Post mortem- The Necropolis

From Ludum Dare:

Hello, this is my postmortem for The Necropolis, the first Ludum Dare that I’ve finished not counting the mini Ludum Dare last month. Looking at some of the games here is quite overwhelming since there are a lot of great looking games considering that we only have 48 hours to make them, and I told myself that someday I’ll make great looking games but not this Ludum Dare. This Ludum Dare I’ll have to make do with crappy art, and my current programming skills. This is the result my friends.

The Theme

So in Ludum Dare we start out with a theme first(and build the mechanics from there), as opposed to making the mechanics first before pasting on the theme. The night before the Ludum Dare I looked at the round 4  list of  themes and chose parallel dimensions(since it was on the top of the list) to think about. I thought about gameplay ideas for it just in case it was chosen and then went to sleep. The next day I woke up sat down in front of my laptop, excited like a kid on a Christmas day. The theme I saw on the screen was ‘Alone” and I thought “great!’ at first until I noticed the ideas were not coming. I wanted my game’s dynamics to be reflective of the theme but when you think about it(at least from my perspective) the majority of the games out there can justify the theme of being ‘Alone’. It wasn’t that I wasn’t getting ideas,it was that there were too many ideas(about 80% of them I can’t implement..yet). I spent the whole day thinking of a suitable game mechanic that I can implement and that would reflect on the theme of ‘Alone’ as best as it could, and after sleeping on it I came up with one.

The Gameplay

The first game I thought about was ‘The angel of Death’. In the game you are the angel of death sent to kill one of the baddies in the level. The idea was all the baddies in the screen with you will take damage until they die as long as you were there with them. So you had to avoid them while looking for the baddy you were sent to kill. I scrapped the idea because the screen was too large and the hero was limited in movement for a 2d platformer to avoid the baddies.

So I came up with the current game after more thinking. I came up with the idea about a character refusing the idea that monster’s exist. I heard in a university lecture once that ‘your perception is your reality’ so I imagined a character trapped in an underground labyrinth with a lantern. He firmly  believe that he is alone and that the monsters he keeps seeing just beyond his lantern’s light(to limit the vision) is just his imagination. Unfortunately they might not be, and the moment he realizes that he is not alone his mind breaks down and its game over. To do this I thought of putting( inspired by an emotion engineering lecture I attended lately) the following stuff:

Blood trail(not implemented)- the monster leaves a trail of blood on the floor which disappears after a few seconds so that the player knows where its been and the direction it is going.

Heart beat(not implemented)- I actually put this in the game but the sound that I got was inaudible(its still in the source folder) so I just removed it. Whenever a monster was near the heartbeat would warn the character.

Compass(not implemented)- for game play reasons purely. The compass would point to the direction of the nearest scroll to help the character.

Light(implemented)- The core mechanic. Any monster revealed by the players light will give him sanity damage.

Scrolls and portals- the goal of the game is to explore and collect this stuff(so its an exploration game).

Lurking Monster(not implemented)- something that wanders the Necropolis randomly.

So yeah I removed a lot of stuff and decided to finish with just the core mechanic. I would like to put them in the game sometime in the future( I’m learning how to program them now) . Looking at it(at least to me) the game play reflects the theme of being ‘Alone”, alone in the screen as much as possible(game wise), and believing that we are alone, and that the monsters we refuse to believe are not really there(philosophical shit to make me sound more intelligent ;p).

What went right

I decided to use Flixel, I’ve been using it for the past months and so far so good. I’ve been learning Unity and almost decided to go with the ‘alone in the island’ game (e.g. put a guy in an island , tada! he’s alone!) just so that I could test the stuff I’ve learned. Good thing I realized immediately that I can’t model stuff yet.

What went wrong

I lost a lot of time trying to implement the pathfinding for the lurker monster before scrapping it and go with the other stuff first. I was supposed to make better art too( better is something better than my art). Forgot to put kittens in my game.

Overall

As always, I’ve enjoyed this Ludum Dare and I can’t wait for the next one. I almost thought of giving up the first day but I trusted myself enough to come up with ideas with just a little help of sleep and a dose of dreaming. Thinking of other stuff to say but I’ve ran out of stuff for now, I’ll probably put up follow ups in my game journal if anyone’s interested. So there, good luck with your games and thanks for another sleepless but excellent weekend!

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Egg Oh!

Egg Oh!(Mochigames): http://www.mochigames.com/games/egg-oh/?lb=eddf3df3d111fa66

I had qualms putting this game up here. But its the first game I’ve finished when I’ve finally decided to stick to a project until the end. Its a simple game as expected from a first game. I got the idea after reading Casual Game Design:Designing Play for the Gamer in All of Us by Gregory Trefry. According to the author, one of the quirks of humans is to sort things, into colors and other known patterns. I wanted to try this out in the game. Truth be told, I really imagined how the game would play on a mobile device rather than on a pc screen thus the repetitive game play. I imagined the player using his finger to juggle the eggs on the screen and then sort them afterwards which is a hard thing to do with a mouse. I Would still love to try this idea out on a mobile device though.

Post mortem-Elenin

Elenin(gamejolt):http://gamejolt.com/online/games/arcade/elenin/6497/

Elenin is an entry to the Experimental Gameplay Project. If you don’t know what the Experimental Game play Project is, it is a monthly event that requires individual developers to make games( no team mates allowed) within a span of seven days. The game doesn’t have to be great, as long as the developer manages to transform his idea into something playable. I liked the idea because something that I found out about myself is that I work better and think faster under time pressure.

For Elenin, I got my idea after reading an article about the comet Elenin, which recently died. Elenin was called the “harbinger of doom” and you can read more about it here: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/45050612/ns/technology_and_science-space/t/comet-elenin-dead-along-doomsday-predictions/ . Right about that time I was looking into news games at  Georgia Tech, which are are a mix of journalism and games( Think editorial cartoons but you can play them).  So I decided to make a ‘news game’ and came up with Elenin.

Elenin is not really a news game per se since I don ‘t have anything really intelligent to say when I decided to make it. The theme for the month was Upgrade so I already had a theme. The mechanic quickly came to me as I researched about comets and how they gathered dust so I made that the main mechanic. Elenin would start out as a small particle only able to consume smaller dust particles, and as it grew bigger would be able to consume larger particles.

Then I thought about the goal of the game. I know in some games the main objective is to gather as much points or stay in the game as long as possible. This was a problem for Elenin because Elenin(the player) would grow bigger and bigger until it was large enough to consume the screen and there would be no way to end the game so I decided to give the game another objective.

With all the doomsday prophesies around, I made Earth Elenin’s main objective and it also served as a sort of countdown timer. The game ends when Elenin hits Earth, and the player will win or lose depending on how much mass it acquires.

The game has no music since right about that time I was just learning about the creative commons license and although I used to play the piano I don’t have the skills to compose for a game.

Improvements: improve the controls since players said it was too loose. This was actually my choice albeit a wrong one. I thought that loosening controls would make the game more ‘realistic’ due to acceleration. Another improvement is to make the game start slower and gradually increase in speed(for the learning curve). I would like to improve the graphics in all of my games and perhaps in the future if I gain some measure of artistic skill I would give them all a make over.

Post mortem-The Adaptor

The Adaptor(Ludum Dare): http://www.ludumdare.com/compo/2011/11/06/the-adaptor/

The Adaptor(Kongregate): http://www.kongregate.com/games/caladan21ph/the-adaptor

The Adaptor is my entry to the October 2011 mini Ludum Dare(www.ludumdare.com) with the theme of adaptation. The game is a short platformer which consists of just five levels. In making  the game, I did what I usually do to brainstorm ideas and that is make a mind map while timing myself(3-5 minutes is enough). I get my best ideas( not just for games) right after I wake up so I always take the opportunity to do so.

The initial idea for this game was called “Panic” because that  the experience I wanted for the players was that emotion. I wanted the player to fumble around the keyboard while avoiding enemies and gathering keys to advance to the next level. So the system for the first game was that the controls would change randomly every few seconds and the player needed to adapt quickly to the new controls.  Well, I just read Raph Koster’s “A Theory of Fun for Game Design” and I wanted to apply his theory so I decided to think a little bit more. According to Raph Koster(to my best understanding) games are inherently learning tools which teach us basic survival skills. That is why we tend to outgrow games because we’ve already learned everything from them as children. So I decided to change the game mechanics.

Instead of making the random change in controls I decided to give the player an indicator when the controls will change. So I made the controls linked to the color of the floor the player is currently stepping on. Games being learning tools and such, I wanted the player to get used to the controls through play and gain some measure of ambidexterity(learn survival skills!hehe) afterwards.

At the back of my head, I was thinking of games like Dance Dance Revolution in which the player reacted to  visual stimuli and thought the game was something like that. While playing I noticed that the character looked like he was dancing while gliding across the screen so I chose the music based on this.

The crappy graphics I made myself since I wanted to practice pixel art and Chris De Leon from Hobby Game Development advised beginning game developers to at least learn some basic art skills so they don’t have to wait for the artists before making their prototypes. Its also more rewarding that way I think.

While making the game I had a lot of setbacks as predicted since it was my first time making a platformer. I just started using the Flixel framework and was learning Actionscript.  I had problems with the level transition, and I haven’t learned how to put animated sprites in the map using the DAME editor so I just hard coded the player, and exit positions. Before the end of the mini Ludum Dare I restarted my code two or three times I think whenever it got messy. So I started writing down the classes in my game on paper, and created a rough flow chart so that I would not get confused.

Programming is hard especially for someone like me with no IT background. Good thing I learned a few tricks while attending the local IGDA meet up. I learned that when making a game the approach is to create the minimum gameplay first. There were so many times while making this game that I was tempted to add stuff the game really didn’t need and I kept saying to myself “Just put the guy on the door”.

It was a great experience to finish a game even though its just a small one.

Improvements: Going to add in game tutorials, and more levels. A lot of improvement needed actually.