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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Ludum Dare 40 – Day 1 Status

Well, 24 hours in and I do have a playable game. That’s the good news. The bad news is that I am not sure how I feel about it at this point. I guess the work I do tomorrow will make or break it. Either way, I am going to submit it at the end of the Dare.

The basic idea is that ants are stealing your food, and you must kill the ants and return the food to your picnic blanket.

Tomorrow will be LOTS of polish, sounds, music, and game play improvement.

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.

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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