Inefficient Plasma Weapon – Ludum Dare 39 Post Mortem

My Ludum Dare 39 entry is called Inefficient Plasma Weapon and your objective is to keep providing fuel to your plasma weapon so that it will continue to rotate the killer plasma balls that are used to destroy alien ships. I feel this way after every LD, but I think that this is my best entry out of the five Compos I entered. I’ll get into why I feel that way in a bit.

Pre-Theme Announcement

I spent a couple of days looking at the final list of themes and trying to determine what I would develop if that theme was chosen. I was not a fan of most of these themes, to be honest, and that made it difficult for me to plan something I really wanted to create. Out of all the ideas I thought of, I really liked the basic idea that became this game, and I tried to make it fit into multiple categories, just in case they were chosen.

Friday Status
Friday Night’s Prototype

As usual, the theme was announced and with a little extra planning I started. I spent about an hour trying to create a concept of trying to shoot the path that the plasma balls are travelling to expand them out into space, but I just could no get that to work, and decided to scrap it… I can’t waste any more time on that, so I decided that the balls would travel in a defined circular pattern.

I worked about 6 hours Friday, into the wee hours of Saturday, and  put together a simple concept of rotating balls, moving a player, and having enemies track the player… all using simple Unity objects.

Saturday
Saturday Prototype

Man, I spent a lot of time working in Blender… that UI just eats me alive. I think I exhausted my limit in 3D modeling, but the models in my game are the best I have ever done. Notice the models are solid colors? That’s my limit and actually getting a model to have 2 or more different colors is an amazing achievement for me!

I substituted my new models for the primitive shapes and everything was working nicely.  It’s now Saturday afternoon, and I still do not have any game play developed, other than enemies tracking the player. Added pressure, but time to step it up… I spent the rest of the day and late night on game play.

Sunday

I always like to have game play finished by Saturday, and spend Sunday working on the UI, sounds, music, tweaking, testing, and visual enhancements… and that is exactly what I did. I spent most of Sunday working out the game play, and the afternoon was spent adding effects, sounds, and other cool things.

What Went Well
  • My Blender modeling. I have a long way to go, but I can successfully create “simple” objects, export them to Unity, and script them to add/remove/change colors. I listed my Blender skills as a weakness in my previous LD entry for Contamination, so it’s good to see some progress here.
  • I’ve improved in sound (better sound effects, and no one said “Your sounds are too loud!”).
  • I improved in UI and in-game notification. Plasma balls and explosions look like plasma balls and explosions. Visual and audio cues tell the player to do something. I generally forget about these extra things, but the plasma effect and the multiplier effect, along with the inventory panel really helps the game… and those things were added very close to the submission deadline.
  • I scrapped ideas that were taking too long. I could not create a way to expand the rotation, and I could not get a cool border effect going, so after about 30 – 60 minutes, I just moved on.
What Could Go Better
  • Again, my Blender skills.  Need to improve a bit more. It’s taking a lot of time and frustration to get any output.
Final
Some Links:

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LD39 Game Submitted!!

My game entry has been submitted and is available on itch.io.

I present to you…. Inefficient Plasma Weapon

This stupid generator requires you to keep adding fuel.

Collect fuel to keep your base from running out of power. Collect shields to help destroy aliens and multiply your score. Force enemies to fly into plasma balls.

Game is over if when you run out of fuel, or you crash into shields or enemies.

More details on the development of my game, game play video, time-lapse, etc. when I recover from this weekend’s code-fest.

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LD39 – Saturday Night Status

Twenty-four hours in and I do have a playable game. The game is currently untitled, but the object is to stay alive by adding fuel to the generator so that the shield spheres can destroy the alien ships. If you run out of fuel, or if you hit the shield spheres or enemies, the game is over.

The rest of this evening is to tweak, add some nice effects, maybe revisit some of the 3D models. Tomorrow comes sound, music, title screen, and more tweaking of game play.

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LD39 Mid-Saturday Status

Making Progress! I replaced the simple game objects with some Blender models, and even though I am impressed by what I created in Blender, I hope to have some time later tomorrow to tweak or create better ones.

Next up is to actually add some game play… like running out of power features!

For my game, currently untitled, you fly a space ship around collecting shields and fuel to keep your shields running. Run out of fuel, and your game is over.

Hopefully another update later tonight.

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Ludum Dare 39 – End of Day 1

What the heck is this? Killer Tic-Tacs?

Nope, it’s my end of day 1 prototype. I think I have the basic physics and movement working at this point. Next up (tomorrow) will be collisions, more game play, and improved models. I decided to use 3D objects instead of 2D images, even though the game is basically front view… I hope this does not turn out to be a mistake later on.

A Very Long Overdue Status

My last status post on SMS: The Next Mission was over 10 months ago. I figure it is about time I provided an update.

Reflecting

Looking back between September 2016 and about May 2017, I lost all desire to continue development in its current state, even though I had a lot completed. If you read through some of the older posts, you can see that something was just not right. I wasn’t sure about what features to add, and I was unsure about what to add to the shmup version (of even if I should include it). Development was also getting a little sticky as I was still learning some concepts in Unity. All of this caused me to stop development for a few months until I could figure out my next steps (and to build up a bit of excitement and momentum again).

Fast forward to June 2017. I decided I again wanted to continue (AND FINISH) this game. Looking at my project, I decided it was best to start over, but leverage any code that I had already written over the past 5 iterations. So here I am… the 6th time starting this project over and I am glad to say that progress so far has been great and I am confident that this will be the last time I need to restart.

I think the overall problem back in September 2016 was I was trying to take a game I previously wrote and love playing and create a PC/console version of the game that I think others want to play. That version of the game was not enjoyable to me and I lost motivation.

Currently, Space Mission Survival is available on mobile platforms and is a retro space shooter that I find quite enjoyable.  That is the basic game I want to recreate on PC/consoles, with some enhancements of course:

  • The Classic 70 Arcade, 80s Home Computer, and 90s Console versions that I previously mentioned will remain. They are basically the same game with some differences including graphics, sounds, and game play that was available during those past times.  All three modes will be complete, stand-alone games, and will feature enough unique game play and achievements to make them slightly different.
  • I do want to add a Shmup mode, but I a a bit unsure what this version will consist of, or how this mode will actually play at this time.
Current State
Classic 90s Mode

I decided to focus on the classic modes since I know for certain how these games will play. Using the mobile version as a model of game play, I will adjust game play to look and play like a game in those specific decades.

As of today, the 90s console version is pretty much complete. The game is playable and has a look and feel of a 90s game. Modifying the game to feel like a 70s and 80s game will be easy since most of the code will be identical… it just a matter of changing sounds and graphics for the most part.

I am going to begin a very small alpha testing of the 90s game with some friends and family soon. Any fixes will carry over to the 70s and 80s mode.

Future State

I am still undecided what the shmup mode of the game will be like, but I know I want the game to be intense (the classic modes are “wave-like”, so there is a bit of a breather between levels). I also think I want to utilize the 70s, 80s, and 90s modes somehow, perhaps through a time warp feature, but I am not sure.

Change of Attitude

During my hiatus from SMS: The Next Mission I decided that I am going to write a game that I want to play (and hope that other will as well), instead of trying to cater to the fickle demands of the masses. Making everyone happy is a game you cannot win. This will be a topic of another blog post, to be sure.

Conclusion

So there you have it! To summarize… SMS: The Next Mission will have 4 stand-alone games (70s Arcade, 80s Home Computer, 90s Console, Shoot-em-up). It may have a different name as well. Finally, my blog will be where I post updates (I hope you follow), and my decision to work the way I am working will be detailed in another article.

Thanks for reading!

Thoughts on My Ludum Dare 38 Results

Ludum Dare 38 is over and results have been released. Time to reflect on my score for this Compo, and perhaps compare some of the scores for this entry on my previous LD entries.

My Scores

Since the number of submitted entries is never the same, I converted my scores to percentages of total entries submitted, and will use these numbers for this article. Overall, I improved in all categories, and in fact, this is my best Ludum Dare out of the 4 I entered. I’ll point out a few of the categories in detail next.

Theme

My best category this time around, so I guess I understood the theme. For this LD, my idea came quite quickly. For my previous LDs, it took a long time before I felt comfortable with an idea to work on, and maybe that’s why those ratings were a bit lower, although I was a little surprised at the low rating for my LD37 entry, Bat Cave, since I think I got the “One Room” theme down, but I guess those that rated my game did not agree.

Humor

I’m within the top 25% for humor, and I am pleased with this. From time to time I do like to add a bit of humor to my LD games. For Contamination, I had to introduce bad germs that would attack the good ones, and what better way than through coughing and sneezing? I recorded an actual sneeze and some coughs and the rest is history. I am glad others liked it.

Fun

Within the top 30%. What else is there to say? Of course I strive to make my games fun… we all do. Not a bad score, but I would like it higher. I had to sacrifice some game play due to time and complexity… perhaps if I added those extra features, this rating would go a little higher.

Audio

Again, top 30%! Actually, looking at my previous 3 LD entries, the audio score was always getting worse. Nice to see this get better. One comment I always get for each entry is “the audio is too loud!”, which I find interesting since I just don’t get it. Maybe I play with the sound turned down or something, since the sounds appear fine for me, but this is something I need to attend to.

My Thoughts

Looking at my score, I am both happy and a little disappointed at the same time.

The Good
  • My entry for LD38 has the best scores all around, which of course is great. It demonstrates that I am (hopefully) improving. My results seem to be within the top 25 – 35%, so I am over the hump.
  • In the 4 times I did LD, I released something playable.
Why am I Disappointed?
  • I didn’t rate well in Graphics and Mood (although, I’m not really sure what Mood is). I did expect a little higher rating in Graphics, even though the models I used are very simple. I guess I have to brush up on my Blender skills.
  • I played a few games similar to mine and those rated higher. Perhaps my game was a bit too simple, not “cute” enough, or some other reason?

Should I Continue Development?

Based on how I like my game as well as comments of people who rate my game, I always consider continuing development of my entries (for Retro Rebound Challenge, I actually started work on a more polished game, but decided it wasn’t something that would generate downloads).  After brief consideration, I decided not to continue development of Contamination for the following reasons:

  • I feel my score just doesn’t justify it.
  • Similar games rated higher and authors of those games decided to continue development of their games.

Maybe I will change my mind in the future… who knows.  I am actually considering working on developing Bat Cave as well. Its how the mood strikes me, and comments from the community, I guess.

Conclusion

As always, I had a blast, released a game in 48 hours, and took part in a great community. It has already been announced that Ludum Dare 39 will take place July 28, and I look forward to taking part in that as well.

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Contamination Post Mortem

Another great Ludum Dare in the books (my 4th), and as always, it was a blast. While we wait for judging to begin, I figured it is a good time to work on this Post Mortem for the game I created, “Contamination”.

The theme was “A Small World”, and the idea for my game came much easier than I expected this time. After about 20 minutes putting together the idea, it was off to work.  All my previous LDs were 2D, so I decided to give 3D a shot, and I think it works quite nice with this game. Man, Blender is a monster… I can get simple shapes done, but anything else will take me a very long time… time I don’t have in the Compo. Luckily, the models for this game are simple, and something I thought I can do in Blender so I went for it.

After some sleep, it was back to it on Saturday, and the day was spent putting together the game: enemy germ AI, green cell movement and splitting, player movement and fire. All game movement was done with a tweening library, not physics.  I second-guessed that a few hours later when I could not really manage collisions since these were kinematic objects, but it did not become a problem since I decided I wanted all the game objects to be able to pass through each other (and used triggers instead), otherwise movement would become too cumbersome in such as small space.

Sunday was spent putting in the remaining game play: adding the Super Germ, tweaking the germ and cell spawning, etc.  The afternoon was spent creating sounds and music, adding the HUD, and adding a title screen and instructions.

So, What Went Well?

  • The idea came to me rather quickly, so I didn’t have to sweat it out.  I also felt like this was a game I really wanted to develop.  That kept me motivated throughout the Compo.
  • The tweening library worked like a charm.  What a time-saver.
  • Even though the game has “simple” objects and effects, they did come out better than I expected. I was successful in creating 3D objects and particle effects.

What Could’ve Gone Better?

  • I have to either get better at Blender, or find another tool.  I don’t do art well, but working in Blender seems like I am fighting the tool, and not my lack of modelling skills.  Yes, I get it, lots of keyboard shortcuts, but it is hard to work that way if you only get in there from time to time.

Please check out my game and let me know what you think.

Ludum Dare Entry

Direct link to Windows, Mac, Linux version

Direct link to WebGL version

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