tower Defense
Screen is the Weapon
Click Escape from the Room
Build your Own Platformer
Longest Lasting Snowman
Rotating Platformer
Direct a Play Perfectly
Rube Goldberg
DJ Please the Crowd
Survive in a Bubble
Reverse Katamari Maze
Mind Controlled Goldfish
Birds on a Line

Of these, our top three were Reverse Tower Defense (RTD), Mind Controlled Goldfish (MCG), and Birds on a Line.  (I really liked longest lasting snowman, and had some funny ideas for it, but as a team we decided it wasn’t likely to turn out fun). After some internal discussion, we actually discarded “Birds on a Line” and started a pros/cons list between RTD and MCG. Loi worked up a few sketches to get us visualizing the game, to see which we might LOOK more fun.

birds_sketches

Top Left: “Mind Controlled Goldfish”, Bottom Left: “Reverse Tower Defense”, Right: “Birds on a Line”

When we looked at this, we all agreed the Reverse Tower Defense (which had morphed into more of a overwhelm the giant boss) concept looked the most fun. Plus while we had some really funny ideas for MCG, we were afraid of some of the mechanics being annoying/frustrating rather than challenging. So we had decided on RTD.

We began clearing up all of the mechanics and effects we had individually been designing. The game sounded really fun: waves of upgraded minions that would get smashed, throwing cats to distract the boss, and simple controls. Then we realized how many different animations, sounds, and GUI elements we were going to need. To make the game we wanted, it was too much for the Jam time frame (We were limiting ourselves to the COMPO time frame so that groups could present their games Sunday night). We were pretty bummed, but that’s why we brainstormed right?

After giving MCG another round of redesign, we settled on switching to “Birds on a Line.” Our final reasoning, which I still stand 100% behind, came down to these factors:

  1. A simple mechanic is much easier to make FEEL good than complex interactions (Doing simple well > doing complex poorly)
  2. A simple environment gives us much more room to JUICE the game without being too busy (JUICE  is NOT equal to “All the Features!”)
  3. Our concept felt like it gained more from the theme than it lost (the constraints work in its favor)
  4. We were all comfortable with how we might approach the unknown/difficult aspects of this game (this is super important for a Jam game)
  5. The game still contained challenges for all team members (Jams should teach you something)

 

Process

Our process was simple:

1. Discuss the next feature(s) to build
2. Divide the programming tasks
3. Decide what art assets were needed next
4. Integrate current art iterations into working features
5. Discuss what is working, what isn’t
6. Repeat

An unintentional part of our process (as was the case with Sneaky Nessie) is Loi not actually getting a chance to play the game until we stop Jamming. This occurs because of the development tools we use for programming offer no value to Loi so he never has a running copy of the game until we’re finished. We don’t do this on purpose, it just happens. It may help or it may hurt . We love the way things have turned out visually, so it didn’t hurt for this game. We plan to change this part of the process in the future.

 

What Went Well

The Art. Number one. Plain and simple. The Art makes this game. Loi nailed it. We are very proud of the way this game looks. The birds look awesome, the environment looks sleek, and the background transitions/movements add to the scene without too much distraction.

birds_canvas

Loi’s main canvas for towards the end

Keeping it simple. We were able to stick to our simple mechanics. We focused an entire day and a half on just making it feel good interacting with the birds. Rex and I caught ourselves just sitting there messing with the birds for long periods of time when we would be testing a new feature well after confirming it worked. Keeping the game simple also let us quickly add environment enhancements towards the end to make the game feel better.

Collaboration. Our team came together really well. Rex and I were able to easily split programming tasks and never really stepped over one another. Loi was able to produce more assets than we could actually add into the game. Not only was our team collaboration great, but having other teams working in the same open space was a great experience. It’s really nice to be able to take a break and see what others are doing, discuss a feature with someone who hasn’t been staring at the thing for hours, and just generally interact with other developers while building a game.

BM5K

A silly, late-night comment to make things clear

Mood. So far, it seems our main goal to make a chill, relaxing experience translates to other people. Those that have played it have all seemed to enjoy that aspect, and we were pretty worried we’d get a lot of “i don’t get it”, or “is this really a game?” kind of responses. We’re glad to see at least some people enjoy the experience.

 

What Didn’t Go Well

Ending the Game. We really didn’t have a good way to “end” the game. In fact, the Shock mode for the longest time was more of an annoyance (due to the sound) than a way to lose the game. Sunday night, we introduced the concept of only being able to lose X birds before all of the remaining birds fly away. In theory we thought this was a good end to the game. However, once we added this in, we found ourselves being more frustrated with the game rather than relaxed, and enjoying it. This is the version we demoed to the other groups, and we felt it didn’t really demo well this way either. So Monday we switched the game back to starting in Chill mode. We introduced the transformer box to turn on Shock mode for players that weren’t looking for a chill, goalless experience. While this seems to work a lot better, we ended up with some bugs in the Shock mode. (sometimes not all the birds scatter away. Also you have to flip the switch to reset the mode.)

Web Version. Using libGDX is great because we write the core game once, and can deploy to all platforms. Unfortunately, the worst performing platform is usually the Web version, which also happens to be the most accessible. I believe we just have some poor object management that I hope we can iron out in a post-jam version. If you feel like checking out the game, I suggest downloading the desktop version, or at least restarting your browser if you want to play the web version.

Some Math. Rex really pulled through sorting out some of the math that I wasn’t ready to tackle. This game didn’t require overly complicated math, but I had gotten used to leaning on some built-in utilities to libGDX that weren’t quite what we needed for this instance (or at least we didn’t apply them correctly if they were fit to solve our problems). There were also several features we wanted to add that were going to be heavy in calculations that we weren’t used to. This kept us from completing them. I really wish I had pushed myself to properly implement a “sphere of influence” around each bird so that you could start a chain reaction if you scared the right bird(s).

Sleeping. This one is just myself, as Loi and Rex intelligently rested up appropriately. I will be sleeping more for the next Jam.

 

What’s Next

We plan to release this as a mobile game. The game is touch ready. We’d like to polish up a few things, sort out the “ending the game” bugs, and add in a few more features that didn’t make the cut (even out the landing of the birds so they don’t clump, add some more ambient touches to the BG, and maybe that bird influence radius).

We also plan to create a version without the shocks as a Live Wallpaper for Android devices. This idea was mentioned to us by the guys of TwoScoopGames during the Jam, and it just so happens libGDX supports Live Wallpapers.

More Games! We’ll all be making more games, and participating in future Ludum Dare Jams.

 

Team Thoughts

Loi: “I was comfortable with the silhouette art style, but I initially questioned myself on how to make monochromatic silhouettes look lively. I overcame that challenge by adding a dark purple-black gradient and placing it ​over most of the foreground artwork. This promoted subtle contrasts throughout the level. Since we were ​only working with one screen, I wanted the level to look like an interactive canvas. This was achieved by animating items like the clouds, trees and a cycled day-night background; making it seem like birds aren’t the only living elements in the level. And humor, I love humor! Fortunately, I had the opportunity to once again “moon” the players.”

Barry: “I was fully comfortable working with libGDX, but I was nervous about teaching it as we went along. When you teach something is when you really find out if you understand what you’re doing, and I was afraid I did not understand as well as I hoped. Luckily collaborating with Rex was smooth, and he picked up the language and tools quickly. I think what helped us the most is that all three of us had a similar vision for the game, and felt comfortable putting forth design ideas, as well as explaining why we didn’t think an idea would work.”

 

Thanks for reading, Thanks for playing,

–Barry

B.Y.E. post mortem

Posted by
Wednesday, December 17th, 2014 12:49 pm

Intro

This is my third or fourth Ludum Dare I’m in. For this jam I decided to test my idea of terrain destruction to be done in Unity because I wanted to use it to port my old game I’ve been making with other guys for Global Game Jam 2012. It was the first time when I heard of game Liero and we used similar targeting and ninja rope from it. I never quite got time to port the game (we wanted to publish it on mobiles) so my idea to create destructible terrain was quietly developing in my brain :).
For this Ludum Dare I decided to make 2-4 player deathmatch game on single screen inspired by Super Mario Smash Bros I played recently, use destructible terrain with a lot of shooting because everyone loves shooting action, right? :). Also I thought that this shouldn’t be rocket science to do because I didn’t have whole 48 hours to spare :( (I got comics workshop in that time, trainings etc. etc.)

What went right

Terrain generation, destruction and reconstruction! For my idea I used Unity built in 3D Terrains but viewed them top down with a crossed plane in the middle:

ok8sxd

Terrain was generated with Perlin Noise function also available in Unity and collision detection with terrain was already there too. For terrain destruction I wrote my function to update terrain heights so that destroyed terrain would lower itself below plane in the middle. It was tricky to do it because I imagined the game screen and terrain should be looped so It wasn’t very optimized in Compo version. Result of terrain destruction and deconstruction from falling debris:

Terrain destruction

I wanted also to include ninja rope to climb but I ended with simple jetpack because it was easier to implement and because jumping wasn’t working so good (Physics for platforming doesn’t always work very well), jetpack replaced need for jumping :).
Finally I’ve added shooting with bazooka and machine gun and second player which resulted in compo version.

What went bad

I haven’t got enough time to make proper player avatars so there were only spheres in compo version. I haven’t got time to implement all sounds I wanted and add more weapons, weapons switching etc.
Compo version is not very optimized because terrain destruction modifies whole terrain. Collisions are not very good so when player avatars are close to each other they don’t hit themselves.
And most important thing – I haven’t got time to make any title screen :).

Now?

I liked the idea of terrain destruction and oldschool hot seat fun multiplayer shooting so much I decided to make more proper post-compo version.
First thing I started with was creating avatar for players. Again I got crazy idea that I wanted to realize, use plasticine to make model in T-pose, scan it to computer and then animate it! My girlfriend Paulina made fun plasticine model of a soldier with jetpack, then I used Android mobile app Autodesk 1-2-3DCatch to make series of photos of this model, this was sent to the cloud by app and in a couple of minutes I got nearly complete 3D model. You can see some photos and model on Autodesk page here: click click

Plasticine model

I downloaded .obj files with textures and using Blender I removed all background stuff, stitched all gaps, made some other errors (never use “Remove doubles” on model with defined texture UVs! – use Decimate modifier!), fixed T-pose, rigged model and started to make walking animation.

Rigged walking model

After that Paulina made plasticine models for weapons, they were tiny so I modeled them myself in Blender. Only used photo as reference:

bronie

Next I made model animations with character moving hands+head up and down and simultaneously weapon rotation animations so they could be blended with character walking animation. At first it didn’t work because animations were on a single action timeline and Unity wasn’t blending them. I needed to separate them to different action and then put them again on a single NLA Strip o_O. After that and some coding for animation blending it started to work:

Walking and shooting blended!

Then I fixed bullets origin on the end of weapon, added extra weapons to already implemented uzi and bazooka: shotgun, pistol and grenade launcher. Next I added blood particles:

Blood particles

I played a little bit with Unity ragdolls to test if they would work with my model and … it worked great as you can see from this test:

Ragdoll test

Paulina made me really great logo for game’s title screen and finally I got permission to use two music tracks for title and in-game from DADi ( soundcloud , Facebook page ) – once again BIG thanks! They fit nicely to the game I think.

You can watch results here:

Future!

Post compo version is available for all of you to play and have fun with it. If there will be interest I will be more than happy to develop it further. Among many things game needs some more optimizations, computer opponents and maybe online modes.

I’m waiting for all suggestions, comments etc.

Game entry page
Post compo downloadable version (free or small fee if you like)
Browser version

Thank you all and I’m back to playing all those fantastic games you all created :)

Ricochet Heroes Postmortem

Posted by
Tuesday, December 16th, 2014 4:24 am

It’s been two weeks now but have been meaning to write this while everything’s relatively fresh on my mind.
Finished the LD Jam (3rd of the year, though did a few other random game jams) and once again very happy with the way things turned out.

Here’s our game, “Ricochet Heroes”
http://ludumdare.com/compo/ludum-dare-31/?action=preview&uid=35477

title screen

It’s a pinball/pachinko-RPG hybrid, with some obvious (as seen from the title art above) influences from final fantasy/16bit rpgs, and peggle. It worked out surprisingly well, managed to get in all the planned content. Did have to pull a heroic all-nighter sunday night/monday morning, but other than that got a decent amount of sleep.

A bit about the team, it was me, Josh (who drove up here to SF all the way from LA, what dedication!) and two others (Josi and Charles) who both had to drop out a day in. Didn’t take any selfies or anything, but here’s a photo of a desk at work in the Zynga HQ in SF (where we spent most of the contest):

unnamed

We spent an unusually long amount of time brainstorming (an hour and a half or more?). Here’s the general train of thought (sure wish I took a photo of the whiteboards/sketch papers here!)

1. We want to make an RPG!
2. RPG with the entire world map…ON ONE SCREEN
3. Maybe use a magnifiying glass to see individual parts of the world map?
4. Send out multiple heroes at once, or maybe one every 10 seconds?
5. Wait, how would gameplay for this work? Do you have god powers or something?
6. Specific god powers on cooldown, maybe lightning or swipe the enemies away
7. This doesn’t sound very fun at all think of something more action
8. Harvest moon + aliens/zombies, defend your land from the invaders IN ONE SCREEN
9. I still like the idea of watching people walk and fight, RTS-y.
10. World War 2 D-Day simulator where you control one person on the front lines and you die over and over again
11. That doesn’t sound very exciting either
12. This is going worse than expected
13. Go back to that rpg/heroes idea. What if you shoot out the heroes, and they bounce off the walls?

It took a bit of convincing that this idea even fit the theme of “entire game in one screen”, especially if we were gonna need to scroll the screen around. However, with idea in hand we were off to the races.

1

(About an hour and a half in)

2

(About 3 hours in)

One of our members had a hard time believing that this game was gonna be any fun. I agree, it probably didn’t look very fun at this stage. We had a lot of mechanics in mind (tilt, multi-ball, enemies, keys/gates), but how were they all going to be part of a cohesive experience together?

3

(Saturday morning)

I had some trouble figuring out how the game was gonna be fun too at this point. There were a couple of directions to go:
Was this game going to be more of a puzzle game,where you had to strategize how and where you were to shoot your balls?Or if not, how could we give it a more action-y feel?

It all came together around saturday night, where I was working a bit more on the “launch” mechanics. I wanted players not to just blindly spam clicks and shoot out balls, so that meant some sort of hold click to charge mechanic. At this point, the game didn’t have any sense of gravity do there wouldn’t have been any point to a “charge to shoot faster” mechanic. Once I added gravity, it all came together.

4

(Saturday night)

I made a pretty simple level resembling a simple pachinko machine, and the (imaginary) goal was to kill all the enemies in 3 balls or less. With the addition of gravity, hold to charge and tilting, this was actually a pretty challenging and fun level. With this, we knew where to go to get a fun game.

Spent all of sunday making all the mechanics (building entering, combat log, level transitions, enemy types) and the sunday-monday allnighter fixing bugs (which somehow this game had way more than usual) and designing the levels. To actually make the level layouts, I used the level editing tool from my recently released game SpeedyPups (http://speedypups.com/) to draw the mountains and place objects.

Capture d’écran 2014-12-16 à 02.59.43 AM

http://spotcos.com/gogodoggy/editor.html

I get a surprising amount of mileage out of this tool. If you’re reading this and interested in a simple vector graphics drawing level editor (that exports to JSON), send me a message and I’ll hook you up :)

Spent the last few hours adding sound effects and music (just like last time). Big credits to Josh who found the main world theme on newgrounds, I felt the music fit incredibly well and really improved the game. Wish I still had a link to the original on NG so that I could give credit, but it’s lost to time.

Submitted with about 20 minutes left to spare, and snuck in some physics bugfixes a few hours later.
We (both me and Josh) were considering doing an expanded version of the game possibly for mobile. There’s some obvious places where the whole “pinball RPG” could go…more RPG mechanics, upgrading character balls, quests, etc.

In the end, we decided to hold off on it for the time being. I’d really like to come back to this idea sometime in the future, but for now working on an “unnamed robot rpg”.

unnamed2

 

Get hyped?

Follow us at
https://twitter.com/spotco
or
http://spotcos.com

——

LD Recommendations:

I’ve played about 60 other games, and found 3 that I really liked.

“Lawbreaker” by deepnight
http://ludumdare.com/compo/ludum-dare-31/?action=preview&uid=2982
2d GTA on one screen. As always, deepnight does the incredible in 48 hours (something that I’d probably have trouble doing in 72 with an artist). Lots of really great little details, like hijacking tanks and helicopters.

“Juoi” by teameagle
http://ludumdare.com/compo/ludum-dare-31/?action=preview&uid=23493
One bossfight – the game. It’s one very pretty and well animated boss fight, with lots of action-y screenshake-y goodness.

“Snowball juggling Olympuio” by Benjamin
http://ludumdare.com/compo/ludum-dare-31/?action=preview&uid=2952

Snowball juggling. My favorite out of all that I played, incredible amounts of detail (just look at the animation on that snowman). Really fun in a “flappy birds keep trying to beat the score” sort of way, also really does replicate the feeling of juggling.

Fibonacci Grid – It’s maths.

Posted by (twitter: @andyjamesadams)
Monday, December 15th, 2014 11:06 am

image

So I decided to make a game focused on one of my favorite math things, the Fibonacci sequence. I had fun and I’m fairly happy with how it turned out. So to the nit and grit of a postmortem post (the good, bad, and confusing?).

The good:
-I learned A LOT!
-the game is well received by most that play it.
-I actually finished this time, and I like the game I made.
-the animations and time I put into them paid off
-I designed the game with mobile in mind and have something I can take to market (maybe)

image

The Bad:
– I suck at writing music
– I thought the core mechanic was simple enough to understand and it wasn’t
– I should have added a tutorial
– I had some crash bugs on release
– I completely misspelled Fibonacci the entire time I was developing (corrected since)

image

The confusing:
I made a concious effort to have people playtest my game, and was under the impression that the”adding” mechanic was simple. While some folks are getting the idea either right away, or shortly there after, most are confused.

MORAL: Dont assume everyone reads the description on the page, and if it is needed that much then put it inside the game.

Duck, Jump, Die (Post Mortem + Timelapse!)

Posted by (twitter: @DivitosGD)
Sunday, December 14th, 2014 4:11 pm

First off, the timelapse.

Post Mortem

We faced several problems right off the bat. My original intentions was to program it in Game Maker: Studio completely by myself and submit for the compo rather than the jam.

A friend of mine offered to team up with me about 5 hours before the jam. I wouldn’t be able to help with the programming due to the language he was using, but I agreed anyways. It was decided I’d work on audio on concepts.

Fast forward towards the beginning of the competition, and I was running off of 2 or 3 hours of sleep. I’d tried previously, but couldn’t get to sleep, so I just opted to stay awake until we at least had a concept done. ‘We’ included me, the friend from earlier, and one of his friends(an artist).

Then we get to the theme being announced. We all dabbled with some ideas for about 10 to 20 minutes before the programmer decided to opt out and leave me and the artist to our devices. I prepared to program while we continued to concept.

Our initial plan was a top down twitch reflex maze. The walls would be moving at you at an accelerated rate and you’d have to us WASD to navigate without hitting a wall or falling behind. We in a way kept this concept, but just changed it around to being an endless runner.

He began on the art, I began importing it. About an hour in, he went to sleep, and I followed shortly after. Luckily realizing I had forgotten to start the time lapse. I started it, and ended up getting some sleep.

A couple hours later, I woke up, and started on the main game. I faced quite a bit of problems. The floor was initially tiled, and I was hoping I could make it sync to the obstacles. I eventually gave up and just made the floor one seamless line and added in some obstacles. After that, I had my initial concept of how I was gonna do anything, and added in some more obstacles. A short bit later, Brad(the artist) woke up and I sent him a build. We ended up getting a bit addicted to it, and didn’t get much work done for about an hour.

From then on out, it was pretty much just him doing art, me hacking away at the programming, occasionally sending builds to him and some friends, occasionally us finding ourselfs in a skype call, and a lot of the time us joking around about things.

We ended up finishing about the time the regular compo was ending, and submitted for the jam(albeit with some undiscovered bugs) and the rest is history.

Fast forward to a week later, I just released a bug fixed version of it, and Brad and I have decided to carry on development from scratch on an entirely new version of Duck, Jump, Die for mobile!

The Good

We ended up with a final product! That broke a 6 competition long quitting streak for me, with my last completed Ludum Dare being LD25.

We ended up making a pretty fun game! Even after the horrors of the battlefield, I still find myself playing it when I get bored(on occasion).

We ended up meeting each other! We actually work out pretty well as a partnership, and if it hadn’t of been for this Ludum Dare, we never would’ve met.

The Bad

We didn’t use the remaining time we had on polish and bug fixing, when it really could have used it.

The game is highly unoptimized, and tends to slow down for some people.

The music is incredibly loud, and ends up hurting peoples ears first time around.

Play The Game!

Obligatory Cross Promo!

http://ludumdare.com/compo/ludum-dare-31/?action=preview&uid=9732

 

Screeny

Lull Post-Mortem

Sunday, December 14th, 2014 3:07 pm

Play Lull HERE! The centuries-spanning magical realist visual novel that the critics are calling “interesting!”

“Interesting” —stvr

“Interesting” —JFern

“Interesting”  —Sweenist

“Interesting” —Kuality Games

“Very interesting” —Rose

“Very interesting” —Crushenator

Screen Shot 2014-12-14 at 4.38.03 PM

My name’s Luke, and I was the head writer on Lull. I’m with Watercress Studios, which is a team of 30-odd coders, writers, artists, and composers working on… something else. Don’t worry about that.

A bunch of people thought it’d be fun to take a break from the Other Thing to do Ludum Dare. “Don’t worry,” I told my SO, “I’m not getting involved, I’m just going to hang around on TeamSpeak for a bit to see what they’re up to. I’ll come watch Legend of Korra in half an hour.” We did not end up watching Legend of Korra that weekend.

I’m going to talk about our process, so spoilers ahoy! Shadow64 said that “There were a lot of twists and turns in there that I didn’t expect,” and if you can’t trust Shadow64, who can you trust? Go ahead and play Lull before reading on. I’ll wait.

Screen Shot 2014-12-14 at 4.42.15 PM

We faced two challenges right out of the gate. Challenge #1 was the theme. We knew we wanted to make a visual novel, but most of those involve people moving around to different places (and therefore different screens). The easy option was to set the entire story in one location, but instead of zooming in we decided to zoom out.

What if, we decided, instead of the screen showing where our characters are as individuals, it showed where they are as a society? You check in with Deadwood Falls, Oregon every ten years as buildings grow, change, are burnt down in riots against your neo-feudal dystopia, and are rebuilt.

Challenge #2 was art. Watercress’s normal art team wasn’t available, instead opting to spend the weekend sharpening pencils or analyzing Degas or whatever it is artists do when normals aren’t looking. So all the weight of the art fell to the fearless OptionalSauce, who’s usually one of our writers. While Optional more than delivered with his playful, expressive pixel art, he’s only one man, which put a tight limit on the quantity of art available to us.

This ended up shaping the story in ways we couldn’t have predicted. Since each character required different spites as they aged, we needed to keep the number of characters low. So we needed a small handful of characters to make the important decisions in Deadwood Falls. And hey, we should have their descendants take over after them, so we can reuse most of their sprites! Enter the aforementioned neo-feudal dystopia.

Screen Shot 2014-12-14 at 4.38.34 PM

WHAT WENT WRONG:

- Limited amount of art. Characters don’t have different spites for different emotions, so you get Cornelius Thatcher grinning like a goon while trying to convince two of his oldest friends not to slaughter each other’s families. Too soon, Cornelius. Too soon.

- Limited plot divergence. I don’t have to tell you how little sleep I got, because you understand. Let’s just say this postmortem would have come out sooner if I’d been awake at any point during the last week. I had to find ways to honor player choice while keeping a lid on just how much extra writing that would require.

Other than specific flags (who’s alive, who you’re friends with), the culture of your town is largely determined by two hidden variables: Unity, representing how divisive and dysfunctional your town’s politics are, and Openness, representing your town’s willingness to flow with the tides of social change. These affect whether certain actions will succeed or fail, and can result in some interesting changes— a town with low Openness might see Temperance Goodwin getting written out of the history books, for example. But you won’t get completely different scenes where everyone’s living in harmony or anything.

- Everything wraps up a little more quickly than intended, also because of the limited amount of time we had for writing. We ended up cutting scenes off the ends of both acts, which I think actually made Act I more aerodynamic but clipped Act II’s arc a bit early.

WHAT WENT RIGHT:

- The music. I can’t even tell you that much about the process, because I don’t understand it either. Every now and then the composers would pop by and ask something about themes and tonality and then disappear, like some sort of benevolent opposite-day monkey’s paw trying to interpret our poorly-worded wishes in the way that would most benefit us.

- The pixel art turned out well, and the backgrounds deliver several effective gut-punches independent of the writing– during the rioting and the endings in particular.

- Instead of using our large writing team to deliver a greater quantity of writing, we used them to deliver intensely polished writing. Every scene saw multiple drafts, and I went back through everyone else’s scenes when they were done to ensure tonal and thematic consistency. I mean, you’re hearing from the head writer now, so feel free to take my opinion with a grain of salt, but I was really happy with how the writing turned out.


So, if you’d like to try a game that lets you resolve blood feuds, learn sign language, crush insurgencies, debate land reform, and woo 19th century Quaker schoolmarms, and for some reason you haven’t played Lull yet, go here and give it a try! And if you’d like to follow Watercress Studios in our other endeavors, go here. Thanks for reading!

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Kitch’s Postmortem

Posted by (twitter: @KitchsTweets)
Sunday, December 14th, 2014 12:07 pm

The Game

bbdTitleBig

PLAY ME NOW!

 

The History

I guess I should start out by saying that is my fourth Ludum Dare. I haven’t been able to participate in a while, for reasons, but I got the opportunity to participate in Ludum Dare #31.

If you are curious, my previous Ludum Dare entries were Voxterium (LD22), Mage Duel (LD23), and # (LD26).

Preperation

My three previous Ludum Dare entries were all done in XNA. For my next “real” project, I wanted to get away from the XNA framework, and try something a little more… um… well… supported. Also, wanted to finally do a web game for this competition, to get rid of all the stigmas of running a windows only game that required a redistributable.

I decided to give Haxe a run, as it seemed to be pretty straight forward, and of course it’s cross platform features are extremely interesting. And, hey, making a game in 48 hours is a good way to learn a new language, right?

The Build

When the theme was announced, my mind was blank. After like an hour of pacing my office and staring at a blank screen, this one just sort of popped in there.  No idea where it came from or why.

Having done this compo three times before, I had a pretty good idea of what pacing should be… but like the other LD’s I threw that to the wind. Taking into account I was learning a new programming language, I allotted more time for programming. That being the case, when I got into the programming part, HaxeFlixel was sooo easy to use, and so well documented (for this sort of game), that I felt like I could spend more time on the audio and graphics, and I did. Overall, the process went really well and I actually finished a couple hours early.

Targeting the web was kind of a cool experience as well. I was able to post early builds, and get feedback. This helped a lot with finding some glaring issues. One was a bad design decision with the second control (below), that would have been disastrous, had it not been pointed out to me early.

bbd_play

What went right

  • I think the game turned out pretty ok.
  • I learned a lot about a new language.
  • I made a web game!

What went wrong

  • Some of the controls are awkward. Some extra time could have been spent on making them more intuitive.
  • Would have liked to spend more time on the music

Plans for the Future

I would like to spend some time on a post-compo version. It doesn’t feel complete right now. Some games just feel like they deserve to be fleshed out.

I have received a number of good suggestions and insights on where this game could go, and I totally agree.  I also have a lot of ideas I would have liked to implement.. but you know… time… It will also help me to get even more familiar with Haxe, as I believe it can be a great platform for my next game project.

Conclusion

Had a blast last weekend making the game, and have had a great time playing your games. Can’t wait to play more! I wish you all a great Ludum Dare!

Love,
Ross

Houston: Expedition diary Part 2

Posted by
Saturday, December 13th, 2014 9:09 am

The expedition diary.

Day 2 additional decryption:

We fall asleep only after first successful launch of expedition ship to planet Pandorum – «Hooray!»
It was exciting – finally, all the parts we made during the day now works together as one game – with logic and results.
But cruel clocks show 5:00 at that moment.

sleep

At 10:30 the team was already at work again.

We realised, that we have no time for much of functionality we planned to do =(
So we failed to implement in particular:
– Any tutorial
– Visualisation of expedition events (how astronauts install modules, produce food, fight with predators)
– “Houston, We’ve Got a Problem” feature – when we may tell them, how to solve critical issues.
And other things.

But – the game works and we still have something to show on presentation of Jam.
And we showed it.

presentation

Other expedition diary data under decryption now.
And you may support our expedition if you rate our game =)
Jam Entry: Houston, We’ve Got a Problem
Please, check the first screenshot before play – there are tutorial stuff.

Previous parts of expedition diary:
Expedition diary part 1
Information bulletin for new astronauts

Ludum Dare 31 Postmortem

Posted by (twitter: @wjlroe)
Friday, December 12th, 2014 1:00 pm

I posted a postmortem for Ludum Dare 31 on my blog. Hope people find it interesting in some way.

Reindeers On Strike

So I was late to the party and only decided to start on my Ludum Dare game on Sunday evening, I had been busy all weekend. I knew I didn’t have much time so I went for the Jam even though I was by myself and would’ve qualified for the Compo. Because of the time constraints my game has loads of bugs and aspects which I have clearly cut corners. But despite this I am happy with the outcome. I have managed to get a small buggy game working.

I chose to make a 2D shooter because I have done it before and it would save time. Christmas is just around the corner so it was a favourite in terms of game ideas, and who doesn’t love a violent santa?

The game itself has got pretty good overall reviews and considering the time put in to it I am very happy with the result. The game functions which is a miracle in itself. On top of that with (good) music, (good) art it really looks like a game.

I am quite proud of it and to answer the question, yes it is possible to make a game in 8 hours. Whether or not it is good, thats for you to decide.

Link to game page

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