December 19, 2009

Topsy Turvy

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Last weekend I made the game Topsy Turvy for Ludum Dare 16. It’s a one-button platformer with gravity switching, and it’s HARD. Here’s the post-mortem:

What went right:

  • The concept. I’ve had the idea in my head for a while, and I’m very glad that I used the competition as an excuse to make it rather than forcing myself to think of a game idea inspired by the theme. And the game ended up pretty much how I imagined, so that’s good too.
  • Inkscape as level editor. AS3 has some rather lovely XML-parsing abilities, so reading the SVG file was surprisingly simple. It’s very much hard-coded to the specific output that (my copy of?) Inkscape generates, but it should be fairly easy to fix if it ever stops working.
  • Abstract graphics. I am not an artist, so I decided to save time and just draw everything out of lines. I think the results fit the game fairly well, even if they’re not actually good.

What went wrong:

  • The goal. I added the collectables to provide an incentive to get to the more difficult areas and also as extra landmarks for getting your bearings. Unfortunately, with time running out and no win conditions implemented, I made the decision that you would win if you could collect all of them. In hindsight, I should probably have added a level exit instead.
  • Difficulty. The game is ridiculously hard. I knew I wanted to have some areas which would be tricky to get to, as a challenge, but when the goal became “collect everything”, those areas suddenly became non-optional.
  • First day motivation. I wanted to have all the basic game mechanics done by the halfway point, but I was just procrastinating like crazy. I’d come to the conclusion that it just wasn’t technically interesting enough to hold my attention, but then on Sunday morning I added death and respawning. Suddenly my game idea was in front of me and I could start constructing devious routes through the level, and I spent the rest of the day excited by it.
  • The name. It actually changed name twice between starting and submitting, and I’m still not really happy. Currently thinking about maybe renaming it “Jump-Zap-Flip”.

Lessons learnt:

  • Get death/respawn implemented earlier in future
  • Think of a win condition as part of the design process
  • Don’t make ridiculously hard challenges required to complete the game

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