Never ever miss a Ludum Dare if you can help it. I missed #LD31, and I made damn sure I would make this one.
The theme: AN UNCONVENTIONAL WEAPON
Which is actually pretty fun. However – a confession – I went into this jam with a preconceived idea of what I wanted to make, and just kinda rolled with the theme. I wanted to make a mecha platformer, and mecha kinda fit “an unconventional weapon” (no not really, I know), so I just went with it and made:
(Easter egg: 2875 is a… visual pun on 2015. 8 looks like 0 and 7 looks like 1)
A visual post-portem
When I first got the riding in a mech mechanic going I was ecstatic:
And then I got the plough-through-the-civilians-if-you-were-running-in-a-mech mechanic :
Then I got to set up a bit of a level with a base of operations:
Slowly but surely, mission one, with mech destruction mechanics:
Eventually and finally, after the Compo period was over, I got to doing some art. so late!
The mechs made of cubes were only ever meant to be programmer art to be replaced later. But then I ran out of time and just animated them instead of upgrading them. And surprisingly, they turned out alright. Mecanim may be unwieldy, but it’s very very useful for doing things on the fly.
In retrospect, what went right:
- Going in with an idea of what to make. Having a goal is actually a good thing.
- Gameflow polish – I had a title screen, a completable game that had a start, a middle and an end, and a scoring system, and that’s quite valuable. Jam games without a feeling of progression are easily ignored.
- Visual polish – the mechs were made of cubes and was originally intended as placeholders, but they actually turned out pretty well once animated.
- Visual polish – a variety of particle effects made the game feel quite lively.
- Making an accessible single-player game as opposed to a multiplayer one that’s difficult to playtest.
- I’m getting better at Unity, so things went a lot quicker.
- Using an existing and open-source platformer controller (some may see this as cheating, but I really don’t see the point of re-inventing the wheel each time in a jam, I already made a horrendously messy platformer controller last jam.)
- I slept. About 3-4 hours each night, it made the waking hours that much more productive.
Annnnd what went wrong:
- Going in with an idea of what to make – My goal (make a mech platformer game) completely stifled creativity and I ended up with a bit of a limp, lifeless game thematically. Comparing my goal this time to the goal I had set for myself for the previous LD, this one was a bad idea.
- Overscoped. This is the number one killer of jam games. I fought this hard, but the fact remains I couldn’t make 48 hours and went into 72, and then STILL missed out on a lot of what needed to be in.
- Too many interdependent systems – this was a cascading domino set that fell like this:
I wanted mechs to be able to dash.
I wanted the dash to carry a penalty.
So, if you dash, you could accidentally stomp civilians and kill them.
So I gotta make civilians.
And of course criminals.
Where would there be civilians and criminals? A fucking huge sprawling city.
What do you do in a sprawling city?
Missions, of course.
What’s the point of getting into a mech if there’s only one?
Let’s make three.
What’s the point if they all do the same thing?
Give them abilities.
What’s the point of abilities?
Give missions variety, mechs match mission parameters.
Etc etc etc.
- In the end, all those systems intertwined too much, building them took forever, and changing one meant changing a whole bunch of others.
- No time to tweak and find the fun – this was a consequence of overscoping. Being too busy building interlocking systems.
- Intended to do a 48 hours compo entry. Had to “upgrade” to a 72 hour jam entry.
In the end, I think this was the least successful of my three Ludum Dares, despite having experienced up and having made much more stuff in the time allotted than ever before. Sigh.
Although, it has seen pretty positive responses on the concept and its prettiness, which is encouraging. I’ve always wanted to make the mecha platformer, and it seems to be something people want. I just need to settle into the mecha seats and find the fun in the mechanics.