Here is a post-mortem of my #LD32 entry called Weapon Regulator. Your are sent to a battlefield, and your mission is to seize any unconventional (i.e. illegal) weapon that you'll see. You are neutral, so the soldiers won't hurt you, but beware of the stray bullets!
It's my third Ludum Dare, and the most challenging one for me so far! All in all, I've been able to work 23h on the game during the weekend, which is more than my previous entries (18h and 20h). I've been working with Flash, Photoshop, AS3SFXR, and cgMusic/GXSCC. Here is how I roughly spent the weekend:
Day 1: idea + gameplay prototype
I live in Europe (France), where the compo starts at 3:00 in the morning. Usually, I sleep and discover the theme in the Saturday morning when I woke up. But this time, as the compo hopefully took place during a vacation week, I couldn't resist and stayed up late to discover the theme. My initial reaction was "meh": I found it quite limited and it didn't inspired me at all. Anyway, I went to bed with the secret hope that "sleeping over it" will help me to have original ideas in the morning. I did have a lot of ideas, but none of them that convinced me really, or ideas that were way too ambitious for my current skills and the limited time frame.
I usually enjoy using the theme in an original way, but this time I had a very hard time to do it. I needed about 2 more hours to stick to the one idea I liked the most (or I hated the less):I wanted to make a game about "weapons" where the player wouldn't be using one. I then went to the "Geneva convention" angle: the player has to collect "weapons stated has unconventional" by politicians. And, as politicians often change their mind, the "weapons convention" change regularly, to make your job of spotting unconventional weapons harder! :)
With this idea in mind, I spent about 12 hours working on a gameplay prototype, trying different weapons, movement, goals, ways to make you feel like you are on an actual battlefield, and designing a set of "weapons convention" with an increasing difficulty curve. In the end I got this very ugly but already enjoyable prototype:
After several tries, I choose to split a game session in two "parts": for the first 60 seconds, you can't be hurt. As you discover the game, you can then focus on the "spotting & collecting weapons" mechanic. At 60 seconds, the first fire weapon (a gun) appears on the battlefield, and the player can now be injured, so an "avoid the bullets" mechanic is added to the core gameplay. Originally, you could be hurt if you tried to seize melee weapons when soldiers were fighting each other. But I finally decided it was to complex for players discovering the game, and I cut all code related to this aspect.
Day 2: graphics and sound
With a working prototype in hand, the second day was the time to work on the visual and audio aspects of the game. These are my weak points, and I'm trying to improve them over time (especially on the graphics side). Due to my limited skills and time available (but also out of personal taste), I chose to go with a "pixel art" style. I drew a single sprite for each weapons / character, and to save time I then animated these sprites using "tween animations" directly into Flash. Here is a sprite-sheet of the main active objects in the game:
While it isn't much, drawing and animating all those elements (+ misc graphics and various GUI screens) took me... 7 hours of work! As I said, graphics are one of my weaknesses...
It also meant that I had about 4h30 to work on audio, which is more than I usually do. One of my personal challenge for this compo was to try to add some music into the game. None of my previous entries had music, so I wanted to do it this time. As I have zero music composition skills, I choose to use cgMusic, a music generator. It can produce very nice result when coupled with the GX-SCC synthetiser. I've been inspired to use this tool after playing the wonderful Tightrope Theatre by Adventure Island, which has an incredible music soundtrack created with these two tools.
But having a good tools and using it wisely are two different things. I spend about 2 hours toying with cgMusic, only to produce quite ear-tearing music tracks. The best result I was able to get was a 17 seconds loop. But I feared that people might find playing a 2 minutes game with 17 second of music looping too annoying, so, as the clocks was nearing the "end of compo" time, I made a strange decision: I decided not to loop the music, and only use it at the beginning of the game. I'm still unsure about whether it was a good or bad idea.
Anyway, spending so much time on the music left me with too few time to create as many sounds as I wanted. It also meant I had to rush through the "finishing touches" stage. While I usually spent the last couple of hours polishing the game, this time I weren't able to do it for as long as I wanted (for example, I couldn't add in screen shake or nuke weapons). Hopefully, so far, it doesn't seem that the game suffer from balancing issues :)
What went wrong
- Music: cgMusic is a great tool, but I wasn't able to use it the way I would. Even if I suck at creating music, I think it would have been better to use a "tracker-like" tool, than spending hours tweaking random seeds in this program. Next time, I'll try to use Bosca Ceoil, for better results I hope! :)
- Time management: I spent too much time on music for a unsatisfying result. It was also a mistake to stay up late to discover the theme at 3:00 am with the hope of having a better idea - I had too much ideas and it was difficult to choose one in the end. Next time, I'll do like my previous LD: have a good night sleep and discover theme in the morning.
What went right
- Gameplay / Idea: The comments I've received so far on the game page are quite positive about the originality and playability of the game. I'm actually quite happy about how the game turned out - the many hours spent on tweaking the gameplay prototype weren't wasted in the end :)!
Even if I had to rush things at the end of the compo and had some disappointments, I'm actually happy to have been able to finish this game in time. I didn't liked my idea that much at the beginning, but in the end it seems that the game is quite enjoyable. In the comments, people who have rated it seems to enjoy the original idea, and have fun playing it, which is the greatest reward I could ever hope for! :)
If you hadn't already tried it, please click here to play Weapon Regulator and tell me what you think of it!