Persona postmortem

Finally got around to adding the postmortem here. I had done it already on the LD site, though, so it’s mostly copy paste…

On a side note, I’m considering making a post compo version, but I’ll first have to rewrite the story. Also, I might do another game in the mean time… something that I’ve wanted do for a while know. Depending on how this goes, I’ll say more about it later.

Now, on with the postmortem.

Theme

I don’t get prepared before hand for any theme. Sometimes a theme may give me an idea upon reading it during the voting, but I don’t intentionally try to know what I could do with any theme. So I was as prepared for this theme as I was for any other (except “It never ends”; I had a cool idea for it).

But this theme was both easier and tougher than every other from previous entries to me. I usually have an idea early and keep working on it through all the weekend. This time, though, I had only a concept early on, and this was after a lot of thinking. I first decided that I wanted to make a story driven game (and therefore a visual novel thing), so I started getting the engine ready with Flixel. Then, I posted a concept here and started to think about a story for it… Which wasn’t coming out nicely. Then, I kept going forth and back between writing the story and drawing assets.

Another thing I did was keep coming back to read the original concept. I was afraid I might get off track again (as I did with Hummy’s Hunger), so I was tried to think how I was going to fit the theme with the game.

Time handling

Seems like each passing LD I get better able at handling my time. I didn’t feel as pressured as with previous LDs. Before, I’d keep working until the last second while panicking cause there were too many things still to do/broken/etc. Since I set on a story driven game, that didn’t depend too heavily on implementing stuff, I was able to take it easy and, after writing a basic VN engine over Flixel, concentrating on assets.

I knew what I had to do and how… Also, since I had a setting in my mind, but not the story itself, I was able to think about the graphics for the world before writing anything. This really helped as I only did start writing the story at the ~23 hours left mark.

Story

Right, making a VN requires less coding than a platformer and is less error prone, since I know (almost) exactly how the player is going to behave… I at least know for sure all the possible actions to be performed. But there’s a greater difficulty here: writing a great story.

Since this was to be the main focus of my game, it had to be good. That’s why, even though I had the concept already in mind 4 hours after the compo had started, I was only able to write the final version by the last 22 or so hours. At the same time, I wasn’t too worried about this, because I knew that, if I had everything drawn before hand, I could “script” the story quickly enough.

I must admit I’m not completely happy with the outcome. I know that I’m not a great write, and it’s been a while since I had last written anything… Still, I’m proud that I was able to finish it and not lose track of the theme, even if with the cast isn’t good at all… Not forgetting the theme was my main focus. I even kept reading the concept time and time again, and also kept writing ideas on papers.

Graphics

Since I was going to make a VN, I thought my usual 16×16 sprites wouldn’t be fitting. So, I tried going with 24×32. I used dimensions similar to those on this year’s Global Game Jam (the overall drawing is pretty similar, actually), so I knew it would be way harder to animate and come up with different designs… That’s why I decided to start early drawing.

I had already an overall idea about how the game would be, so all I needed at first was a simple base character with a walk cycle. Switching palette colors is quite easy, even on GIMP, so I decided this was the way to make “lots” of characters.  I could also make small modifications to make each one slightly unique.

There’s no reason not do do that. Even before I had the final idea I was already polishing the graphics. The game type wasn’t likely to change, so anything I had already finished would be useful for the final game. But by the end of the compo, I left some graphics unpolished… The room wasn’t properly finished, I didn’t add dynamic shadows beneath each char, there’s no portrait for the speaking character and the scene are too static. Well, I decided to focus on the story, not on the graphics, so I expected some things to be left undone.

Audio

Along with the theme, another thing that had been annoying me for sometime were my entries’ song since LD#26. They are all too generic and weird… And I knew I could do better than that, my first game for OneGameAMonth had such a great songs… To change my that, I tried using MML for the post compo of my previous LD entry. I really liked the outcome, and restricting me to as few as “3 channels” (base+melody+drums(2 channels, actually)) helped trying to make the songs better.

Well, I liked it so much that I decided I’d use it once again. I find it easier to write songs with it than with LMMS, it’s easy to integrate with the game (but I also set up a class for that before hand) and it make seamless loop as painless as possible. Screw you Flash and your goddamned mp3 songs.

I know that the songs aren’t that unique, but I thought about what would be somewhat fitting with the scene and would also sound good. I didn’t care that the songs were short, nor that it doesn’t have a remarkable melody… I think they are fine the way they are.

One thing I must say, though: that jazzy song! I took a break and started playing the guitar, for a while. Then, I simply thought of that  simple riff and played it sometimes… Afterward, I wasn’t able to take it all from mind. So, I decided to use it for the bar scene.

Coding

Though there’s few to this, I want to talk a little about it. The first thing I (think I) did after thinking how the game should be was to code a way to script the game. I made it really simple, allowing for non-linear scripted sequences (or ‘goto’s, using a more common term), adding characters to the screen, moving them around and displaying text/options. I later modified it to have objects (‘characters’ are animated by default) and fix a few bugs… But that’s about it. XD

And, that’s it. Thanks for reading. 🙂

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