Here is the (likely incredibly dull) story of how I made my Compo entry, One Room Hotel. As a bonus I also did some stuff with the CSS of the post, hopefully that works out when it gets to the front page.
When I heard the theme, I was not happy. I felt like I had no ideas for the theme, and that it was far too limiting.
Then I realized I had voted for it 😛
My brainstorming process is simple: come up with ideas for the given theme, then come up with themes related to the given theme, then brainstorm based on those. I find doing this is very helpful, as it forces you to look at the theme in different ways, rather than mentally getting stuck on a few ideas. I ended up writing down the idea I was going to use in the section headed “One Room at A Time.”
The idea, as written, was very unclear:
Action Hotel Management Rhythm Game
I worked up the design of my game based on this, and it went through a few iterations.
- In the first iteration, you controlled a room in a two story hotel, and needed to pick people up as they walked through to bring them to another side. The idea didn’t really make much sense, so I scrapped it.
- The second idea was not related to the theme very much at all (it was closer to the “One Room at A Time” the original concept was written under.) You needed to place and remove rooms to optimize your hotel. I realized this did not fit the theme, and would not be very fun, and scrapped it.
- The third iteration was the one I kept, where you need to carry people around in order to get them where they want to go quickly.
The inspiration for the game actually came from Hot Wheels Drive Through Dilemma, a time management flash game I played a long time ago. I was also thinking about the game SimTower, an inspiration which a couple of people seem to have picked up on.
After I had my full idea, it was time to start work.
One issue that has been common to every Ludum Dare I’ve competed in is a lack of initial confidence in my idea. I always second-guess myself and this compo was no exception.
I especially felt that the sprites I was drawing would not work. I nearly scrapped the idea right there, but my bad experience a year ago with wasting time on a second idea when working on Disphere led me to stick with my original plan.
The basic mechanisms in place. At this point I was still thinking about changing game ideas.
This uncertainty continued throughout the night, and into the next day.
I finished the day with a post showing people entering the hotel.
The game started to have some form, but I was still unhappy with it.
When I woke up to start work the first full day, I saw that this was the most “hearted” post I had ever made, with 17 hearts. This is what finally convinced me that this was the idea to work on. If people were responding this well to such a basic illustration of the mechanics, I must have been on to something.
Getting the people to look good was a struggle, and took the better part of an hour and a half. For a while I was worried that I would need to pursue a different graphical style, but I ended up managing it.
When I finished the amenities, the game really started to come together. It started to fell like a real game, and I felt it was time to share what the gameplay was really like. I came up with a simple backstory for the game, and made a post. In a couple hours, this post had 27 hearts.
The most hearted image I have ever posted.
This post is by far the best received progress update I have ever had, and helped motivate me as I began to add more fleshed-out gameplay.
The next major change to the game was the addition of the day-night cycle. I needed a way to make it clear when a round was going to end and to create a feeling of progression during a stage, and this was the perfect way to do so.
Unfortunately, this somehow managed to be the most time consuming process of the entire project. I struggled with calculating how to blend colors, and with the scripts for doing so in GameMaker Studio. I eventually resorted to trial and error for getting the sky’s brightness right, and used an overlay rather than blending the color.
The ordeal was worth it, though, as it made the world feel more alive and gave the game a much better progression. The progression still wasn’t perfect, however, so I started to brainstorm ways around this.
The day night cycle took far too long to implement, but it was worth it.
After the day night cycle, there were still a few issues with the progression of the game. People came and went at any time of day, and rounds had nothing substantial separating them. I fixed this through two changes:
The first was a three part structure to days.
- In the morning, people enter the hotel, and the player is calm.
- In the afternoon, the hotel is full and hectic, making the player stressed.
- At night, people leave the hotel, releasing the stress from the afternoon.
This change in the intensity of the day over time is critical to the feeling of the game. The stress I wanted would have tired the player if it was constant, or even if it was random. Because it happened at a specific time during the day, it created anticipation and gave the player a chance to prepare. This wasn’t perfect, however, as the RNG could throw incredibly difficult situations at the player. This is an issue with all of my games, and it is the main complaint people have with One Room Hotel in particular.
The next feature I added to improve the flow was hotel construction. The time between rounds felt rushed, and I needed another step in order to ease the transition to the next stage.
I thought about what I could add that would fit with the progression of the game, and I realized that adding a screen where you must construct your tower would accomplish three things:
- Break up the time in between stages
- Give a sense of progression as the tower grows higher
- Add a layer (or maybe the illusion of a layer) of strategy
The building screen accomplished all of these things in my mind, and I personally think the blueprint aesthetic during construction looks really cool.
Construction helped the rhythm of the game, helping to better delineate stages.
After construction was finished, I squashed bugs and implemented small features for a while before going to sleep, with a near feature complete game ready for polishing on the second full day.
PANIC PANIC PANIC PANIC
At the start of the second day, I had around 20-30 items on my to-do list, which was just a little bit nerve wracking. I legitimately thought I wouldn’t finish, but I pushed through and just started working despite this worry. Worries like that have hurt my performance in previous events, and I was NOT going to let that happen again.
After all of the panicking, I decided that the most important thing to get done was the user interface. I’ve neglected this somewhat in the past and it has hurt the quality of my games. I spent a few hours on the interface, and tried a few different styles before I settled on what I used in game (and in the styling of this post.)
I chose a UI matching the color palette of the hotel.
I also worked on the in-game UI, and got that looking good with a color changing satisfaction meter and an icon for your money (score.)
I wish I had taken the time to make a separate icon for satisfaction, but I was forced to focus on others things.
The basic in-game interface: the satisfaction meter and score.
Something I added that not many people seem to have noticed is the randomly generated hotel and newspaper names. There are thousands of potential hotel names, each generated from an adjective, a noun, and then a type of establishment (Inn, resort, hotel, ETC.)
- remote smile resort
- summer arc retreat
- summer cliff hotel
- spring shark resort
- enchanting gulf retreat
- winter pond tower
- regal delight hotel
- enchanting tornado resort
- winter mountain resort
- pleasant delight tower
- globetrotter mountain resort
- regal park tower
- pleasant arc tower
The newspaper names were a little simpler. They also consisted of three parts, but the first was simply a choice between have “The ” or “” at the start of the name. The next part was a noun, and the third was a type of publication.
- The Remote Week
- The Silver Herald
- Hotel Times
- Fascinating Week
- Inn Enquirer
- Terracotta Times
- Hotel Journal
- The Pleasant Week
- Royal Tribune
- Summer Chronicle
- Happy Gazette
I love adding details like this to the game, whether or not anyone notices 😛
Since near the beginning I had ideas for the music of the game. I wanted some medium tempo jazz for the menus, and a really fast tune for in-game. I only had time to implement the menu music, unfortunately. I was disappointed at first, but when I changed the music to play in-game I realized it worked pretty well.
The music was originally intended to be for the menus only.
I made the music using Mixcraft 6 (NOT recommended, very buggy) and midi instruments, along with a (musical) keyboard. To come up with the tune I hummed along with the game when I was testing and recorded it. Once I sang something that I liked I just needed to figure out the notes to actually play it.
I would highly recommend this method to anyone who doesn’t typically write music, as it really saves time and does a lot for quality if you don’t know how to write music. It’s a lot easier to improvise melodies when singing then to mess around with a keyboard until something sounds good.
For me, the final hours of any event are some of the most important. This is where I add a final layer of polish, and elevate the game to the next level of quality. Strangely, what I feel is the most important single change I made on the final day was making the sun better:
The old sun is on the left.
The yellow of the sun brings the game’s visual style together, and I think it turned out really well. I don’t know why, but that’s when I really felt like I had made something good. Maybe that’s weird but that’s how I work.
One Room Hotel is the best received game I have ever made. I’m really happy with it, and I’m ecstatic reading people’s reviews.
A few people have called it one of the best games of the event. I never thought I would get to this point in my game development, and I am so happy that people feel this way about my game.
I’m incredibly excited to see how the game places, and I hope to finally break into the top 50 for fun, and maybe even for overall.
I may release a post jam version of the game, fixing some of the issues with it, and it may be coming to Android. I’m not sure at this point, but it is a possibility. I’m more likely to focus on a long-term project I’m going to be working on for FFSJam, a manic shooter.
Thank you so much for reading!