Long time since my last article, which was about the 35th Ludum Dare and the « Shapeshift » theme. Since then, I was working hard for my full time job at Ubisoft, on StEEP. Now, StEEP is live (hurray!!), and it’s time for a new Ludum Dare, the 37th! I teamed up again with Louis (Programming) and with a new Music/Sound Designer, Arthur Dos Santos (aka Cinetiq). Now it’s been a few days since the end of the Ludum Dare 37, and it’s Post-mortem time!
Ludum Dare #37 : « One Room »
For this Jam session, Louis and I were both at my place, to have an easier iteration workflow. Since the theme announcement, I had in mind to work on a puzzle game. That was an exercice I never did before, and that I deeply wanted to try out. We discussed all the first morning about how we could make it fit to the theme with Louis, and we were going on.
So let’s enter into Dawn Experiments development. First of all, what is Dawn Experiments? Well, it’s the game we made, and you can learn more about the finished product and how to download it on its own page, RIGHT HERE.
Again, a Game (and Level) Designer challenge!
As it worked very well the last time, I used my last Game Design method (developped by Boris Maniora, Lead Game Design on StEEP), to create an efficient Document which would group the Game DNA in a couple of line-directing words, that would help us to keep to goals of the game clear. Then, I worked on the User Scenarios and it was time to look at the Art Direction. Meanwhile, Louis had started to work on the Engine of the Game, that was already pretty smooth after a few iterations.
And now it’s time to actually make things happen (…again, and again, and…)!
Then, it was a go for the « production » part. The graphic part went bad at first, as I was not able to figure out which universe we wanted to have. After a major roll back, Louis finally found an interesting idea about a red-grounded planet, unknown by its name or origins. A few sketches later, we had and Artistic Direction, and a Character (welcome 42!).
Things were moving on, we were at Day 2 and Louis almost had our Gameflow and Engine done. Thanks to Arthur, we also had many sounds to improve the mood and the global quality of the game. The music theme was already almost there. On my side, I was still working on a few animation stuffs, but mainly switched to Game/Level Design. That was kind of a hard part, as we wanted the puzzle to work with a do/undo mechanic. One of our keywords was « Experiment », so we wanted our players to be able to experiment with all the pieces of the puzzle, see what happen, and then figure out what to do. So everything was about two things : « how can I make the One Room evolve while not blocking the player at any moment », and « things should be well-exposed enough to make the game accessible with almost no tutorial ». From my point of view, these parts were done quite successfully!
Day 3 was all about making the game together with Louis, integrating pieces of the puzzle one by one, finding solutions to our issues with the last pieces (more explanation in the « what went wrong » part), and polishing the game!
The goal of this LD37 was to create a challenging but balanced puzzle, with well known mechanics but an interesting twist added to it. Working on the difficulty balance was one of my main preoccupations about this Ludum, as our previous game was too hard to achieve…And I’m pretty happy with what we have now!
So what went wrong?
Since we don’t have any result yet, I can only make suppositions. On a production-side, I think that the word that could describe our week-end is « smooth », from beginning to almost end. But we had to face and quickly solve big performance issues due to dynamic light, only a couple of hours before the end of the Jam. As I said earlier, we also encountered troubles with the last pieces of the puzzle. We had thrown on the table all the ideas we had, but they seemed very repetitive with the puzzles I designed at Day 2. Finally and after some discussions/tweaks, we decided to go for a central element, with a new mechanic that would add some fresh air to the last puzzle pieces.
After taking some days of rest, I think that I’m now able to tell our what could have been done better on this project :
- The game isn’t playable on Web (Windows only). Again. And it’s still a thing that Web-playable games will get more exposure as you don’t have to install them on your PC. But this choice saved all the particles/dynamic light stuff, tho, and these bring a lot to the Mood and global ambiance of the game
- We could have more emphasised on the do/undo puzzle pieces mechanic, but were lacking of time.
- We should have tested builds earlier on low-config PCs, so we would have encounter the perf issue earlier…!
Aaaaaaand…that’s all for this Post-Mortem! Actually, we have feedbacks from awesome peoples on Our Ludum Dare page, so I invite you to go and read them
Anyway, we’re always waiting for more and more feedbacks, so don’t hesitate to give the game a try, we hope you’ll like it!