Ludum Dare 31
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Posts Tagged ‘SuccessStory’

Platform 31 won an award!

Posted by (twitter: @Rodaja_es)
Tuesday, December 16th, 2014 5:06 am
Granada Gaming people's choice award

Granada Gaming people’s choice award

Hello fellow Ludum Darians, we’re extremely excited to tell you we’ve spent the weekend presenting our LD31 game at a games festival in Granada, a beautiful city at the south of Spain, called Granada Gaming.

People waited in line to play it, they’d come back for a rematch, and they even had a little king of the hill thing at a time. We were amazed and immensely happy.

Rodaja holding the Granada Gaming public award for their LD31 game Platform 31

Rodaja holding the Granada Gaming people’s choice award for their LD31 game Platform 31

The most amazing thing is that when the visitors had the chance to cast a vote for their favourite game of the show most chose Platform 31. So Platform 31 won the people’s choice award! You can see us in the picture above as happy as tired, as the ceremony was held late at night after a whole day of hard work at the show.

We want to thank everyone who came by (we know for a fact some of them also made a game for LD31, so come forth, people) and Ludum Dare itself, as we never would have made this game without it.

If you want to see what the fuzz it’s all about, you can play and rate the game here: http://ludumdare.com/compo/ludum-dare-31/?action=preview&uid=29557

Platform31

Super Snow Girl is my kind of beat-em-up

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014 6:18 pm

No, not the “unfinished game engine” kind, you big silly.

So I made this. It was exhausting and fun, and I hope you dig.

Love ya fellow LDers long time.

Click here to get to the game. Engine. Whatever :D I don’t mind that it’s unfinished. If Humanity needs it a whole lot, I have confidence it will get made. Otherwise it’s fine as it is!

screenshot4funeral2 roundhouse   screenshot6 screenshot  screenshot3

TRI Post Mortem

Posted by (twitter: @RatKingsLair)
Tuesday, November 4th, 2014 1:53 pm

TRI is a game with a long story, so I won’t even attempt to remember every detail. Instead, I will write down what comes into my mind. This way the following article might be a bit inconsistent; I hope it’s still an interesting read.

TRI

The story begins in April 2011, when I participate for the first time in a big Ludum Dare event. It was the 20th Ludum Dare, with the theme “It’s dangerous to go alone! Take this!” (a quote from Zelda) – but the theme didn’t really matter, as I got the idea for my entry the evening before. I was inspired by working with 3D modeling software, where you create and manipulate polygons, and I thought: how could I use that for a game? Good thing the eventual Ludum Dare theme kinda fit – I just equipped the player with a “Tri Force Field Gun” (the “this” for the theme), and TRI was born, where all you do is creating triangles to walk and jump on them, and solve a few puzzles.

Old TRI

My entry was kinda successful: I submitted it to the Compo, but eventually switched to Jam, because I copied a character controller from the Unify wiki (as Unity’s inbuilt one was too wonky). The Jam worked a bit differently back then, so my entry didn’t receive any ratings. But PoV featured TRI in the results announcement post, and people who played the game (the community of Ludum Dare, and players on Kongregate) liked it well and some even asked for more levels.
A few months later, in October 2011, we were searching for a cool new project. Somehow we convinced ourselves that we could create a full version of TRI within a few months, which of course was very naive. We actually already made two commercial games back then, but as those were done in a much shorter timeframe and were for mobile only we still underestimated how hard it is to make a full-blown game with individually designed levels, somewhat complex gameplay, physics and a story-line. Also – and this was the worst part – a lack of clear direction (due to missing experience) hindered a straight development, and so we changed the design several times before TRI became the game you can see and play nowadays. Of course, we learned a lot during these three years, but I often wish we would have learned this stuff faster.

Soon!

TRI was made by Jana and me, Friedrich. Jana created the visuals and most 3D models, while I programmed in Unity/C# and also made the GUI. We both created the levels and searched for and worked on the sounds. The music was composed by my brother Ludwig.

It is still funny for me how each department is received extremely differently by different people: some love the graphics, some find them bland. Some adore the gameplay, some think it’s clunky or just headache-inducing. Some bought the soundtrack, some just found it repetitive. I know that tastes differ, but as most feedback nowadays comes from official reviews, it’s just silly how one piece of opinion claims that our levels are “not convincing” while the other describes them as highly genius.

Scribbles

But yeah. A lot of reviews miss the “polish of Portal” in TRI, and I can’t do anything else than concur. We are a two-man team, still learning, with a fraction of the budget of Portal. I guess the secret of success is to hide such facts as well as possible, but I don’t know how. So the biggest learning for us: we won’t do anything this big again soon. At least we shouldn’t.

We even had to take breaks during the years, because of interfering contract work, or just because we had to take some time off. Both didn’t make development any shorter, and if Rising Star wouldn’t have approached us to give us some funding and a deadline to kick our asses, we probably would still work on TRI (or having a break from it).

In reality, TRI was a good project for a small team, as the game has a narrow scope: the main gameplay is about creating triangles, and almost all of the other mechanics somehow work with this mechanic. For example, there are light rays, and you can reflect them – with the triangles. And you can walk on the walls and the ceilings – thanks to the triangles. There are also some basic physics puzzles (dropping crates on platforms and so on), but the physics are built into Unity. So how did TRI become a “too big game”?

By not being absolutely clear about the game’s direction.

More triangles!

One indication for this is the game’s story. We wanted a background story from the beginning; the original TRI has one, although fairly simple and only communicated via texts on walls. And yet it added a big portion to the package – so we still think some kind of narrative is necessary as a hook. Just think of how showing triangles would be boring for reviewers and YouTubers. This is why we needed some characters in the game. Unfortunately our story changed a lot during the development, or rather: the whole design and with it the story. From a sci-fi setting with a mad professor and a fantasy story with an alchemist, to the now present fable about a Monk and a Fox. This last iteration of TRI’s plot feels a bit tackled on sometimes, and really you can still complete the game (hopefully) even when you skip all story bits (hopefully not). So it’s there to entertain, but the narrative sadly isn’t an integral part of TRI.

Reading a scroll.

The most problematic thing was that Jana and I never fought over what TRI actually should be – at least there never was a clear winner. Jana was all for making a game about atmosphere and looking at nice architecture. I on the other side was totally focused on the gameplay, and how there should be a lot of puzzles, because I feared people would be bored otherwise.
This way TRI became a game with two souls – there are parts that are mostly about the design, and parts that contain a lot of riddles and obstacles. Thankfully it doesn’t feel too much like a game with multiple personalities because Jana added her personal touch to each level after they were done by adding the textures and decorations. And fortunately the Monk and Fox also help to string them together, at least in my opinion.

Puzzles

Nobody ever complained about the sound design – apart from our very own voices for the climbing. Still, this fact is kinda great because although we actually tried to hire someone to make sound effects, the deal didn’t come to place and we found our best partner in freesound.org – really a great resource for indie developers. Most of the sounds actually were done within a few days. Sound design may be something that we still neglect, but TRI didn’t focus on sounds anyway, even though we wish we had time to create atmospheric “sound carpets” for each level, because sometimes everything is silent and nothing happens, and it then feels a bit too lifeless.

Monk

Although we normally tell everyone that the game was released on 9th October 2014, we actually put TRI online for the first time in June 2012, as a “pre-alpha”, which was a stupid description. We renamed it quickly to “alpha”, and a bit later I also tried to get rid off the version numbers (like 0.3.0) which always were low and unattractive, by replacing them with something cooler: code names! The next version was then “MagicalMonk”, which sounds much more confident.
These early-access versions (purchasable via our website and Desura) were not very successful in terms of sales, but we actually never did much marketing for them. We rather tried to get feedback from people interested in the concept and art style, by pre-selling the game for a low price and adding a survey at the end of the game. The later versions even included the possibility to give direct feedback via an inbuilt form. (Thanks to Jedi for the idea!) This was great, because people could send us bug reports or suggestions together with a game save. And it was a solution for our QA problem – every game needs testers, and this way everybody can be one!

The Grid

In October 2013 we submitted TRI to Steam Greenlight, and some months later it was finally approved by Valve. It also made a lot more people aware of our game. But unfortunately Greenlight was a better marketing tool when it started in 2012. While the first batches of greenlit games were celebrated by the press, this effect became non-existent, thanks to the countless, bi-monthly batches with 100 titles approved at once – and TRI was part of one of these, in February 2014.

It was like winning $20 – nice, but absolutely underwhelming. On the other hand we’re a bit proud of being greenlit before TRI even reached the Top 100, although I am not sure what exactly that means.

Greenlit!

Anyway, at least we’re on Steam – and as the saying goes: “be on Steam, or don’t be”. A little anecdote: to be visible to curators (the new thing on Steam) we had to rename TRI, as the name was too common (think “Counterstrike”) for the search form to work, as it relied on auto-completion only. This is why TRI is now called “TRI: Of Friendship and Madness” (Jana’s idea) almost everywhere.

Thanks to Rising Star Games we’re also on GOG. GOG was great regarding the release, as they wrote a very cool release article. And you can also get our game directly on the HumbleStore, too!

Overall we are happy with the reception of TRI: more reviewers than I would have expected like or even love the game, and our Steam user score is pretty high – as of writing we have 30 positive and only 2 negative reviews, resulting in 93%. Yet, the game is still missing visibility – Steam, Greenlight and reviews alone don’t do that for you (anymore). We need more YouTubers with a high amount of subscribers, playing the game on their channels. And probably some sensible discounts, as it seems a lot of potential buyers are just waiting for the inevitable XY% off sale. I can’t even blame them: with so many games on my backlog, I do the same with most new titles.

Title

What can TRI offer you? It has 16 levels created by our hands, 5 different “worlds” each with a different background music and a new look, two animated NPCs, all degrees of freedom, and unlimited triangles. You conjure these to overcome abysses, to block and reflect light rays and lasers, and to walk on the walls and the ceilings. A lot of areas can be approached differently, depending on your own play style. Even some of the puzzles have more than one solution, and I sometimes see people solving them in a new, unique way. There are very open levels where you can fall into the void, and levels with a lot of narrow hallways. You can jump, crouch, climb, run, carry crates around and use levers.

TRI is a bit about celebrating freedom and possibilities, and we hoped that a lot of people would love that. For now, we still have to find out how to reach them.

WATCH THE TRAILER

If you enjoyed reading this, you might want to have a look at our Making-of video series, our our blog.

End

My LD game on Greenlight!

Posted by (twitter: @david_erosa)
Thursday, October 23rd, 2014 2:08 pm

Almost a year ago I was posting my “I’m in!” post for the LD #28 (You only get one). That was my sixth Ludum Dare in a row.

Soccertron

I made a game in which you had to play some kind of 1vs1 soccer game and get the ball back when it got out of bounds. It was funny to play with friends, but I just let it sleep on my hard drive. Around February, I decided to give it a chance and started working on the game, changing some (many) mechanics but trying to keep the gameplay. And in the summer I released the game on OUYA ,Gamestick and Amazon’s Fire TV.

Today, I’m posting again to announce that the game is on Steam Greenlight, it’s fully playable and I’m still working on adding more awesoness to it! Like online multiplayer, 4 players, more game modes, etc.

It’d be great if this community could take a look at my game and vote. I’m not asking for a yes, just for your honest opinion.

Here’s the link: Soccertron on Steam Greenlight

Thanks, LD community!

Connected Words available on iOS and Android

Posted by
Saturday, September 20th, 2014 9:35 am

connected-words-icon-256Rated #32 in innovation for LD30, the game is up on these major marketplaces (for free with no ads and no DRM*),

connected-words-app-store

connected-words-gp

connected-words-amazon

It managed to get through the Apple approval process on the first try (No kidding. The recent deluge of apps must have softened Apple…)

My compo version received amazing comments and really ok ratings too (no worries, I still love you guys!).

connected-words-compo-anim

The mobile version didn’t change much from the compo one. The changes were,
* Leveling with increasing difficulty
* Retries earned based on level and tweaked scoring
* Emoji characters now display correctly (that was sooooo fun to fix)
* High scores are tracked
* Some UI fixes and improvements
* A new icon from an artist friend (Coming Soon™ to iOS).

Check it out. Try to get a score over 100 and let me know if you do. That is awesome.

* – no DRM where possible (i.e. not Apple).

Trappy Tomb postmortem

Posted by (twitter: @jimmypaulin)
Tuesday, September 9th, 2014 1:31 pm

LD30_screen

Trappy Tomb was conceived as a response to the poor score for ‘innovation’ I received from my previous LD entry ‘Midnight Minigun’. Mulling how I could do something innovative I decided that client-server would be a fun way to interact with the LD community, and since I’d have very limited time I’d also attempt to integrate User Generated Content. I didn’t want to overly burden the player with creating things so I figured that playing with or against the recordings of previous plays would be a fun way to generate content and promote interaction. The death messages idea was influenced by the LD28 entry Rude Bear Resurrection and the mega-replay idea was an homage to Super Meat Boy. My own interest in collective insect behaviours also came into the design though my original ideas of collective problem solving ended up on the cutting room floor.

Trappy Tomb is set in an Indiana Jones / Tomb Raider style environment viewed from a top-down perspective. The player can move and jump. Jumping results in flying kicks which kill the bats that populate the tomb. Pretty much everything in there is lethal – spikes (timed, triggered and fixed), boulders (always triggered), pits, lava pits, bats and arrow launchers. There is also optional loot to collect. The game is split into two parts – a sizeable onboarding level in which you cannot die and your replays are not recorded, and the main Trappy arena.

The onboarding area has an important additional function beyond simply teaching controls – it shows what you get if you win, which is a statue personalised with your message and score for all to see. These show the game is beatable as well as providing motivation.

tt_award

Without further ado here are two composite images of the main tomb complete with the death location of the first 2000 plays (left) and the breadcrumb trails left by those players (right). Click for larger views.

Click for full size Click for full size

You can clearly see that the vast majority of players die in the first couple of hazards – some static pits. I’ll come back to this below. It’s also perhaps apparent that the climax of the level is a bit lacking- again see below!

You have 2 minutes to complete the level (ample time). If you timeout or die a dialog pops up asking for your “message to eternity” and you can see these being quoted as ghosts die while you play – I can honestly say it has been utterly hilarious seeing what everyone has put and I’m thrilled with this feature. However it was exploited badly at one point by trolls – more below. If you win you enter an inscription for your statue and are returned to the onboarding area where you get a special ending sequence and can see your statue in all it’s glory.

What went right

* The client-server system. I chose FatFractal for the server backend and it worked really well. It doesn’t require much setup at all and there is no server side code needed. You simply log-in a user and push your objects to the server. You can then pull them back with a rich query language. The player position is sampled every 0.2s and frames are interpolated on replay. When a ‘died’ state is encountered the death message is displayed – these are usually hilarious, so thank you for those! I’ve included a few choice quotes below ;)

* Artwork. This LD I decided to leave all the art until day 2 and this decision paid off as I got less bogged down in pixelling than previously and hence have more gameplay in there. The hardest part for me was selecting a colour palette – I needed everything to be readable and to separate sprites from the background and I’m pleased with how this turned out. I borrowed a few colours from other games and built up from there. Tools were Pixen and Zwoptex

spritesheet_ld29_default

* Onboarding and level flow. In my last LD entry I had many people rage-quitting because they died within the first few seconds before they’d even mastered the controls so I was determined to pace the start out and give the player a chance to get into the game. I’m really pleased that I managed to do this in the time and I think it meant people were ready when the real challenges came. I was generally happy with the building series of peaks and troughs of intensity in the level itself though I ran out of time so it ended a little abruptly. The first obstacle was probably a bit too hard as well as it claims about 60% of all attempts ;)

What went wrong

* Controls and physics. Disappointingly I failed to iterate enough on the player controls. I partly put this down to using a new framework (phaser) for the Jam so I had to find out about how the physics system worked as I went along which was not ideal. It turned out that with some really simple tweaks the experience could be much improved but the damage was done and no doubt people’s enjoyment suffered due to the over-large hit-box and slippery movement. Essentially people feel a bit cheated when they don’t think they touched spikes etc but die anyway and I can sympathise with this! The post-compo version (with about 10 characters of code changes) is loads better ;)

* Open to abuse. I really should have seen this coming, I really should, but I figured it was unlikely that the game would make it outside the LD community and so everyone would ‘play nice’ with their comments. Alas it was not to be and on one occasion I was confronted with some extremely offensive language that caused me to take the game offline immediately. It took a few days to work out a solution and thanks go to Gary at FatFractal for his support (t: @gkc). I settled on a system whereby all comments are immediately added to the local game, but will not appear in anyone else’s game until I’ve moderated them via a holding area. This actually has the side benefit that I can read all the comments as they are added :)

* Ran out of time. I had to ruthlessly cut features, for example I really wanted the ghosts to be more than just eye-candy, I wanted to have collective triggers that required ghosts to coordinate in order to open secret doors or get the ‘big prize’ etc. The idea being a community that self-organises to achieve a collective goal much like a colony of ants might… Was a shame to let that one drop! Similarly I underestimated how long it would take to create the traps and layout the environment. The game stands and falls on its level design and although I’m reasonably happy with it, the ending is weak and it kind of fizzles out a bit. I wanted to have a final large room with all sorts going on and some more timing based flame and spike puzzles but there simply wasn’t time. Still – by the time the make it to the end the few who’ve got that far were probably glad there was no more ;)

Final thoughts

This Ludum Dare was easily the most challenging and yet satisfying I’ve so far undertaken. Tapping into the creativity of the community for my content turned out great as I knew it would because YOU ROCK!. The amazing comments I’ve had have lifted me beyond words (especially around the trolling incident) and being featured in a selection of YouTube videos has been a total blast too. Here’s my favourite of those along with the truly final words – courtesy of you, from the selection of 3100 messages…

* jump. Jump. JUST JUMP, YOU FOOL!!!!
* i’m not laaavint
* the lava is not nearly as hot as my rage
* I see dead people
* i love fat eggs
* fat eggs are gross
* DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME
* I SUICIDED FOR THIS: JUST GO LEFT
* DAMN i got nervous… must be close…
* Wonder how many of these are me?
* This particular bat is a win cheat

I could go on all day, but why not just play for yourself and see?!

PLAY HERE

This guy did and just about kept his cool:

Writing a Match-3 game in Unity

Posted by (twitter: @dylanwolf)
Saturday, August 30th, 2014 9:44 am
Dr. Mario (source: Wikipedia)

Dr. Mario (source: Wikipedia)

This year in SeishunCon‘s digital gaming room, I was reintroduced to the match-3 game. I’d played Dr. Mario when I was younger, but more competitive games like Magical DropBust-A-Move, and Tokimeki Memorial Taisen Puzzle-Dama were something very different.

Ultimately, I realized just how many more-or-less neutral decisions are involved in making a match-3 game.

During this year’s Ludum Dare, I decided to jump in head-first. I did a bit of a warm-up the week before, trying to build a Tetris-style algorithm that detected and cleared out lines. This tutorial from Unity Plus was a huge help. Of course, the Tetris matching algorithm–a complete row of tiles–is much simpler than an algorithm that picks out irregularly shaped patches of matching tiles.

If you want to see all of these code samples in context, check out my Ludum Dare 30 repo.
(more…)

Dodge on Steam Greenlight

Posted by
Thursday, June 26th, 2014 6:53 am

Steam link

More limited versions:

Ludum Dare version

Game Jolt version

Runner 2014-06-25 17-44-45-15

Dodge is a minimalist arcade game involving the act of dodging squares. In the eventual Steam version, this would be possible to do infinitely, as in other versions, or it would be possible to complete prepared levels. A level editor is included. The eventual Steam version would be greatly improved over the other versions, shipping with a level editor, 50 levels (they take about 10 seconds each, if done in one try), more customisation for the endless Level Infinity, and a few other things that I don’t care to mention.

Feel free to vote it up. Or down, if you really want to.

13139-shot0

This LD I had the strange idea of making a j-RPG.
Thus Heaving of the Depths was born. You can play it here

13139-shot2

WHAT WENT RIGHT

1. It’s pretty! I wanted a very beautiful game and I think that went well. There’s a ton of art in this thing. As usual, I create new assets as needed. I ended up with two large photoshop files: an overworld sea where you navigate the ocean in your pirate ship, and a battle screen, where I made all battle sprites and animations. What this lets me do is keep a consistent color palette and style across the whole project, and essentially replaces the concept art stage that a normal game goes through. I used amazing references like Legend of Zelda Windwaker and Breath of Fire IV.

big map

Overworld assets

2. I learnt tons of stuff! I used cinema4D and my nonexistent 3D skills to make a fast and loose 8-direction ship with minimal effort. I tried my hand at procedural generation: all islands are generated randomly within certain limitations, to keep the level solvable and the sea traversable. I had a stroke of genius at the last moment and created a “miner” entity that swims through the level and places gold coins wherever it goes, at runtime. This was to ensure an interesting curving path through the level, so players would want to explore it.

3. It’s a complete adventure, my storytelling skills were also, I thought, nonexistent, but the story of Sunny and Cod just flowed through me like I was on fire. It’s got a beginning, middle and end, it’s got obstacles and emotions. I usually end up making a very unfulfilling game. This time I feel I made a difference.

4. it has a branching storyline. Well, ok, a few tiny branches. Such as when you are defeated by the 3 blacktopuses you get a different message to the one you get if you clear them. Or when Sunny tells you you need the fast sail if you don’t have it, but acknowledges if you’ve already bought it. But that’s still a lot of work. I have a much better grasp of how to implement a dialogue system.

5. it has a turn-based battle system: implemented from scratch. Boring and barebones, yes. But it gets the job done.

6. I get to develop it further. I’m dedicating the next 6 months to this game. I started a new devlog here

13139-shot1
WHAT WENT WRONG

1. No sound  I didn’t have the time

2. Button-mashing battles the battle system is uninteresting. That’s ok, and it’s all I had time for, but if I’m going to make this a full-fledged RPG, I need a good battle system. Feel free to send me ideas. Grandia and Child of Light are obviously lovely choices, where the result of a battle can be spectacularly overturned. Also Persona 3 and Fallout 2 have good battle systems. Since you’re spending half the game in battle, I owe it to myself to fix the button-mashing boringness.

3. Time management. Well I don’t know, I did a lot for three days. But it’s not as fun as a more complete experience such as the amazing SCUBA BEAR (go check it out NOW). On the other hand, I like to follow through with my ideas for Ludum Dare, instead of making a smaller game just because of time constraints.
Here’s my Timelapse video:

And thanks to everyone who commented, everyone who played my game, everyone who made a game for us to play. I love Ludum Dare, I want to never stop making games.

Until next time,

love,

Christina

Vaults Inc will become a full game

Posted by (twitter: @twitter.com/brmassa)
Wednesday, May 7th, 2014 6:13 pm

for the reasons I mentioned in http://blog.gamenific.com/2014/05/the-power-of-good-feedback-new-game.html, I am very proud to announce that my Ludum Dare 29 entry, Vaults Inc, will become a full feature game. Thanks for everyone that played and gave me crucial feedback.

Future development

The game needs to go back to design. Not only there are several features that I could not implement, but also I have to give a total remake on things that already done.

From a quick list, here are some items:

  • Save and Load functionality: auto explaining and the benefits are quite obvious
  • Graphical revamp: it was one top complains from LD players and not with reason
  • Bots: a computer opponent for single player
  • New game play features: challenges and empty blocks are among the things I want to implement to make the game richer
  • Campaign mode: for single players, with specific scenarios
  • Multi player: online and local
  • Social: comparing scores with friends
  • Multi platform: PC, Mac, Android an iOS for sure. Other platforms could be considered

 

If you have not played yet, Play it now!

vaults inc LD29 logovaults inc title vaults inc LD29 6 vaults inc LD29 4 vaults inc LD29 3 vaults inc LD29 5

Singular, a ludumdare #28 entry, is now a full game !

Posted by
Tuesday, May 6th, 2014 1:52 am

Really happy to announce that Singular, a game made during last Ludum dare is now out !!! I spent some time to make a real game out of it.

And there’s a real trailer too. Special. But definitely real :-).
The trailer :

In Singular you lead a terrified green cell through different traps. It’s a story about isolation, love, sacrifice and the discovery of diversity…an epic adventure for one little cell. Every room is a variation around a really simple and satisfying mechanic (touch cells to make them explode to a certain radius). The story is an extension of the mechanic and vice-versa. The inspiration behind is to be found towards Thomas was alone or World of Goo.

Features :

  • 60 levels full of puzzles and action, including 10 generated levels (different every time you play them)
  • 4 different breeds of cells x 7 different actions = many possibilities
  • a unique “Combo!” mode, where you compete against the world to make the highest score

I’m a French indie game developer working in London. Singular is a game originally made for Ludum Dare #28. Here is the original game. I also do other cool stuff with museums, robots and all sorts of things.

The iOS game :
The Android game :
The itch.io with everything (including computer versions) :

New Dawn — Postmortem

Posted by
Sunday, May 4th, 2014 2:58 pm

New Dawn was the first Ludum Dare entry for both members of our team, and the first game jam/compo of any sort that we’ve done. We went in with little preparation and an overdose of optimism, but overall it came out pretty well! We weren’t able to do as much as we’d hoped – that probably goes for everyone here – but we finished in 72 hours and still came up with a solid little game.

We had a general idea of what we wanted to make before LD started: some kind of mini-RPG or adventure game. We couldn’t help brainstorming as we were voting on themes, and we really liked the idea of setting the game in a dystopia. A few of the themes could’ve made that setting difficult, but luckily for us,“Beneath the Surface” fit really well. It led to an interesting post-apocalyptic setting where the action takes place underground because the surface is no longer habitable. Plus, a dystopian setting was perfect for adding layers of secrets and false pretenses, which meant we could interpret the theme both literally and figuratively. We didn’t get to do as much of the latter as we originally planned, but we think it still comes through pretty well.

Although we started with the idea of a “mini-RPG,” we knew we probably wouldn’t have time to add many RPG elements. As it turned out, we ended up just sticking to a point-and-click adventure game. In order to have time to code extra RPG features, like a combat system, we would’ve had to spend less time on art and the dialogue system. That would have led to a very different kind of game, not necessarily a bad one, but we felt New Dawn would be better served by focusing on the story and the atmosphere. Having a better dialogue system and more detailed art helped to strengthen the story and atmosphere, whereas RPG mechanics wouldn’t really add as much in that sense. That said, if we had more time, we would have liked to add those as well.

New Dawn

New Dawn — A subterranean dystopia

Individual Thoughts:

Stefan (Coding, Art, Concept/Gameplay Design): Going in I knew I was going to use Unity (and C#), along with 2D Toolkit. I had laid out a basic plan which was to try to implement all the features by the end of the first 24 hours, then all the art by the end of the second 24 hours, and leave the third day for testing, bugfixing, and polish. I did this because I know that games always take longer than you expect, so this gave us some room to work with and helped curb our ambitions and expectations. As it turned out, this was a great idea, because although I did finish all the crucial features in the first 24 hours, the art ended up taking much longer and wasn’t done until well into the third day (and I didn’t sleep at all Sunday night either!).

Ultimately I’m a programmer, not an artist, so I’m not very efficient at that stuff because I haven’t done it much. However another big reason it took so long is that while 2D Toolkit is very convenient, it has some very tedious interface problems that require manually doing repetitive actions over and over, which really should be automated. These actions can be automated by script, but at the time I wasn’t sure if the amount of time it would take to write those scripts would be less than the time it takes to do the stuff manually. In retrospect, I think for the amount of art we had it probably wouldn’t have saved us that much. However, if I could do it over again, I would have set up those automation extensions to 2D Toolkit before LD started, because that definitely would have saved a lot of time.

The art itself also took a lot of time because I chose to put a lot of detail into it, despite it being very low-res pixel art. The details are largely in the shading, which ate up a lot of time, especially for the tilesets which required many different versions of each wall tile in order for the shading to match up. This also meant more work for Olivia when placing the tiles to build out the levels. The shading, especially on the tiles, is a very subtle effect, which I don’t think most people would notice unless they’re familiar with how tilesets work and are specifically thinking about it (which you usually don’t do when you play a game even if you are familiar with how it works). However, I still think it was worth it to spend this extra time, because although most people won’t consciously recognize that the shading is there, when it isn’t there it really stands out and looks noticeably worse. In particular, I think the atmosphere of the game was really well served by the extra shading detail. After drawing the basic shape and applying the shading, I also applied a noise filter to all except the character sprites to give them a bit of extra grit which I think fits the setting well.

On the third day, once the art was finally completed, we only had a few hours left before the submission deadline. At this point I implemented a few extra features that I didn’t consider crucial, most notably the ability for NPCs to move. At this point it struck me that the ending we were planning was going to be very anticlimactic; so I decided to spend the rest of the time quickly building out an additional final level to provide a more climactic ending, while Olivia was finishing up the penultimate level. I think this was definitely a good decision in the end, however it was risky, because we ended up cutting it very close; if it wasn’t for the submission grace period we would have missed the deadline. But overall it definitely makes the game feel much more satisfying when you finish it, so I’m glad I made that choice.

Olivia (Writing, World/Level Design, Music): We knew the general kind of story we wanted to tell before LD started, so once the theme was announced I started hashing out the details. I spent most of the first day planning the overall plot, with input from Stefan, and writing descriptions/dialogue for generic NPCs and a few items. Though I didn’t implement them that day, all of those descriptions made it into the game, and really helped the world feel more inhabited. I also wrote text for an intro screen which eventually turned into our game page’s description.

Saturday and Sunday were mostly spent setting up levels: I’m pretty new to level design, and that turned into a huge, unexpected time sink. One of the original “exterior” areas I’d made was close to the size of a real city block – way more space than we had time to fill with interesting stuff! That time would’ve been much better spent populating the existing areas and doing additional writing, but…lesson learned. I said goodbye to my hopes of having all the levels finished by midday Sunday, and had to cut a plot branch and simplify the remaining ones to make sure I’d have time to finish the story.

Monday was mostly a rush to implement the last of the plot. Thankfully I’d planned it all and written some of it beforehand. The penultimate level, two crucial dialogue trees, and two optional but pretty significant NPCs didn’t exist in-game until late Monday afternoon. I also wrote the second (and shortest) part of our music that day, since I wanted at least a little variety. In our rush to submit, there wasn’t time to put the intro text on a starting screen, but that’s something I definitely plan to fix post-comp.

There were a few things I’d hoped to fit in, even with the deadline looming, that didn’t make it. The main one was a set of PA speaker announcements (in the form of text dialogue) which would’ve given more backstory and context to the world. I also wanted to implement sound effects – we’d made a bunch in bfxr – and additional music. My next priority would probably have been adding waypoints so generic NPCs can move and putting more decorations and ambient descriptions throughout the world. In spite of all those cuts, though, we still managed to tell a complete story in 72 hours, and I’m pretty happy with it.

What We Learned:

After we submitted the game, we got a lot of great feedback from commenters. Several people had problems with the click-to-move interface, and since we didn’t anticipate that we hadn’t put in any alternate control schemes (though our post-LD update lets you click and hold, which should alleviate much of the problem). We also made the main quest a little easier to figure out in some post-LD tweaks, since several people were getting stuck. Additionally, given the amount of content we had to cut due to the time limit, some of the areas ended up feeling a little empty. They probably should’ve been shrunk down. On the whole, though, the story and art that we had came together really well, and we ended up with a short but atmospheric adventure game.

LD was a great experience, and it really motivated us to make a game of our own from start to finish. We might do something totally different next time around, but we’ll definitely be there!

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