#LudumDare34 Post-Mortem

So you know how I take Ludum Dare pretty easy most times around? I do an hour every once in a while and eventually get a game done? This time around I think I hit a pinnacle of laziness that I can’t possibly exceed. This time around I spent roughly six hours max on my game… and it shows.

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The two themes for this Ludum Dare were Growth and Two Buttons – so I thought why not literally grow two buttons? The first idea I had was a farming sim where you have to grow new keyboard parts for customers, but I didn’t have the time or patience to create that, so I went with something simpler.

The game I made puts you in the role of Sprout the Scout. Sprout is from a race of aliens whose technology relies entirely on plant-matter. He’s crash landed on rather inhospitable planet where the local animals have a rather voracious vegetarian appetite. You have to call for help, but need to grow buttons before you can, these buttons need to be defended from the caterpillar creatures that live on the planet.

I was inspired by the game Rain World to create some kind of creepy bug creatures that moved using some kind of constrained ragdoll physics, so I made a caterpillar that tries to fling itself towards it’s prey. It looks really cool and I like the emergent behaviors that have come from a surprisingly simple piece of code.

I also had the pleasure of working with Magnus “SoulEye” Pålsson of VVVVV fame (albeit it very briefly… as we were both kinda busy this weekend.) It was great to chat with him on Skype as I’ve not seen him in ages and he’s a super interesting person.

Sprout Scout’s Situation was supposed to be a little bit grander and feels really incomplete, but I just didn’t have time to work on it properly. Magnus’s music was probably the coolest thing about it. However, my experiments with rigidbodies and connections to make procedural monster animations were a great success and I shall be using these techniques in the near future.

You can play the game here: http://ludumdare.com/compo/ludum-dare-34/?action=preview&uid=19104

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#LD30 ‘Going Postal’ Post-Mortem

You can play ‘Going Postal’ on your PC or on an android phone or tablet for free if you go to our Ludum Dare entry page! (I’d recommend the android version as it feels really nice to spin the planet with your finger!)

After a long week of making sure that Alex gets on with her final year coursework, building Minecraft server transport networks and making new enemies for Hashtag Dungeon; I thought it’d be nice to take part in Ludum Dare 30 with a few friends.

For those who don’t know, Ludum Dare is a big, weekend long game jam where loads of people from around the world come together and make games and then show them to one another in order to be judged. It’s pretty awesome and this is the second time I’ve managed to find time to do one.

I called up my friends Mark Boyde-Shaw and Amelia George to see if they wanted to join me in making a game, they accepted and joined me at my house for a weekend of excellent game development work!

After waiting up till 2am on Saturday for the theme to be revealed (the theme was ‘Connected Worlds’) the three of us spent a good hour or so discussing possible ideas. These ranged from a horror game where you slowly bring more ghosts into a house by destroying wards, to a crazy planet destroying simulator. Eventually we all agreed on an interesting idea and swiftly moved to our respective beds to sleep.

Morning came and the three of us reconvened in the living room to start work. Mark had been very busy overnight working on a possible storyline for our game, the elevator pitch for the game (entitled ‘Going Postal’) is as follows:

You are a mailman on a small planet with a few houses on it. You deliver mail to houses in order to connect the people who live there together. You can however, choose to deliver mail to the wrong house in order to cause absolute chaos within the small community.

Amelia got to work immediately on making art assets for the game. I went to work on programming the main part of the game with the little help of some placeholder programmer artwork (yes, I do the art for #Dungeon and no, I don’t care that this art is terrible in comparison):

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I went into the game jam feeling pretty lazy and I wasn’t really looking to have very pretty code… so in the end I may or may not have put almost all the code into one giant script attached to the planet. This caused a few major problems later on in the evening but for the most part everything worked out fine so I am not too bothered about it. Game jam code is always disgusting.

Over the course of the day, Mark wrote out all the possible letters we wanted to have in the game and the outcomes of each of them. He then printed them off and cut them out in order to arrange them into a cohesive story. PHYSICAL PROTOTYPING FTW!

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Once we had an order of letters that we all agreed upon, I set about adding them into the game. It was a very time consuming part of the jam which went on for several hours. Each letter had several recipients who each had different writing styles, letter artwork and house locations around the planet – some of them also had special events tied to them.

It was around this time we also started replacing my horrific excuse for placeholder art with Amelia’s glorious artwork – the tiny microplanet town of Dreamsdale was born:

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Mark and I worked on giving each of the characters a believable and unique personality. There were a total of eight characters living on the planet in the end:

  • King Harold IV – The pompous king who is loud, bold and brash. He lives in the palace.
  • Queen Anne III – The wife of Harold who we based around Mrs. Bucket from Keeping Up Appearances. She also lives in the palace.
  • Daisy ‘Sugarplum’ Dumpling – The baker who has the personality of a particularly annoying american teenage girl. She lives in the cute gingerbread house.
  • Sergeant R Murphy – A war veteran who has seen his share of horrors in a ‘Great War’ – he is a no-nonsense soldier who doesn’t like to express his feelings. He lives in the fortified bunker.
  • Mr Frank Fisher – The town fisherman who lives on a small boat in the only lake on the planet. He is a kind natured man who likes poetry and the outdoors.
  • Mr Boris Bletchley – The manager of Dreamsdale’s waste disposal and energy plant. He is a perverted old man who smells horrible – but he’s trying to turn over a new leaf.
  • Dr Eugene Egbert – The geeky scientist who moved to the planet in order to study the local area. He doesn’t really get other people. His letters are all typed in the same manner as Terezi Pyrope from Homestuck (A, I, and E replaced by 4, 1, and 3, respectively). He lives in a hi-tech tree house.
  • Sister Jane Jazzpunk – A nun who is also a talented musician. She is always looking for more people to donate to the church and spread the word of her god. She lives in the church.

Of course we didn’t manage to get everything we wanted to into the game. We wanted it so that if you sent letter to the wrong houses then the world would change slightly in appearance. We also didn’t manage to add all the ending cutscenes we wanted. The options on the letters were also not particularly clear to players, and could have used some work.

Luckily we also managed to get in touch with our friend Will Bryce, who frequently writes music for our games. He managed to come up with a cute little tune to play in the background of the game. Adding music and sound really brought the game to another level of juiciness.

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All in all the game jam went well, we took it easy and had plenty of rest breaks. We didn’t want to burn ourselves out doing a full 24 hours straight and I think it really was beneficial because the end result was far less buggy than I’d expected. The feedback we’ve had on the Ludum Dare website has been incredibly encouraging. I look forward to seeing our final scores!

You can play ‘Going Postal’ on your PC or on an android phone or tablet for free if you go to our Ludum Dare entry page! (I’d recommend the android version as it feels really nice to spin the planet with your finger!)

My First Ludum Dare Is Over!

So I just submitted my finalised build of the game to the Ludum Dare website. It’s probably got more bugs than I can shake a stick at, but I’ve fixed as many as I could find in the last few hours and added as much visual polish as I could. It’s now time to pack for tomorrow’s trip to Wolverhampton for teaching stuff and then put my feet up and have a cup of tea. I am knackered!

I proudly present “THE EVIL REVEAL” a game in which you play an evil CEO who has plans for world domination. You are about to present your evil plans to the company’s board of investors… hoping that they’ll all fall into line and become your evil minions. Unfortunately for you: All of your employees have consciences, and will eventually become scared of your insanely evil ramblings. When they get too scared, they’ll attempt to flee the room and alert the authorities! Luckily, you have an array of dastardly traps set up in order to kill and maim your enemies!

Evil Plan Reveal

So here’s a little post mortem from my first attempt at a Ludum Dare:

What Went Well:

  • Programming/Designing Speed: The time-period I had to make the game was quite tight, not only due to the 48 hour limit but also I had some other things on at the time… I’ll talk about them in the second section.
  • Idea Generation: I came up with quite a few ideas in the morning for the game I was going to make, but I’d like to thank Alex Saye for providing me with the inspiration for the final version of my game by showing me this Mitchell and Webb comedy sketch.
  • Graphics: I really like the style I achieved in this game, I was going for a style similar to that of Lone Survivor. I think it works quite well and its definitely different from what I normally do when it comes to art in games… not to say that my traditional style menu screen didn’t pop-up like usual.

What Didn’t Go Well:

  • Lack of OOP methodology: I’m afraid I slipped quickly into a non-object oriented approach quite quickly when I started this project, unfortunately meaning I ended up with LOADS of arrays for storing different Board Member variables (like whether they were on fire or if they were dead.) One day I’ll learn to pre-plan my classes… but right now my clsSprite.cs file has never really done me wrong!
  • Going Out Drinking: I kinda might have gone out drinking with friends on Saturday night. This probably cut out a massive amount of time I could have used to make the game better. But I feel that I made up for it by coding til about 6AM afterwards though.
  • Sleeping In: Pretty self explanatory – I’m in serious need of a fixed sleep pattern as I keep waking up at midday. Like with the point above this cut deeply into my possible coding and asset creation time.
  • Balancing Issues: The final game is a little broken if you play it right. The flame-thrower is really OP right now and it spreads like wildfire between the Board Members and always guarantees a kill. It kinda makes the Tesla Coil useless… but it’s still a lot of fun to hear a loud zap noise as the people get killed by it.
  • Lack of AI: I considered having some form of AI to allow the board members to avoid getting hit by certain traps. It would have been really cool to see them avoid traps that they’ve seen other board members get nabbed by – unfortunately due to time constraints and my lack of path-finding knowledge this was to remain a dream!

Just to finish things off, here is a trailer for the game that I whipped up in about ten minutes:

What Time Is This?!

Six in the morning… I think I’m seeing things in my living room and I’m getting tunnel vision. I think it’s about time for me to call it a night here on my frantic programming and artistic madness. It’s probably for the best as I think I’ve got the vast majority of the major work completed… now I’ve just got to polish and add more features when I wake up in the morning/afternoon. I also need to balance the game a little as there are points where the player isn’t doing much for long periods of time, and its far too easy to kill people right now… maybe a health bar is in order?

Goodnight to all! Let’s hope I don’t sleep in too late…

Ludum Dare 25 Afternoonish Update

I’ve been working on the game most of the day and now have a working basic prototype. I’ve got to work on the art and UI quite a bit before its completed, but things are going quite well! I’ve implemented a group of board members who each have a ‘fear/doubt’ meter, when it gets to zero, they will flee and attempt to alert the authorities to your dastardly deeds. I’ve also put in a basic trapdoor trap… but I’m considering changing it into a spike trap and making things a little bit gorier.

Unfortunately tonight is also the pre-Christmas meet-up and night out with some of my friends who have just arrived home from their respective universities. So I’m going to have to put the programming on a hold for a few hours and go and have a few drinks – I hope some awesome ideas strike whilst I’m out there so I can implement them when I get back.

My First Ludum Dare!

So I just started work on my first jam for Ludum Dare. I woke up kind of late this morning so I’ve only just started programming and brainstorming for the game… whoops! This dare’s theme is “You are the Villain!” which I hope will lead to some awesome games in the end. I’ve still got fond memories of playing Evil Genius very late into the night during my teenage years and relishing every minute of it.

After a chat with Alex Saye I’ve decided on my final idea for the game, you play an evil CEO of a giant corporation. You have decided to call a meeting of all investors in order to reveal your dastardly bastardly evil plans for world domination. Of course not everyone in your company is particularly happy with this change in the company’s image… so you have to “deal” with them.

Each person at the table will have a ‘fear’ meter which will slowly drain, when it reaches the bottom they’ll dart for the door and try and escape. You have to kill them before they leave the room and blab about your plans to the local authorities. To begin with I’ll add trapdoors to the game as the most basic trap… I’ll add more if I have time. (Shark Pits, Fire-Traps, Acid Showers etc. etc.)

I hope to have a basic prototype completed before I go out tonight for a few drinks with my brother. Then I’ll polish it up early tomorrow and feature creep late into the afternoon! I’m not expecting to enter the competition this time around… considering this is my first Ludum Dare and I’ve not really planned ahead for it – so I’m not really prepared for super late-night crunches right now.

Oh, and good luck to everyone else I know who is competing!