Cold Remembrance – Ludum Dare 31

Click to go to the entry's page

Click to go to the entry’s page

As I said last post, two weeks ago there was another Ludum Dare. This time, the theme was “Entire Game on One Screen”. First of all, here’s the timelapse:

At first, I didn’t like this theme at all. For me, it meant no scrolling, no menus, no other states… What you see when the game starts is everything that will be there at the end. At first, I said “screw this” and decided to have a arena shooter that had falling craters making the arena smaller. You would be able to destroy those craters to gain some more space and time, until more crates fell again. I gave up quickly because I didn’t like the idea so much (and thought it wouldn’t be as simple as I thought).

Then, I started to draw a “iron ball attached by chains to the mouse (I’ll call it simply ‘chain-ball’)”. I didn’t have any ideas for gameplay, perhaps I’d have it attached to a ship and you would have to destroy incoming ships while avoiding death… Notice, that I had already gave up my interpretation on the theme. So long as the game was inside a single screen it would be OK for me.

The only I had at the beginning

The only I had at the beginning

So, for stupids reason that I don’t remember, I didn’t bother to thinking about how the physics of the chain-ball should work… I simply tried to code it to behave like I expected. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t work at all as I had expected. So I blamed the theme, gave up that idea and started to draw a snowman.

It all started with this sprite...

It all started with this sprite…

If you weren’t into the theme voting, on Round 4, one of the themes were “☃”… Yeah, an ASCII (or unicode, whatever) for a snowman. It won that round by a large margin and seemed like a favorite to be the theme this time. Even though I also didn’t like this theme at first, this was the first that came to my mind, and thus the drawing. It was also a sub-theme for many others participants.

After drawing it I finally had the idea of making the story of a [SPOILERS] snowman reminiscing about the time between when it was built and when it melted, and how it “tried to survive the passing of seasons by staying where was winter currently”.[/SPOILERS] I was aware that this didn’t made a lot of sense, but I gave it a try, anyway. It was also almost 12 hours in, so I didn’t have much choice.

I drew everything before starting to code or to think about the actual story.It was quite fun to draw all the seasons but Autumn. I couldn’t see it as anything other than a mess of orange and yellow, which wasn’t coming out nice in as few as 20×8 pixels. I didn’t gave it much thought at the moment because the assets were still temporary by then.

All that time, I slacked off a lot. You can see me on twitter and on the LD’s site for quite a while on the timelapse. Also, I spent quite some time away from the computer (though I took it off of the timelapse, as the screen would stay blank for a while). In the mean time, I finally added the assets into the game.

I wouldn’t have too much free time on the following day, so I tried my best to have a functional game by the end of Saturday.

This is how the game looked by the end of Saturday

This is pretty much how the game looked by the end of Saturday (I think I this pic is only missing particles…)

Somehow, I was able to do it. I still had to redo all the assets, fix a few bugs and… something else that I’ve already forgotten.

Other than only having 8 hours to work on the game Sunday, nothing remarkable happened. I redid all the graphics, added sound effects and finally got to packaged the game. I only got to make an Android version the next day, as I had only slept around 3 hours from Saturday to Sunday and really needed to rest.

I’m really happy with the outcome. This should come as no surprise, since I even added it to this blog’s header. But looking back at the game, and at some comments I’ve received… It’s quite a simple and stupid game, right? You simply hold a button and watch a story, there’s no real gameplay…

So, I’ve been working on a post-compo version. One thing that I want to “fix” is to make its native resolution to be 320×240. This is the smallest that I like to work with (except when trying to do crazy stuff… I’ll have to post about it, someday). I’ve already made a border for the game, so I can keep the “game screen” smaller, which I think is fitting for this game. But I’ve yet to start drawing the actual game…

gfm_ld31-pc_mockup

Well, that’s it for now… I’ll post soon with a selection of games from this LD.

Until then!

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. 🙂