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  LD48 Postmortem 05:21 PM -- Tue May 16, 2006  

It's all the rage, so I thought I'd do a quick postmortem of my last LD48 entry, Wee Ninja.

First of all, you should know my time zone, as it's very significant in how I lay out my LD48 process. The theme gets announced at 8pm on a Friday, then I have all day Saturday and until 8pm Sunday to do it. Not really by any particular plan, I always divide up my work according to this (although I believe it used to be 6pm all around, only this latest was 8pm).

Day 1: Thinkin'
Day 1 is very short. I go to bed around 10pm usually, sometimes more like 11 during these contests, so it's just a couple hours. I don't even start up the compiler, there's no point. I spend it thinking. I spend quite a while in bed doing the same. This contest, I had to do a lot of thinking, because I had no idea for the theme, Swarms. In the end, I couldn't come up with anything really innovative, so I just went with the idea of 'cloning' the game I had been playing fairly obsessively, Dynasty Warriors. In that game, you run around hacking huge hordes of soldiers to bits. It's very fun, because you can sweep your sword/spear/whatever across a whole group of guys and they all fall down at once. I wanted to capture that same fun of totally dominating a horde of weaklings.

Because of all the endless chatter in the IRC room before the contest, mostly about the Wii, I quickly made that connection - I would make a game where you were fighting to be the first to get one of the very few Wiis shipped on launch day (inspired by so many past screwed-up console launches). It was not until I was making graphics on Day 2 that I decided you'd be a ninja. With the 'story' in place, I came up with my second major element. I got an image in my head of the player tossing their Wii up in the air (stop snickering), beating a group of guys senseless, then catching it and running on as they lay on the ground around him. That would be my 'cool moment' that the game was built to put you in. I don't think I've ever developed a game around a moment like that, but I've heard of people doing it, and I was picturing it so clearly, that it seemed a good plan.

Day 2: Crankin'
On the second day, I get up at 6ish (which is normal for me, I really don't tend to move stuff around for LD48 - 48 hours is actually much more time than I need, if I know I'm not going to be making a truly complete product, and it would be too draining and ineffective to work more), and immediately pop on the IRC, which is the most important part, and then fire up the compiler and lay down the basics. In an hour, I've got the project all set up and the classic "black screen that you can press ESC to exit". Every one of my entries begins in exactly that way.

The first half or so of this day is spent throwing down the core of everything. I move on from the black screen to a tile map (maps created in paint shop pro as simple bitmaps), then to a guy on that tile map which you can move around. After that, I fiddle with how he moves around for a while until it feels good. Play control is always the #1 priority for me. How it feels to move the guy around is totally fundamental to how the game feels to play. I don't like just having "if you push left, you move 2 pixels left" - there's got to be inertia and weight and friction.

Once that's down, it's a guarantee that I now don't like what I'm looking at, since it's just temp art. I immediately can't stand it anymore, and spend most of the rest of the day creating artwork and getting it into the game.

The last bit of the day is turning that stuff into a real game. Because this game has martial arts stuff, the player control was a little more complicated, since I had to set up the combo you could do and people getting stunned and knocked around, doing animated moves, and all that. But there was that, and making enemies move around, making things collide, and finally putting in getting hurt and hurting things. Oh, and the other stuff about picking up Wees (as they are known in the game), dropping them, getting them knocked out of your hands, and that stuff. So by the end of day two, I have something playable, but not really a game - no goals, just a level that starts up when you start the game, and you play it. It's completely done in terms of gameplay, just nothing around that gameplay - no winning or losing, no levels, etc.

Day 3: Cleanin'
The last day then is for turning that core of game into the full deal. It's a bit of a blur, but I made the different levels, implemented fonts and made those and put them in (I always postpone the fonts a lot...), made winning and losing possible. Then finally towards the end, I get around to actually putting in sound (always the thing I procrastinate on most), and menus. Seeing I had many hours left, I began implementing what I had thought up while laying in bed the night before - special abilities you can unlock. I knew that'd be cool and would make it feel a lot more like a real game instead of just a demo. Those were pretty easy to slap in. I also put in the feature of time slowing down when you throw a Wee, and voila. Game over. I was done about 4 hours early, and definitely ready for a break.

I took a few walks and watched two movies during the course of the 48 hours as well. I always take a lot of breaks and leisurely meals, because I need that to step back and collect myself. I think it's more productive. In the end, we have:

It was fun to play! I was quite worried about all the issues with making a 'fighting' game, but it panned out and felt solid. The 'cool moment', even in slow motion, was not particularly cool at all in the game. In my head, it was like a scene out of the Matrix. In the game, it was just a flailing of invisible limbs. The slo-mo of the sound was cool, though.
The subject matter worked out well and made for something that people did express amusement at (always good to play up the things they were joking about right before the contest!). I really regret not coming up with any kind of new and innovative idea. That's what I do these for - an opportunity to try out something crazy and unique, and see how it works. It was still fun to make, at least.
After the last couple LD48s, I was worried I just couldn't hack it anymore, so the fact that I released a finished, and I think very polished, game was a good thing. It felt good to know that I can still actually finish things... at all! I definitely didn't capture the feel of Dynasty Warriors in the least. It's fun to knock down the big groups of shoppers, but it just doesn't have the kick that Dynasty Warriors does. One part of this is that there's really nothing interesting to do - you just keep pounding the fire button until they all fall down.
The design of the characters - weebles, pretty much - came out exactly as I wanted, and was pretty amusing to see. In case you didn't know, it's a play on how Nintendo claims that the i's in Wii represent the people playing the system. My people looked exactly like i's. I totally failed on the tile art... there are a bunch of tiles included that are actually my original temp tiles (check out those lovely cash registers!), blown up to double size, since the game originally used half-size tiles. I had tons of time to fix it, I just didn't notice them anymore. I had also wanted to go to '3D' tiles - making the objects stick up so things could be behind them, and for example have the shelves be facing various directions. That, I did remember, but I was just tired of working on the thing!
Putting in unlockables was great. It made the game much better, and made it feel much more polished (I know that boosted my Production scores way up!). I will certainly try to do stuff like that again. I reinvented many wheels (well, not so much reinvented as copied my old work, generally). I've got to get a library set up of the stuff I need to make games! It would also be nice if I upgraded to the latest version of PTK. This game, like several previous gamelets, uses OpenGL, and so a lot of people can't run it. The newer PTK uses OpenGL only on the Mac, allowing you to use either DirectX or OpenGL on the PC. So it would've been much better. I wanted to switch near the end of the contest, but the newer version changes way too much stuff. It would've broken everything. I need to get set up with that!
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