ANTagonist – Post Mortem

Another Ludum Dare, and another game submitted… that makes six for me, but this LD was one that I will remember for a long time.  So many highs and lows. Of course, we should begin at the beginning, but I will begin before the beginning if that makes sense.

The Week Prior To The Dare

I saw that the theme “The More You Have, the Worse It Gets” was listed in Round 3 of Theme Selection. Where did I see that before… oh, yes, that was mine! I suggested that! I entered that one and one other, and was surprised to see it make it that far, but there was no way it was going to make the finals, right?

It made the finals, but no way was it going to win, right? When I saw the theme announced I was floored! I felt pride, and nervousness because even though I suggested the theme, I have absolutely no idea what game to make.  

Friday Evening

After about an hour working through some ideas in my head, I decided on a game where ants try to steal your food. My original thought was you go to a supermarket to bring food to your house and the ants steal it from there. I put together a basic game screen, some player and insect AI code, and called it a night at 02:00 Saturday morning.

Saturday’s Sinking Feeling

Not much sleep… I got up around 05:30 Saturday morning, got a coffee, and hit the computer. I decided that the house and supermarket concept was not good, and decided on a picnic theme… seems to make more sense. I fired up Photoshop and created a picnic blanket, ants, food plates, and a player.

Animation and gameplay was working, but I was just not happy with the game… it just didn’t seem fun to play. Also, for some reason, I spent way too long trying to get joystick movement and firing to work properly, so I am now far behind where I wanted to be at this point. It’s now late in the afternoon, and I have very basic game that is not fun to play.

The combination of feeling incredibly tired and frustrated was a major demotivation factor. Somewhere around 17:00 Saturday afternoon, it hit me hard. I was so close to just shutting down Unity, grabbing a beer, and watching some television. It was so hard to motivate myself to continue, but I know that if I decided to bail out, I would feel even worse. I would rather submit a low rated game than give up and not submit anything.  I took a bit of a break to regroup, and sat back down and worked on it for another 5 hours that evening hoping to put something together that was playable.

Sunday’s Revelation

I woke up Sunday still very discouraged. I sat down to start and all of a sudden, I was hit with a wave of creativity.

“A health meter! Yes!”
“Power-ups that attract the ants! Right!”
“Anthills! Highlights! A better playfield! Incredibly horrible music!”

I spent the rest of Sunday implementing these features, and after every one that I finished, I saw that the game was becoming more and more fun.

Submission time. It’s later than I like to do this (about 2 hours to the end), and of course Unity is giving me build errors! I rebuild and import everything and get it out with less than one hour to spare.

Development Details

I used Photoshop and Paint.Net to create the graphics. I am not a good artist, but I tried to create something that I felt was at least usable. The animation of the ants is very basic, but I think they work in this situation. I swap back and forth between two sprites. For the player, I created a few levels (head, body, and arm) and I animated each one through three arm positions. If you look closely, you will see a bit of a head bob effect when running.

I created the bug zapper and bug bomb using Photoshop and placed a particle object behind it. For the bomb, I used a smoke effect, and for the bug zapper, the kept the particles tight for a glow effect.

For sounds and music, I used bfxr and Otomata. Since I lost a lot of time before, I really didn’t have time to create and tweak the sounds and music much, so when I found something that worked, I used it. Given more time, I think I would have replaced some of that. I’ve been told that the music is a bit on the crazy side, and I am ok with that, since I wanted the music to reflect a high level of stress as the ants attack.

There are a couple of things that need some improvement. Some of the ant AI could be tweaked (although I do like the intensity). For joystick mode, I used 8 directional firing, but I think a full 360 degree fire range would be better.

Conclusion

It is incredibly difficult to continue working on a game you feel is not up to your standard, but once Sunday arrived, and I had a decent amount of rest, things started moving in the positive direction. I really enjoy ANTagonist in its current form, and I hope you do too. It definitely did not start out that way, and Sunday was the turning point for me. As always, I am considering continuing development, but I want to give myself a bit of time before I decide either way. I guess it depends on my final rating and user comments.

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