I think we chose the right graphic style. The funny, cartoon style gave me many freedom and I didn’t have to worry about technical proportions. Considering the short time that you have at any game jam, this is a great advantage.
Another benefit from Ludum Dare is that you don’t have to create perfect designs because you are not going to sell anything to anybody. You work fast and fresh, improvising ideas all around. The first character concept art I drew was my reference for the next pixel art with some minimum changes. They were easy concepts because they were based in big genre archetypes. Koomba is a monstrous angry mushroom because we want to make a homage to the first goomba of World 1-1 in Super Mario Bros.
I have done some sprite animations before Ludum Dare with 64×64 pixels proportions. If you want a fluent animation with these dimensions, you need between 10 and 12 sprites, and also these proportions demands a more “realistic” style. In 72 hours I didn’t have the time to do so much detailed sprites (and background tiles), so I decided to do 32×32 pixels sprites (some caracteres exceed this dimensions a bit). With this size, you can do a proper animation with only 4 sprites and just moving the feet (working with layers always saves you a lot of time and work). Some death animations (Koomba, the Dark Lord, the holy wizard) have between 6 and 9 sprites to obtain a smoother, cooler effect.
We wanted to do two or three scenarios, but soon we realised we only had time to do a proper level. So we decided to do the interior of the Dark Lord’s tower. I only had to paint some old stone brik tiles with minimum adjustments and three assets: a gargoyle, a candle and some dungeon jails. At first we had some problems with transparencies, but soon Antonio fixed it.
We also wanted a different death for every knight when they collide with the Dark Lord’s shield, but we had no time so at last I only did a customised ash death for the base knight (not used) and one generic ash death for everybody.
At first, I thought we would be unable to submit an entry with a decent level of quality. The first hours were a continuous rush, with many decisions to take, many code and art to put in place and always hearing in my mind the tick of the clock (let’s do remember that this was our first Ludum Dare). Once the initial adrenaline surge was over, the work to do was clear and we did have enough time to add even more kind of enemies than which we figured out at the beginning.
Another challenge was the selection of the game engine, because we had never use Unreal Engine 4 Paper 2D plugin in a serious endeavor (although we are proficients in its 3D and primary workflow). Besides our lack of knowledge, it did not take much time to have our first prototype working, so I must say “YAAAY” for Paper2D.
Regarding theme and mechanics, I think we choose well. A sidescroller platformer (even with the ‘You Are a Monster’ twist) is easy to implement, so we could have enough time to polish other aspects like add one or two different enemies more or a proper Wave System. However, at the end of the third day, the Wave System was half-implemented and we did prefered to use the last hours adjusting some gameplay values, smoothing the controls, and so on.
Although I am very glad with the final result, it turns out that we forgot an important element of any videogame. Yes, you’ve nailed it. I am talking about the audio. So here we are, awaiting our chance to go beyond ourselves and make a game with audio next time.
See you on December!