Bullet Hell Breakout: A Post-Mortem and My Results

I normally publish a Post-Mortem of my Ludum Dare game while the review phase is still underway, but this time I purposely decided to post this after judging is over. I didn’t want to influence the ratings given to me by people playing my game (in fact, I didn’t post a “play my game” message either). Since voting is now over, this post will be a combination Post-Mortem and review of my results.

Post-Mortem

This LD was probably the most difficult one for me… so much discouragement. I had a very difficult time deciding on an game to develop. Once I decided on my game, the development was such a chore.

Day Prior to Theme Announcement

I like to review the possible themes and put together a short list of games I would develop if that theme were chosen. I was dreading this theme, Combine 2 Incompatible Genres, because I could not think of anything I really wanted to develop.

Day 1

Of course, this theme is announced and looking at my sheet of ideas, there are none. I usually give myself about an hour to put together something before I start developing, but this time I am into Hour 3 and I haven’t put together any ideas that I like.

Bullet Hell Breakout Screenshot
Bullet Hell Breakout Screenshot

I hacked together a few ideas and a combination Missile Command / Financial Management game is my best bet. I start putting ideas together, and quickly realize that the financial management part would be a bit too difficult, but more importantly, I do not feel excited about this genre. It’s not a genre I enjoy.

I’m about 4 hours into LD, and I don’t have an idea. I finally decide on a bullet hell game, and a bit later, I decide to mash it with a breakout/pong clone. I do enjoy both of these genres and decided to finally start coding. It already 1:00am Saturday morning, my time.

I put about 2 hours into designing my game and laying it out in Unity. Around 3:00am (6 hours after the theme was announced), I decide that what I have is utter crap, and I scrap just about everything, and decide to get some sleep and try again in the morning.

Day 2

I get only about 4 hours of sleep and I am back at it. I put together a breakout style game where the player hits moving space invaders. I add an enemy that puts the player into bullet hell mode when hit.

Around midday, I am ready to gave up. The game just isn’t fun. I come back a few hours later and add some features. It’s better but I am giving up again. I do this “code/quit” routine most of the afternoon. I hate the theme, I hate my game, I’m not having fun, but I am not going to give up. I decide to finish today, get something completed, and enjoy my Sunday.

I’m coding late into the evening, and after playing a few rounds of my game, I decide that it’s not that bad, so I will polish it up tomorrow.

Day 3

Sunday is spent adding audio, graphic improvements, instructions, and some effects. It’s not great, but I like it.  It’s pretty close to submission time and I don’t think it is worth trying to cram any more features into the game at this point, so I do my final compile, and submit it.

What Went Well

So little went well in this LD, but looking back:

  • I do like the work I did on the pixel enemies, and the graphics and layout of the game screen.
  • The mash-up between Breakout mode and Bullet Hell mode is interesting.
  • Despite a constant feeling of discouragement, anger and sadness, I finished this game!

What Did Not Go Well

  • The switch to Bullet Hell mode needs improvement. I do like the sudden switch, but maybe a visual or audio clue would be helpful.
  • The ball/paddle movement and collisions can be improved. The “floaty” control of the paddle is something I don’t really notice, but it was a comment made by just about everyone who played.
  • Due to the time it took to decide on a game, and the Saturday discouragement, I felt a bit time-constrained.

Voting Results

The comments around the float-y controls, the paddle, and the bullet hell mode discouraged me even more than normal, so I was expecting a dismal result. It turns out there are some positives.

Overall, I finished somewhere in the middle of the pack, and pretty close to the results of my LD40 game, ANTagonist, which I actually liked better. I’m not sure what to think about this.

What was a pleasant surprise was that the results of the audio and graphics categories were the best out of all 7 Ludum Dares I took part in. These always seem to be weak categories for me, so this is a great news and hopefully a step in the right direction. As I mentioned before, I am very happy with the look of my game.

Conclusion

Despite an absolutely terrible Day 2, I managed to submit a game, and the rating is somewhat better than I expected. I guess the take-away here is to never give up no matter what you are up against.

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