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Community Postmortem - What went right and wrong for you?

Jon

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This Ludum Dare was a lot of fun thanks to a theme that lent itself to an underwater theme. Some people gravitated towards fishing  or other aquatic genres we'd otherwise not see. (Play all the games!)

While LD's fresh on everyone's mind, I wanted to get everyone to talk about their experiences this time around. Several of our veterans struggled this time around, something that might be interesting to hear about if you don't follow their Twitter feeds.

So let's talk about that - what went right and what went wrong for you in this LD?

AdventureIslands

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  • Posts: 723
This was my 7th time participating and the first time I failed. My game was Ikan the Little Fisher and you can read more about what the game is about in it's thread:  http://community.stencyl.com/index.php/topic,31549.0.html

So what went wrong? Simply put: my idea was too ambitious and I greatly overestimated my own skills.

Because the game is about fishing, making the behaviors how the fishes move and fight back when reeled in take lots and lots of value tweaking and testing. I spend most of the time making the art as usual, but even if I had started from developing the game part itself I still wouldn't have be able to finish the game on time even for the jam.

I had rested enough, stocked food and drinks and took breaks in form of walks outside and shower, but I simply did not have the time to create everything I wanted. Rule 1 when participating game jams: keep it simple. And I really should have gone with something Duke Dashington and Shine simple, but I felt like I really want to do something else than a platformer for once.

It's not all doom and gloom though. I made a working shop system and I've gotten the fishing part sorta working now. I learned quite a lot about my own skill and limits and new things about Stencyl. Also it was otherwise very fun and refreshing to make something truly different than my usual stuff and I was in an awesome skype chat group with some truly talented folks. It was a blast LD even if I failed to finish a game.

Things to keep in mind when participating in game jams:
1. Keep your idea simple, it's easy to get carried away with features.
2. Realize that 48 hours is really, REALLY short time to make a game.
3. Know your own limits.

Jams are really good time to experiment though and even if you do fail it's still a valuable learning experience.

Shadow Dreamer

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Well, I didn't have a Stencyl adventure of the kind that AdventureIslands had, but things went both right and wrong for me too.

To begin with, this was my first time ever participating in the Ludum Dare, and it was even tougher than I had imagined. I mean, this was my second time ever making a game; if not for Stencyl, I couldn't even have dreamed about making it. This is also why I didn't make a game for the Compo, but for the Jam!
Well... As soon as I heard the theme, a simple (luckily) idea popped into my head. Here's the originall skiss that I drew in a couple of minutes:



Anyhow... This time I could work far quicker than when I made my first game, as I had more experience with Stencyl. The first thing was to figure out how to actually make the simple idea a reality. My game was heavily inspired by SHIFT, which is a quite well known game (series). I decided to do things a bit differently, though.

I still don't know a lot about programming, nor do I understand all the features in Stencyl, so I had to work around things in my own way. After a while I figured I'll just use the middle of the screen (vertically) as a point for comparison (you'll probably understand what I mean if you play the game). I also decided not to flip the gravity for the other character, as the gameplay wouldn't have been that fun, I think.
I couldn't really do what I wanted by using tiles (there's probably a simple way...), but I used actors for everything, and it kind of worked.

After this, most things ran smoothly. I only ran into one more issue, and I wasted 3-4 hours on something I could've done in 5 minutes. It's so stupid that I don't even want to say what it was.
Once again, I feel I made the game too difficult, and I still need to fix a single thing in the very end (after I'm done making this post), which is a small bug I only noticed today.

I'm not entirely pleased with the music, but considering the time limit, I'm content.

The game is not great, but I'm happy with the result, and I had a fun time, which is the most important part for me :)
The game page can be found here, for those interested (it's also available in the Arcade): http://www.ludumdare.com/compo/ludum-dare-29/?action=preview&uid=36305

Overall, it was a fun experience to make the game, and I'll probably participate in future contests! :'D

How did it go for you?

ceosol

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To begin with, this was my first time ever participating in the Ludum Dare, and it was even tougher than I had imagined. I mean, this was my second time ever making a game;
...
The game is not great, but I'm happy with the result, and I had a fun time, which is the most important part for me :)

It was exactly the same for me - second game ever.
http://www.stencyl.com/game/play/26066

The rights:
As the compo got closer, I start to spitball ideas for game mechanics. (panels in the same scene, energy generators for object creation, rpg with fight sequences). The rpg was quickly out when I read all of your advice/tips for LD. I focused mainly on the panel jumping idea because it seemed to be the easiest. When I saw the final round of voting on Friday, I started trying to apply game ideas to all of them. That way I would be able to start coding at 9pm.
Beneath the surface - panels with subterranean feel
Break everything - panels where everything explodes
Contrast - panels with different colors in each panel and your guy changes to the opposite color on the color wheel
Deep space - panels where you keep hitting wormholes
etc.

I was able to come up with 16 game ideas for 16 of the themes, all focused on the panel hopping. I would suggest to anybody trying to do this for the first time to come up with some ideas and see if you can apply those ideas to many of the themes just by tweaking the graphics.

I made a complete game in 48 hours. That is pretty amazing when you think about it :)

The wrongs:
The points mechanics are somehow getting messed up. You should only be getting 10-100 points per level, but it is printing the number you got on the levels and the total number back to back (i.e. 10 on the level on 100 total prints out as $10100) - I didn't have time to figure out why it was doing that, but I think it was creating a text string instead of just adding numbers.

I had a safety teleport so people wouldn't get stuck on a level. It was causing a lot of bugs where you would fall into the earth on the next panel or appear and not be able to move. I had to just scrap it and made a quick reload button.

Animations - I would have liked to have animated the guy kicking over the stalagmites, but ran out of time.

Artwork - I spent very little time on the artwork because I wanted a complete playable game. Maybe this was good, maybe bad.

The level complete scene - The level complete was supposed to have jewels and objects appearing in it based on your money. But with the total money messed up (above), I just went with higher and higher bills were coming in. This was even messed up because the amount of bugged money you collect on level 1 is enough to pay for all of the bills throughout the game. So people don't see a point in continuing since they've already collected tons of money.

Chuck

ICLHStudios

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This was my first Ludum Dare (and actually my first full game I ever finished, although my main in-development game was nearly complete at one point) that I actually participated in, as I usually forget about them or don’t notice until the day or so after,  but even this time I missed most of the first day (though I probably would still have been late).

The game is called Petrichor (which is the smell of dirt or dust after rain) and can be found here: http://www.stencyl.com/game/play/26121

When I first heard the theme I had two ideas, the first one was a platformer where you replayed each stage at various levels of the process; from puzzling out the shape of the level out of sensory information, to planning a route, to QWOP-like muscle control for the character, up to more traditional platforming controls. However, the different systems required by this idea would take much more programming than I could possibly do in 2 days, and even the design would need much more time to really do the game any sort of justice.

My other idea was really just an image, some sort of horror game where the player is chased by creatures from beneath the surface of water.



After working on it for a while it started to morph into something a little different, the setting was cool but the game wasn't living up to the concept art and the monsters were getting too cliché, so I tried switching it to more of a forest of dead trees darkly overcast,



and got this image in my head of weird shapes reflected in the water that were just unnatural enough to be potentially really creepy as monsters (especially once I started animating them and they were following you), so I made them walk upside down under the water and try to spear you with these spiky tree-like things.







I also had these flood-like monsters that burst open and let out a swarm of bugs, that came from the fact that it seems that horror things tend to handle spiders/bugs wrong, making giant spider monsters is usually less scary than tiny ones for people who are afraid of them.



I actually did better with the graphics than I normally would in the time frame, as I am right in the middle of the free trial period for Cosmigo Promotion (http://www.cosmigo.com/promotion/index.php) and had just gotten used to it enough to be efficient but still was able to use it (I highly recommend it, I learned about it through watching the streams of Yacht Club Games making Shovel Knight). But then that was counteracted by the fact that Stencyl was having problems and wasn't opening up right, so I had to use an old version, which was not as fun, then about halfway through I lost about an hour or so worth of work due to thunderstorms.

Unfortunately even without the Stencyl problems I wouldn't have made it, as by the time I got done with everything but the programming and sound, there were only 4 hours left in the comp; and since it took nearly another 10 hours of work (plus 8 hours sleep, plus several hours of not-work) to finish the game, I would not have finished in time even if I had started right away and worked without any distractions. Also, as a side note, the best 'bug' I had, though certainly to the hardest to find or fix, happened when I set an enemy to move at speeds of 284 instead of 4.



I had several ideas that I had to cut in order to finish the game, like a section where suddenly the whole sky would fill up with those black spiky tendrils coming down (or up) toward you, or a section where you get dragged beneath the surface and get stuck down there with the monsters for a while.

These are definitely things that make me want to revisit the game sometime and make a much longer version. I would love to have the dragged-into-the-underworld section use the look from the original concept art, more monster types, have deeper mechanics such as avoiding water to keep from waking the monsters (using better jumping controls as well as things like sticks or logs you can lay across to help you or throwing objects into different pools to distract them), and I definitely want to try and use a variation on this: http://www.stencyl.com/game/play/11400  "3D" effect in it.
Go here to begin reading my fantasy webcomic, updated every Thursday: http://fav.me/d674ji2

Blob

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What went right?
I spent two days constantly working on a feasible idea. The idea played different and it was fun to think up all the ways it would work. As happy as I am with the way the game turned out I still feel like I'm fighting so hard just to meet the deadline and cutting corners to do so. Perhaps I should be trying out even simpler concepts to allow for more fine-tuning.

What went wrong?
I was tired and stopped caring the moment I published the game resulting in it being unplayable through the main link for the first day, which could have been corrected with one extra playtest of the game. Also I got sick.


Things to keep in mind when participating in game jams:
1. Never let your guard down.

Warzone Gamez

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This is my second LD I have entered, and I was so much more prepared and skilled this time around. The game went so much more smoothly this time. Now... The rights and wrongs...
 
Rights... When I first heard what the theme was, I was disappointed and I was about to drop out... But fortunately,  was able to come up with a amazing and feasible game. I was extremely worried about the art for my game, but, I was actually able to draw at least some decent art for the game, that was a large victory. In this game, I had create many small special effects that I had never featured in any of my other games, and this LD has taught me what helps make a game good. One of the things I most thankful that went right, was the fact that I was able to complete EVERYTHING I wanted with 24 hours to spare. I didn't feel rushed this time, and because of not being rushed, I was able to go back and polish things. I had fixed all but one major bug and polished the game into making it addictive. Another thing that went right, was that my game was original and nobody else had a game like mine. So many games are almost the same that I begin to rate them low, but fortunately my game was unique, and other people noticed it and congratulated me on it. Another Plus... I HAVE SOME PRETTY AWESOME REVEIWS! THE PEOPLE LOVE MY GAME, AND I'M SO EXCITED ACTUALLY DEVELOPING A GAME PEOPLE LOVE. Satisfying other people is very satisfying you yourself. Ha, a funny but great right was, that I didn't vomit after the compo like last year.
 
The greatest plus to me is seeing everybody enjoy my game that I enjoyed making. I learned new skills and had fun doing so, and others are enjoying it too. Which really pumps me up.
 
Now, for the wrongs...
I didn't really have many bads this year, I wasn't rushed and tense, and I was able to focus this year. The only low that I can think of is maybe the fact that on occasion, rocks can spawn that give you no room to maneuver though, and you die. This was a pretty good LD for me.
Here's the link if you want to check it out. http://www.ludumdare.com/compo/ludum-dare-29/?action=preview&uid=34993
Making Dubstep is my passion.  Following
Christ is my greater passion.

View my SoundCloud page here... https://soundcloud.com/noobstep-544260267

Photon

  • Posts: 2697
All right, my turn. While everything is still kind of fresh, I want to get my thoughts down on how everything went. I can be quite thorough, so expect a big wall of text. I'll try to bold potential areas/statements of interest.

Sub-Terraria Zero Post-Mortem (Part 1?) : The Game Itself

The Idea

Friday night was basically me bouncing ideas around. I had a couple that "sounded" cool but that really didn't grip me. Basically I had three questions in mind:

  • Is it fun?
  • Does it immerse the player/take the player out of their element?
  • What is the focus/selling point of the game?
I basically tried to flesh out what "Beneath the Surface" could entail: what can I be beneath, or what kind of surface am I talking about? I actually played some Mega Man 10 in an attempt to get the gears turning; it was here that I recalled the quicksand of Commando Man's stage which led me to consider how well that could fit into the theme. I came to really like the potential of a quicksand mechanic and began trying to take it further. Eventually, I came up with the idea of a monster that lurked beneath the surface and tried to catch prey who fell too deep into the game's terrain. It wasn't the most "innovative" take on the theme, if you will, but I felt it lined up very nicely with the air of suspense that naturally followed it.

Of course, there is no quicksand in the game. I considered that quicksand monsters were somewhat common and/or cliche, so I began to consider a different setting. Thus, I came up with a monster that burrowed and hid in the snow instead. Suspense and tension--alongside the apprehension of loss by insta-death--would be the game's calling card, and to wrap it all up into a strong package I went with an open exploration type format; this would allow the player to kind of find their own way through the game, including what to do with the monster and how to deal with it.

The Development/Gameplay

Early on and as you may have already guessed, I knew what I wanted the game to revolve around: the snow beast. It was about the severity of mistakes (falling into the snow, for instance) and the perpetual awareness that it was basically waiting for you to make such mistakes.

The "no-health" system was deliberate. Grunt monsters would only knock you back, not hurt you, and that was because it was the job of the snow beast to do the "hurting." Oh, you got killed by a little firefly? How cute. No, the firefly's point is to make you panic when you accidentally tumble into the beast's bed of snow and you have to scramble to reach higher ground. The snow fish was the star of the show, and the small monsters its supporting actors; I tried to play to that in a different way.

Other facets played into this as well. The dark/light effects further concealed the monster and made it easier for you to trip up. Part of this had to do with what I exposed and how I led the player along using, for instances, torches as guides (be them good or bad guides.) If I could lull the player into false sense of security, it could make the simple, "silly" mistakes that much more jarring without using a forced "razor-sharp" difficulty, if you will. Simple little touches that get ignored can be all that it takes.

To lend to the mystique of it all (and/or because I was short on time and/or didn't feel like it :P ), I didn't try to do a lot of hand holding. You get very little direction; the rest is left to the player to figure out using subtle hints. I wanted there to be an element of player intuition to the game. For instance, the ruby (flame projectile) is put in a pit for a reason. That way, the player can more easily deduct one of the purposes of his new toy. I haven't directly told him what to do, but I've quietly hinted and pushed him in the right direction. All of these helped add to the in-the-rough "wild" feel I wanted for my game, or at least they appear to have done so.

The Results/Reflections

I was pretty much exhausted by the time it was all said and done and kind of just happy that I'd made it because I really had taken it down to the wire. Fortunately, the game's simplicity had made it easy for me to ram out some content in a pinch and give the game enough of a completed feeling to it (not that anyone has made an indication that they've made it to the end yet, LOL.)

But the simplicity for me was key. Whether or not it was more of a deliberate design principle or a subconscious decision to stay well-scoped for the jam, I'm not sure at this point. But it worked, and it worked well. Even the simplicity of the monster seemed to work well; I had some features planned for the monster that didn't make it in, but it may have been for the better. I had planned to make the monster stronger as it ate small monsters, for instance, but it really wasn't needed. Not every little detail has to be ironed out and part of a complex web; sometimes you just let the mechanics do their things.

Which spins me into my next point: gameplay and difficulty don't have to be the result of rigid design. What I mean is that not everything has to have a pixel-perfect place. I may "acknowledge" this, but it doesn't mean I follow it well. This entry has brought that back into the light. Sure, there are some things I still think could be balanced or structured better, but sometimes you just need to leave the game mechanics, the player and whatever else alone and just let them all duke it out. Let the player "make plays" on his own terms. Let scenarios be naturally and intuitively difficult, if that makes any sense; you don't have to look at a level from every angle and try to block or force player creativity and difficulty. Just leave it alone for once! Although you still have to design the game thoughtfully, which is where striking a balance between two seemingly opposite agendas may seem tough, I think there can be a happy medium.

Finally, three words: minimum viable product. Again, I didn't get to everything and I probably didn't need "everything." But the bit I did finish showed promise. Maybe its time to stop focusing so hard on the "perfect" game design. Development can be tough and time-consuming which is why I might spend so much time racking my brain over how to make a game, but that's why a MVP can be so important... because of the "M". Its minimum. Don't be afraid to run with an idea for a few days and see where it takes you. Ludum Dare, if you take to heart how it forces you to adjust your normal habits, can really take you out of that "perfection" mindset.

At the end of the day, shelf your pride and just make something. Stop trying to look good by going for the home-run; experiment. Try to see the forest AND the trees. Its amazing how effective the simple touches--not the complex details--can make the biggest difference. Although I really did like this idea from the beginning, I think I've learned more from this experience than I imagined I would.

What Now?

So far, the feedback has been really positive for this game; I'm already looking forward to how well its ratings are going to turn out at the end of the jam, though at this point I seem to have accomplished my goal of delivering a fun, quality experience. Thanks to all who have played, commented, and enjoyed! It means a lot to me!

At this point, I feel like the game has a lot of room left for expansion. If I properly build on the no-nonsense foundation that's there, I can see this going places. And after seeing what can be accomplished with the right level of detail and scope, I feel like its something I could actually maintain momentum with.

To get to the point, I'm considering development on a full-blown, post-compo version of this game.

I'm talking way more screens, more power-ups, and--yes--more monsters! Its too early to tell for sure what I'll do, but it actually feels like I have a realistic shot at doing something with this with my current skills (art is manageable, audio is low level enough.) Its simple, and I can keep growing as a game developer yet still finish a game.

I of course don't want to make many promises at this point; some big, exciting changes are going to be happening in my life very soon. But this may be another corner turned in my quest as a solo game developer as well. I guess we can see.

Thanks for reading. I may write about the actual development later as well (yes, even more text.)
Do NOT PM me your questions, because I likely will not respond. If I have replied to your question on the forum, keep using that topic. Thanks!

Tuo

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For me, the biggest problem was my own time constraints. I ended up with around 10 hours to make the game in. Using the new Image API was a crazy decision, but my goal is always to grow in my abilities. One of the early issues for me was that the "set pixel" only works if the previous pixel wasn't blank. I thought that was going to kill my game design... but in the end, I MADE that my game design (the "mini-mines"). A later Stencyl issue was figuring out how to use the "retain" option. I didn't realize that it would leave the entire rest of the image if they weren't the same size (something I'd suggest putting in the instructions); I finally realized it after some time of messing around and almost giving up, cropping the image to the size of the second object first and then applying the change.

Those were my major Stencyl-related realizations that happened. For a complete post-mortem: http://www.ludumdare.com/compo/2014/05/01/post-mortem-invasion-from-below-48-hr-entry/
Don't look to me but rather to the One who is the reason for what I do. :)

If you need help, send me a PM. Even if I haven't been on in the forums in ages, I still receive those messages via email notifications. You can also reply to any of my forum posts, regardless of the age (especially if I created it), and I will likely reply.

If you want to see the programming behind certain types of games, feel free to check out my "Demo-" games on StencylForge (http://community.stencyl.com/index.php/topic,16160.0.html)

Hectate

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A small postmortem for an unfinished game:

The Beginning
I spent the first several hours post-theme-announcement taking care of some responsibilities before I committed myself to two-ish days worth of game development. I had accounted for this prior to starting actually, and had planned on spending that time letting the game ideas - prompted by the theme announcement - brew in my mind for a bit.

I had a lot of ideas come and go. Some were tossed for reasons like "too complicated" while others were simply "not a game". One of the latter had me intrigued though, and I kept coming back to it. Eventually I was at a point where I was burning my development time and was still unsatisfied with the ideas. Rather than spend the entire first day in reflective navel-gazing, I decided to push through with the intriguing concept. As can be seen in my timelapse, I spent a few minutes typing up some information about the concept before moving on to basic art for prototyping and then the behaviors themselves.

The Concept
What I cam up with was that you were a prisoner trying to get out of the most inescapable prison in the known universe; a black hole. I came up with this semi-plausible concept that if you had a prison in orbit around a black hole - below the event horizon - it would be theoretically impossible to leave. Of course, the event horizon is defined by the speed of light versus the force of gravity, and so I fictionalized that if you could exceed the speed of light it would be possible to escape.
Thus, the surface referenced by the "Beneath The Surface" theme would be the event horizon of the black hole. Success!

The Implementation
Unfortunately, the concept was entirely setting/story - which is why I initially shied away from it. It presented itself well to Adventure and RPG genres; neither of which I had time for in 48 hours. I did eventually come up with the idea that the process of making a space prison go faster than the speed of light might introduce some weird effects into the environment. The first idea was variable gravity zones; an exploration platformer where the player would have to feel out the "safe" or "correct" route. I didn't like the trial-and-error gameplay this proposed to offer - nor the prospect of coding gravity zones (although some an early tile-based effort proved fruitful) - so back to the drawing board!
The second approach proved more amiable to me. This idea was that ALL gravity would change - the level would flip about at various times, confounding the player's expectations and attempts to maneuver to their desired destination.

The Ladder
So at some point I had taken out jumping. I figured I didn't need it and once I took it out I didn't want it back. No problem, that's why humans invented ladders! I made a "railing" tile that would make logical sense to be used as a ladder when flipped about and vaguely imagined levels full of railings in bizarre locations that made no sense - until everything was 90 degrees wrong and you wanted to climb a hallway. A bunch of work later and I loved my ladders, they worked great and were everything I wanted in a ladder-based platformer that nobody ever gave me (except maybe since Donkey Kong and Jumpman and etc...).

The Door
So I still needed a way to flip the levels around. I didn't want to just change gravity in the scene - I wanted the players to see it in a new light. The fastest route to this was to simply redo the scenes sideways or upside-down. So I needed to change scenes, I needed to think with portals.
I created a system of "SpawnPoint" actors that would use a text string to describe themselves, and another to describe a scene name and a SpawnPoint. Simply changing to that scene and then (with a GA) moving the player to that SpawnPoint's coordinates worked like a charm.

The End
After the ladders, and the doors, came the level design. By now I was reaching the "this idea is crap" phase. How interesting could a platformer be without jumping? How many other mechanics would I have to add? How much longer can I still work on this before my wife tries to burn the house down around me?
I realized I wasn't having fun. I realized that the fun I have is from not making games, but solving interesting problems (ladders, doors) as a result of game designs. I'm a hobbyist; I do this for the fun - take away the fun and I lose my motivation. So I stopped.

Maybe someday I'll get myself to a point where I can force myself through the downs of development. However, I feel like trying to force the wrong half-baked concept was what got me into the pickle in the first place, so I don't know if that's the correct approach.
Either way, that's my story.
:
:
Patience is a Virtue,
But Haste is my Life.
Proud member of the League of Idiotic Stencylers; doing things in Stencyl that probably shouldn't be done.

Photon

  • Posts: 2697
Quote
I realized that the fun I have is from not making games, but solving interesting problems (ladders, doors) as a result of game designs.
That's kind of how I feel about it sometimes too; that's why I started the you-know-what as a way to have some fun without the extra pressure.

That being said, and although I can't necessarily explain it well, there is still that desire to take what I've learned and apply it to a creative, fun game. That's part of the reason I made a decision pre-compo that I was going to shoot for 8-bit graphics as a controllable but effective presentation style. I think it worked quite well.
Do NOT PM me your questions, because I likely will not respond. If I have replied to your question on the forum, keep using that topic. Thanks!

Raiyumi

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  • Posts: 193
I finally got around to finishing my post-mortem / Design Look.

It's pretty long with gif/ images, so I'll leave the LD link here.

http://www.ludumdare.com/compo/2014/05/03/the-valley-rule-post-mortem-design-look/#more-359976

gilpento

  • Posts: 1
Yes i agree with the above.