Ludum Dare 38 Post Mortem : Astromike

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Ready, set, GO!


TL;DR; Marco Vale and I made a game for Ludum Dare 38 in 72h that you can play here. What follows is a small post mortem.


I was awake at 3 am to know the theme for Ludum Dare 38. I still hadn’t made my mind if I was going to participate, it would depend on the theme and if I could come up with something. The theme was released, ‘A Small World’, and I immediately went to bed. There’s nothing like a good night sleep, and letting my brain think about the theme.

So in the morning, I started researching the theme, I had micro-organisms in mind, micro and macro ecosystems but nothing really that would stand out. I thought about how Small World could lead to having a simple set of rules in a small constrained world, and with the micro-organisms idea, I shifted towards a space exploration game, heavily inspired by Hitman GO and Lara Croft GO games.

Initially, the idea would be to have your main character cleanup each level from organisms there but quickly shifted to a puzzle-solver sci-fi game. Having Hitman GO in mind, I prototyped a level and started to create what would become the node-based navigation system. A collection of nodes that the main character and enemies could travel to, based on their distances.

At this point, I had a friend of mine, Marco Vale, asking if I needed an artist, so we teamed-up and he started to create assets for the game’s environment, as well as a character, gun, jetpack and a crashed ship, while I was developing game mechanics. Soon after that, I had a node-based navigation working, and something a lot prettier than cubes to show.

At the end of day 1, we had a placeholder character moving around a map, an exit to finish the level, an enemy that would follow and kill the player, items to pick up, a simple inventory system, and trigger objects that would fire events, either to open or close passages and activate traps.

On day 2, Marco started with the main character, gun, and jetpack. Meanwhile, I was working on creating more levels, introducing new components to the game and building up from the previous levels. For instance, on level 2 you grab the gun, therefore level 3 has enemies that you’re now able to shoot at in order to solve the puzzle and go on. The jetpack is unlocked further and will allow the player to jump across gaps.

At this point, I was still implementing a Hitman GO movement style, because I thought that we wouldn’t have time to make animations. Ultimately we had, so we threw that away, and gladly because it looks and feels much better.

The last couple of hours before the compo deadline, I swapped all placeholders for the gun and jetpack, integrated the animations for the main character, made some quick particle effects, created a teleport mechanic and added sound.

On day 3, we focused on making it look better and fixing a few issues that were making the game difficult to play. We also added the crash site with the spaceship, decorations, particle effects and camera post processing.

I started the Ludum Dare alone, with a faint idea of what to do, and with Marco‘s amazing help, we were able to make something really nice, and learn a lot in the process. I think this is the most fun I’ve had making games in quite a while, and definitely my best LD entry so far. 72h later, I’m proud of the game we’ve created. Feel free to try it out, and leave a comment if you like.

See you next Ludum Dare.

Super Stems Post Mortem

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B4L4pozCYAAHAwj Super Stems, originally called Stems, started on a gamejam weekend, Ludum Dare 31. The theme was “Entire Game on One Screen”, which many people complained about, me included, since a lot of people were expecting the snowman theme to be chosen. Aside from that, once the theme was announced, I started to make Stems.

So what is Super Stems? Super Stems is a board domination strategy game. You have tiles and board slots. Each tile has three sides, a number attached, and adjacent sides on the board will battle. Upon battle, the higher number will win, and the losing tile will be captured. This is a simple concept that I stripped down from another game I’m planning, which has this basic gameplay with more gameplay mechanics, inventory and multiplayer in it. B4M3HkVCAAAjR2a But since I had only 48 hours to make it happen, I stripped it down to this. A few hours in, I had the tiles and placeholder models and ready to be used in Unity.

I don’t usually take much time in planning during gamejams, I usually go all in with a minimum planning and knowing what I must do and sort and solve problems as they arrive. But since Indies vs Pew Die Pie gamejam went really bad because from the lack of planning, this time around, I took some time to plan ahead and think of what I wanted to make.

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So with my plan written down and my idea right fixed in my head, I started developing the game until I had basic gameplay done. If you asked me by then, how much more time would I take me to finish a minimum viable product, I would’ve said a week, maybe less, but oh boy was I wrong. First things first, the gamejam atitude of coding this and that without taking much care, because time is of the essence, is bad. I don’t use magic numbers, nor hardcode anything. I usually take care in writing beautiful and maintainable code. So for that end, I was good. On the other hand, I manually placed the grid and linked neighbors, one by one. Since the original grid had only 9 pieces, it was fast and did the job. Finding after a few days that some of those links were broken/switched, was bad tho.. Mistake #1.

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But nonetheless, everything was in place, I had the grid, the basic Turn-by-Turn gameplay, basic animation, tile capturing, teams, score. I was just missing an opponent.. better yet.. an Intelligent Opponent. Making the Artificial Intelligence was hard. It was hard because of mistake n# 1, not having a generic grid, in which I could make the calculations required to make it easier for me. Having a properly made grid system, I could have made methods to make my life so much easier, but nooo.. I might have written the battle, capture, AI play code at least 5 times! And by this I mean, really starting from scratch. Taking pen and paper, putting it all in a new perspective. And every time I did it, something good came out of it. Every time it god better. Obviously by now, the 48h period had long gone. I was more like two weeks after the deadline, mainly because I was working on it part time, after work, 3 or 4 hours a day, and you can only do so much.

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But still after those AI changes, it wasn’t working properly yet. I wanted to make it smarter. After another brainstorming session with pen and paper, I finally tweaked the algorithm to make it the way I wanted to. You can now have decent battles with it. It will lose, but also win. So far, from online gameplay and local testing, my analytics say that the AI wins above 60% of the times, so I’m ok with that. During that time, while I was trying to get the AI right, I kept changing the UI, textures and models. The images speak for themselves.

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Right now the game is ready to be published. Its maybe not as polished as I would like it to be, but I have to release it, get feedback, and then I’ll see what I’ll do with it. I’m already thinking of other games I want to make. This is my second ‘board’ game. This one has a new gameplay type, which is good, since I always try to make new gameplay on each game. So I’ll be releasing the game in the upcoming weeks, hopefully this will get some players. At least more than my previous one.

October Challenge.. Again!

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Last year I posted quite enthusiastly that I was going to participate in Ludum Dare’s october challenge, which is “Finish a game — Take it to market — Earn $1”.

Back when I posted that, I had just found was Unity3D was and was amazed of how quickly I could do game prototypes. As you may know, I’m developing Memtiles and although I would love to say that I’m really in this year, it might be complicated. Anyway, Ludum Dare’s October Challenge is up again, so go for it!

I’ve aimed the end of the month to release the game. If everything goes according to plan, I’m going to have all the artwork ready, music, and gameplay. Then I release it, and make a marketing plan to advertise it. So I might not be making my first $1 this month, but hey, at least I’ll be finishing my first game 🙂

PS: As soon as I have the final artwork, I’ll post some more screenshots. 🙂 I can already say that the games looks nothing like the Beta version. 🙂 Its much, much better 🙂

October

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Hello!

So in the past month, I’ve been progressing a lot in game development, mainly with XNA, making a 3D game using Kinect (you) as the game controller. Things weren’t easy. Mainly because I’m starting to think XNA sucks.

So, I’ve watched over 15hours of Unity Training form all over the web (3dBuzz), and found out that Unity is AWESOME! I am already working on a new game, with Unity + Kinect :), but that’s for work.

Now for me, next month, is October, and @LudumDare October means a new Challenge! So basically, make a game, publish it, make a dollar. Seems fair. 🙂

That pretty much sums it up. I’m gonna make a game, and try to monetize it 🙂

PS: Unity is awesome. <3