Ludum Dare 44: Post Mortem

Another Ludum Dare completed (my ninth!). This one was my toughest one yet for me. Lots of highs, lows, frustration, failures, and success. All of this, and more, will be discussed as I detail the development of my entry, The Wizard of Worth.

Day 1

I had a hard time with this theme. In the days before theme selection, I looked at the possible candidates and wrote down some ideas for each one… except this one. Of course, “Your Life Is Currency” was selected and I spent almost 3 hours thinking of an idea.

Once I got a working idea (my son helped with some suggestions), I decided to create some graphics first, which is something I normally do not do. I knew I had to create graphics at some point, and I wanted to give Aseprite a shot to see if I can handle it.

At this point, its about 2:00am, five hours into the Compo, so I decided to call it a night. At the end of Day 1, I had some graphics created, and a basic game where the enemies chase down the player.

Day 2

I got about 5 hours of sleep, got up, and went back to work. I added some particles, a coin retrieval system, and a player shooting system. After a few rounds of playing this game, I came to the conclusion that its terrible! So discouraging.

I had about 10 hours of solid development time and the game was horrible. I took a couple of breaks during the day and came back to tweak and add/change features, and every time I played my game, I hated it more. No matter what I tried, it was just not fun, and I was so discouraged that I decided to take an extended break.

Day 3

I said I was taking an extended break… how about a 24 hour break? That’s what I did. During that time, I thought about whether I should continue, give up completely, or start with a new idea. After speaking with my wife and son, I got some pretty decent ideas on how to improve the game, and that started the drive to finish and submit this game.

I wanted to add a lot of things… more minions to chase you, different types of minions, multiple weapon types, and more. The problem is that it is now very late on Sunday, and I only have a few hours left.

I improved the player shooting (shooting towards the mouse pointer), added a back-story, sound effects, some additional graphics, and the title and game over screens, and submitted later than usual, but before the deadline. These changes really improved the game, and its much more fun to play.

What Went Well

  • Despite the ups and downs during the event, I did submit an entry.
  • Even though I had very limited experience with Aseprite, I managed to create some graphics (and some crude animation) using that tool.

What Could Have Gone Better

  • The 24 hour period where I “gave up” really put a dent in the time left when I decided to re-enter the compo. I wanted to add different minions and demons, each with a unique strength and weakness, but I ran out of time.

Conclusion

Looking through several of my other LD Post-Mortem posts, it looks like I fall into the same pattern where Day 2 is a bit discouraging, but I always manage to find a way to improve and finish.

This Ludum Dare was no different, but the lows were unprecedented for me; to a point where I walked away knowing I would not come back. If it were not for some encouragement from family, I would of packed it in and regretted the lack of submitting a game for the first time. I am glad I went back and continued.

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My LD42 Results

Well, the results for LD42 are in, and this time, I am extremely surprised and pleased…

  • I placed in the top 100 in 7 out of 8 categories!
  • I placed in the top 10 in 2 categories!

I felt Johnny’s Flipbook Space Adventure was good, but I had no idea how it would rate.  Many thanks to those that played and rated.

As I mentioned in a previous Post-Mortem blog and video, this was a LD I almost sat out, but decided to jump in about 12 hours late. I am glad I did!

Looking at the graph, I normally rate somewhere in the middle of the pack, so the LD42 results really stand out. Some things that I find interesting, looking at the scores:

  • All audio was done by speaking into a microphone, and changing the pitch to make it sound more like a child. No computerized bleeps, bloops or tools to create sound effects. The results were obviously favorable.
  • Top 5 in Humor! I did try sprinkling in some funny things, so I am glad that it was noticed and appreciated.
  • Mood.  I always score very low here, and I guess it was because I am not sure what this is exactly… until now. Did the player feel like they were playing a flipbook game? Answer is “Yes”!

  

Continue Development?

After every LD, I feel that I should continue development on my game, but I never do for various reasons. With this game, I am still undecided. The high score is motivating me to continue development, and I feel that this may be a good Nintendo Switch game. I do have some enhancement ideas, like adding additional enemy types, but I also have an idea to add this style to the game I am currently developing, SMS: The Next Mission as a bonus level for early adopters. I would be interested in any comments around future plans.

In Conclusion

For a game that was almost never written, it scored beyond any expectations I had, and I am seriously considering continuing development as a stand-alone game as well as a mode in the game I am currently developing.

I also hope to keep the momentum going for LD43!

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Post-Mortem – Johnny’s Flipbook Space Adventure

Another Ludum Dare, another Post-Mortem.  This one is about the recent Ludum Dare 42 events and the development of my game Johnny’s Flipbook Space Adventure.

The Days Up To Theme Announcement

I was looking forward to LD42 for months, until about a week before the start. For some reason, I was not hit with the normal excitement, and decided that it may be time to take a break… after all, I did 5 LDs in a row and I am currently working on my pet project. I decided to press on and go through voting for themes.

Honestly, I wasn’t a fan of most of the themes to make the finals and when the theme was announced, I decided that its probably a good idea to take a break. Even though I was “out”, I was still thinking of a game, and about 6 hours later my game just came to me and I was in! At this time it was well after midnight so I decided to go get some rest and start early the next morning. By the time I got started, I was over 12 hours behind, but I was determined to ramp up and get to work.

Day 1

Day 1 for me was actually Day 2 of Ludum Dare. I decided for the theme I was going to use hand drawn images and animate them in a flip book style.  I used Adobe Photoshop Sketch (which I never used before) on my iPad to draw 5 images for each sprite, and animate them in a loop. It came out very nice.

I scanned some graph paper as a background image. I also scanned a piece of paper that I tore a hole into. Originally, this was going to be used when the player’s ship shoots an alien ship… I wanted the hole to appear at the spot where the alien ship was destroyed, but this was becoming quite a challenge. There was a lot of overlap with other holes and existing alien ships, and that was causing a lot of physics issues that I just could not work around. It also made the game a bit frustrating to play.

I decided instead to “tear” a hole in the paper between levels. That seem to work and made game play fun and challenging.

By the end of the day, I had a pretty solid space shooter with some audio in place. Since I was pretty far into development at this point, I decided to call it for the day, and pick it up again the next day.

Day 2

It’s not Sunday 8:00am EST. There is 10 hours of Ludum Dare left, but I was in a good position. I completed the audio, using Audacity and Adobe Audition (another tool I never used before) to make my voice more child-like, created the title screen, and back story, and after a bit of play-testing, it was time to submit.

What Went Well

  • Normally, it is a bit of a task to come up with something I want to develop and is fun to play. This time, the game idea just came to me so easily. This was a game I really wanted to make! That was an incredible motivator.
  • During development, I actually learned how to use 2 applications I never used before (Adobe Audition and Adobe Photoshop Sketch). I’m not a pro with them, but they are 2 more tools in the tool belt.
  • I made all the audio with my voice, and it was fun!

What Could Have Gone Better

  • I’m not really sure… this is a tough one. My original ideal of ripping holes when alien ships were destroyed was costing me a lot of time. Same with my lack of enthusiasm during the start. I did turn these into positives and I think it helped me create a game I really enjoyed programming and playing.

 

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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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LD41 – Update 2

It’s about 24 hours into Ludum Dare 41, and after a lot of thinking, prototyping, getting and getting frustrated, I decided to create a Bullet Hell Pong game. Here is a very short video.

It was so difficult to work on this all day… I do not really like it, and I hate the theme (Combine 2 Incompatible Genres). I think it’s getting better slowly, but. I do not think it will rate very high when I submit it.

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Talking to Myself About My Ludum Dare Games

As I am writing this, it is two weeks to Ludum Dare 41. This will be my 7th LD, and I’ve enjoyed them all, despite the mounting stress and lack of sleep!

My game entries seem to rate somewhere in the middle of the pack, but I am making small improvements in my scores. I like all of my games, and during the 2 – 3 weeks of rating games, I always think I should continue development. After all, the comments are pretty positive… then the ratings come out and I am a bit disappointed.

In other blog posts here and on the LD site and Twitter, I always ask if I should continue development, and I also ask if there are any suggestions to make my game better. I usually hear crickets, and that furthers the disappointment. What little feedback I do get is appreciated and does goes far in motivation to continue developing games.

Looking at the Ludum Dare games I have developed, I still have thoughts of continuing development on many of them (with the exception of Shape Shifter Match Maker, which is definitely my weakest entry). I really like my last 2 entries… ANTagonist and Inefficient Plasma Weapon.

Is it worth continuing development on any of these? Would people play it? Would people buy it?

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ANTagonist Results

I am writing this almost 24 hours after the release of Ludum Dare 40 results, and my rating, as always, is somewhat surprising to me. I’m going to try to break it down a bit.

The raw numbers do not tell the full story, so I’ve created a chart that shows where I placed in each LD, along with my finishing percentage. What it shows is that I consistently place above the middle of the pack (40 – 50%), with some results as high as top 30%.

With the exception of Audio (always my weak spot), my results are equal or slightly better than LD39, and that’s good! I know that the rating results are highly subjective, but my expectations were that I would place a little higher.


Looking back at my last 3 LDs, I believe that I have greatly improved my game development skills, even though the scores do not really show that. My first 3 LDs are somewhat of an experiment in Game Jams. Starting with LD38, I started to really focus on bells, whistles, and polish, in addition to game play. More sounds, more graphics (even though my graphics talent is severely limited), more effects. The chart above does seems to show that, and I am glad.

In Summary

I am both very critical and very defensive about my games, and my expectations never match what the results show.  That’s a “me” problem.

I’ve always thought that several of the LD games would make a good stand-alone game if I continued development, but the scores seem to discourage me from doing so. I have had an idea I have been working on several times over the years and ANTagonist may fit that theme. Regardless of the results, I may continue development. I am just not sure at this point.

In Closing

LD40 was a blast, even though the stress level was a bit high.

Thanks to all that played and rated ANTagonist.

On to Ludum Dare 41…

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