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Game jam postmortem

This was my second completed game jam. I feel like I did a lot of things wrong this time around, as opposed to my Ludum Dare #23 entry where everything seemed to go smoothly. I’m still pretty happy with the way it came out, but I thought it would be worth mentioning the mistakes I made.

What went wrong

Too much time to plan

When I participated in the Ludum Dare, I had no idea what the theme was going to be until the timer started. The knowledge that any time I spent brainstorming would cut into development time was a great incentive to come up with a plan quickly. Chris and I both checked the polls constantly for the days leading up to the deadline, so we knew fairly early on which choices would be picked. This led to far too much planning on our parts, and we were deep in feature creep before the jam had even officially begun. As a result, a lot of our ideas didn’t make it into the final game; some of these, unfortunately, were cut after working on them for long hours.

Distribution of labor

Somehow Chris ended up doing most of the artwork and I did most of the programming. Chris is a competent programmer and I can hold my own when it comes to creating art assets, so I’m not sure why it ended up happening this way. It would have been better for both of us to have split the work evenly.

What went right:

Ogmo

We used Ogmo Editor to design the levels and entity placement. I’d never used any kind of level editor for my own projects before (though Chris had), and it was a huge productivity boost. Level design took minutes instead of hours. I’ll definitely be using Ogmo in my future projects.

Flashpunk

Flashpunk is a totally awesome framework. It does just enough for me without doing too much. Using Flashpunk (and AS3) also meant we got to use Flashdevelop, which is the best IDE I’ve ever used.

…and a little of both

AI

One of the things I focused on towards the end was enemy behavior. I was able to plug in a Dijkstra path solver I’d written fairly easily, and I’m happy with its performance. Unfortunately, by the time I had it finished we were running low on time, so I wasn’t able to tweak things and make them perfect. The enemies occasionally overlap walls, and they can cluster together onto the same square.

I would have also liked to have implemented actual attack procedures. In the end we had to settle for making the enemies damage the player when they got close, instead of attacking normally.

 

Overall, we had a lot of fun and learned a lot about crunch time as a team. You can play the game here, and here’s my timelapse video of my computer during the jam:

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Post Game Jam Wrap-Up

This was the first time Jake and I had ever done a game jam together. Jake has done a few here and there (check out his Ludum Dare game here: Humphrey’s Tiny Adventure), but this was my first ever jam of any kind.

Taking our individual strengths into consideration, I wound up doing about 75% asset work, and 25% programming work.

Most of the coding I did was game-related, rather than engine-related. I implemented the system for importing Ogmo Editor tilemaps. Much credit goes to Zachary Lewis and his videos for getting me going with this. Not much else for me to say about coding.

Graphics

The artwork was a big, time-sucking black hole. This is primarily because I’m no real artist. Given enough time, I can make it look acceptable. Unfortunately, for this jam, “enough” time was too much time. I would spend so much time on animations that, by the time I was done with one, my brain was fried. I would have to take a break or do some sort of ritual to get my mental state in tact enough to be useful again. However, I am pleased with the general look of the characters.

Audio

I wrote, programmed, and recorded the music myself. This didn’t take too long, and I am quite pleased with the track. At one point, I was struggling to get something going, so I decided, just for the heck of it, to hop into 7/4 time and see what I could make from it. It was enough to spark my creativity again and what you hear is the result. Here’s the track: “Our Life Now”.

Jake and I worked together on the sound effect(s). For our basic cheesy punch sounds, we took a big fuzzy blanket and whipped it in front of a microphone. Then we sprinkled some studio magic on it (excessive compression, noise gate, EQ, pitch shifting). Recording the sound effects gave us a nice break from coding and the monotony of pixel pushing. Plus, it feels good to do it yourself!

                                                                                                                                                                                    

Overall, here’s…

What went well:

  • Creation of the music went smoothly, quickly, and gave a good result.
  • Working with Flashpunk was great. It’s a beautiful framework.
  • Discovered Ogmo. Far easier and simpler to work with than Mappy.
  • Learned about XML. Yep, this was new to me.
  • We came up with cool ideas that we feel broke out of the clichés and stereotypes of the themes (Post-Apocolyptic and Sci-fi).
What didn’t go well:
  • Unfortunately, we were unable to implement almost all of our story ideas.
  • We struggled with designating individual tasks, and consequently would occasionally work on something unhelpful for some time.
  • We started at an odd time (10pm). This was our decision, though. I don’t think we’ll be starting at the same time again, because it made for difficult sleeping schedules.
  • We didn’t initially plan things out very well, which resulted in an unclear vision of what the final product should be.
  • The art took up way too much time. It kept me from doing more useful things.
What I would like to do differently in the future:
  • Get an artist to join us, or find a way to do simplistic and minimal art.
  • Start around noon, and get some regular sleep (minus a few hours each night).
  • Put time aside in the beginning to get a realistic end product in mind, and a general course of work to follow.
  • Trim our ideas down to size, and go into “idea freeze” early on.

                                                                                                                                                                                    

Thank you to everyone who voted in our polls and gave our game a run. This was a good learning experience, and I am overall pleased with the result. I look forward to participating in more game jams with Jake in the future!

Also, if there is anyone interested in working with us as Thaumaturgist Games, we invite you to participate in our next game jam. Think of it as an interview of sorts. Get in contact with us if you’re interested.

Check out the game here!: Thirty Years After Year Zero

And check out my timelapse videos here:

Main (Part 1): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kXTeW1BVS4c&feature=plcp

Main (Part 2): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8TfngDL3eWQ&feature=plcp

Audio: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FuANAKkG6cA&feature=plcp

Software used:

Game

IDE: FlashDevelop

Framework: Flashpunk

GUI: PunkUI

Tile Editor: Ogmo Editor 

Audio

DAW: Cakewalk Sonar X1 Producer

Soft Synths: Native Instruments Massive, Native Instruments Absynth

Drums: Native Instruments Battery

Graphics

Image Editor: Paint.NET

Animation Helper: Sprite Animation Helper (add-on to Paint.NET)

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