Sunday, January 3, 2016

Space Mashers, or time to polish. WHAT IS THAT?

     Last weekend, I participated in the latest Ludum Dare along with about half a dozen other people at the TinkerMill.  For the theme reveal event, we had about a dozen people help brainstorm and flesh out mechanics for various ideas we came up with. It was an extremely productive session, with at least fifty ideas being thrown about.  After about an hour or so of discussion, we broke out into two groups, one working on what would become Space Mashers (the one I worked on) and one that would become Attack of the Vikings, made by my friend Terry and his family.

The participants watching the keynote
      Once we broke into groups, I actually got a (very) rough draft of the game up and running.  I was amazed that I was able to get into playtesting after the very first few hours.  In all of my times doing Ludum Dares, I have never been able to get playtesting in so early.  I was very happy with that development.  I left the first night very happy with what had developed. I fell into bed feverishly dreaming of what the game would become.

A quick note in front of a white board full of ideas
     The next day, I was able to get the vast majority of the gaming mechanics finished, along with most of the game modes. Brian hammered away on the final (and most creative) game mode, where the player uses a quite alien way to get a turret to move around the screen and shoot pursuing ships.  Adam was able to get a bunch of artwork done and we started integrating the disparate pieces together to make a whole game.  As night two came to a close, I once again left feeling quite happy to have finished the core of the game.

      At the beginning of day two, we continued on making artwork and got to polish up a bunch of little details.  I went wild with the parallax field I made for another game (thanks, Orion Trial!).  We had a few people that weren't involved in development do some playtesting and we got some valuable feedback from them.  After adjusting the difficulty, we went to the final frontier: Sound.  Although it was getting close to the deadline, I decided that adding sound would make it much more immersive, so I pushed to get some in before we had to get it into a package to submit.

     Ok, enough of the blow by blow, let's get down to the good the bad and the ugly!

The Good:
  • Polish!  I never thought I'd be able to polish within the 48 hour time frame.  It made a huge difference.
  • Playtesting.  I hear this often, but this has been one of the few times that I was able to sit back and playtest the game and somewhat balance it before submitting it.
  • Audio.  Getting it into the game was a last second thing, but it added a bunch to the game.
The Bad:
  • Audio.  It makes it into this category too, since we didn't have time to match it up to the timing that we needed and it shows, especially when the ship is exploding.
  • Losing Work Space.  This one didn't really effect our group, but the other group we collaborated with had to migrate in the middle of the jam, making it much harder on them.
  • No internet access.  At the beginning of day one, we had a router issue at the TinkerMill and we lost internet access for a vast majority of the group.  I never thought that I would have a problem working without internet access, but I quickly realized that I need to have more intimate familiarity with the libraries I'm using.  Lesson learned.
The Ugly:
  • Artwork.  It's not fair to put this all on Adam, since he had little experience with artwork, but the project dictated that we needed to dedicate one person to the artwork and I had already started coding for the game instead of making artwork and letting Adam and Brian tackle the code.
  • Management.  This ties to the artwork point, but I should have played to everyone's strengths instead of just diving into one portion that I was most comfortable with.  Although I'm more comfortable with code over art, Adam's talents were misused this jam. I should have recognized that early on and reassigned him.  It would have been a totally different game, but that is not a bad thing.
Overall Verdict:
     I was extremely pleased with how Space Mashers turned out, even with my missteps and obliviousness.  If you haven't tried it yet, you can find it here.  Tell me what you think of it in the comments!

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