A Quick Retrospective on Whatever Just Happened

I think I’m far away enough, now, and have gotten most of the changes to the game done, that I can talk just a bit about Why Am I Dead in a post-mortem kind of way.

To condense it all down to one sentence, I think my main takeaway from Why Am I Dead is that changing a game’s scope and time-line in mid-development can have some negative drawbacks in the long-term.

The importance of having a good plan.

What do I mean by that?  Well, let me start by saying this: Why Am I Dead was an idea that I came up with in order to motivate myself to get my feet wet in Actionscript 3.  To repeat myself, and just to be really clear: this was a game that I meant to make as practice.  I took a couple days to think up the idea, I figured I’d code an engine very quickly that demonstrated the idea, I’d put it online and then move on to my first ‘real’ Flash game.

Obviously it didn’t turn out that way.  The game’s timeline went from one week to roughly three months.  During that span I repeatedly made off-the-cuff decisions to spend more time on this thing or that thing, and then to try and actually market my game, and so on.  Of course, had I not made those decisions, the game would be virtually unplayable in its final state; but it also created the sense in my mind that I was taking far too long with the game.  I had not mentally prepared myself to be working on the project for that long, and so I started to feel serious burn-out, and as if my game would never be finished…even though over all I still didn’t end up taking that long developing it.

Last 10% is actually 90%, etc etc

I know, I know.  Burn out, on a three-month long project?  What kind of sissy am I?  But, again, because I started out thinking the game would take a week or, at worst, two weeks, it was hard to convince myself to keep going and see the project through to the end.

Here’s one particular manifestation of why this was a bad thing.  Since I had intended mainly to make a game engine that demonstrated a neat idea I had, I considered things “finished” when I, well, completed the game engine.  But then there were numerous times, usually due to scripted events for the story, that I had to add some functionality that I hadn’t anticipated.  Since in my mind I was ‘done’, rather than take the time to implement it in a general/safe way, I threw on some duct-tape.  With my limited play-testing, there was no way this wasn’t going to blow up in my face.

The result of this half-hearted approach was very apparent when it hit the major flash portals.  I had raised the bar for the game in all aspects except for polish and QA, and so the release was quite rough, and unfortunately not the best display of my programming chops.

This wasn’t really a case of being unrealistic in regards to how long it would take to finish my game. This was a case of changing what game I wanted to make, halfway through making it.  So, for my next project, I will have a particular goal for my game in regards to its functionality and overall polish, and I will do the best I can to stick to that goal.

Of course, overall, I’m ecstatic regarding the reception of Why Am I Dead, even though there’s plenty of room for progress.  I never ever ever ever ever expected a Flash game that was this text-heavy to get so much attention, and I definitely did not anticipate people to interact with the story as much as they did.

So, what’s next?  The idea of a sequel is extremely tempting, especially given how many people commented that the game mechanic would work better as a longer and deeper experience (which is exactly what I’d love to make!).  So, while it’s still a bit too soon to say for sure, a “Why Am I Dead 2” is very plausible.

Guys, you don’t understand, it wasn’t supposed to be that good of a game!

So, GDC China just ended.  I had a great time, met some great people, and listened to some fantastic talks.

But that’s enough of that (at least, for now).  Because, you see, the first morning of the conference was the day MochiAds accepted my game Why Am I Dead.  It was also the day I was allowed to put my game on the bigger flash portals.  I just sort of did this without any real expectations for anything, except for maybe a transient increase in ad impressions.  Mentally, I had already finished the game and made it public.  This was just a little footnote.

I was so, so, so stupidly wrong.

With such a promising mechanic, I hope WAID ends up being more of a proof of concept for a bigger project… As a standalone game, Why Am I Dead? has flaws, but it’s still plenty fun enough to justify sinking 30 minutes to an hour into it…


Clearly at the moment, the developer has a greater amount of skill at constructing an effective mystery than depicting it in Flash. However, it is an ambitious, atmospheric work reminiscent of Hotel Dusk or Colonel’s Bequest, and it has quite the killer ending. This marks Peltast Games as a designer to watch out for in the future.


It’s certainly not perfect, but Why Am I Dead? is brilliant enough to be worth a few confused hours this late Sunday evening.


  • It got the daily first spot on Newgrounds on 11/17/12 with about 9,500 views
  • …and is continuing quite healthily on the “Popular Games” section with, as of now, over a 4 star rating
  • Also got included on FreeIndieGam.es, a web-blog that I am a big fan of

I don’t know how all of the above looks to people who are not me.  After all, a lot of the praise is qualified with good criticism, and there are Daily winners on Newgrounds every, well, every day.  So, perhaps none of this shocks or awes you, the audience.

As for myself, however, well.  I.  It’s just.  Ahem.  Forgive me as I pretend that I’m on Tumblr for a moment.

There’s a lot more to say on the game as a whole and I may write up a post-mortem in the near future.  As for now, there’s still a lot of work to be done on the game regarding bugs and APIs and whatnot and I should be doing all that and not posting on my blog!

Oh by the way I’m in another country now

So at the end of my last post I mentioned that I had to put my li’l prototype on hold to “handle some real-life stuff”.  Well, by that I meant travel to Shanghai to attend GDC China.

Some “real-life stuff”

Since I haven’t talked even a little about the things going on in my life, aside from the results of me slamming on the keyboard over and over, this may seem a bit unusual.

In reality, it’s been my hope for some time to get a job in China, outside of the obvious path of teaching English; I’ve received very, very mixed feedback on how feasible this goal is (ranging from “it should be extremely easy”, to “are you out of your mind”), so I’ve decided to just, well, dive in, and see for myself what happens.

Over the next several days, things are gonna be real hectic and crazy.  Suffice it to say I won’t be blogging then.  Even past GDC, though, I won’t really have time to work on my side-stuff for a while, as I’ll be in 100% networking/travel mode.  So, I thought, instead of being just another boring ol’ dev-blog, I’d fill up the time by actually having opinions on things.  And then writing about them.

I know, I know.  It’s a big step.  But I think I’m ready.

A Hopefully Intriguing Prototype

First off real quick, after work with a graphic designer I know, I have a new logo which you’ll see emblazoned at the top of this blog.  I’m quite happy with the result!  With this new logo in hand, I redesigned my home website once again.  The results, before and after:

The result is a brighter design with way more space, and a quite sexy logo if I do say so myself!  I also used a bit of JQuery in this version of the site, which was nice to dabble in.

The main thing I’d like to talk about in this post, though, is that I put up a game prototype on my website.  I’ve been working on it for about a month and a half alongside preparing Why Am I Dead for its release into the wild.

You can find it here!

Of course the big issue with it is that there’s no tutorial, so it may take some patience to actually understand what’s going on.  I wrote at length about the rules and how they work in that page, so I’ll not do the same thing here.  Instead, I’ll talk more about the technical side of things, and why this prototype took over a month to make.  Sure, it doesn’t have immediate visual appeal, but that’s not what prototypes are about.  And frankly, I did some stuff that I’m quite satisfied with.

1: Menus in menus in menus in menus

The game is turn-based, and, as with most turn-based games, it centers around picking from a range of different options which are on a menu.  Some actions may have further options related to those options, which require some other menu.  Think about typical RPGs.  You can attack, defend, cast a spell, and use an item.  But if you select Spell, what spell do you pick?  And then, who or what is the target of that spell?

In my case, the details get way, way more complicated.  For instance, the actions you can choose from are often restrained by temporary effects.  Get hit in the legs, and now you can’t pick Move or Dash.  Even more, you can select two actions per turn and sometimes these effects will go away in between those two actions, thus freeing up new actions mid-turn.  So, the result is that there will be menus in menus in menus, appearing and disappearing, switching around and changing all the time.

One of my main priorities was to make this as easy and intuitive to program as possible, so that when game mechanics inevitably get changed as the game is refined, actually implementing those changes is painless and straightforward.  To that end, I think I’ve succeeded; just about any change in the player menu, no matter how big or small, can be accomplished in several lines of code on the client-side.

Good thing none of this is confusing!

2: Customization!

After I got the basic game mechanics in, I decided to implement something I’d only been toying with beforehand; full equipment customization!  That is to say, every piece of equipment or weaponry would be represented on screen in battle, and move alongside your character when he attacks and defends, and so on.

The thing that made this a bit more ambitious for me is that I don’t use Flash Professional, or really any tools that might make this easier; I am working in FlashDevelop 100% of the time.  Still, it was pretty straight-forward for the most part, if more time-consuming.  One of the most vexing issues, to be honest, was making sure that the equipment had the correct rotation and positioning when I flipped the bitmap for the opponent.

And again, I’m pretty satisfied with the results.  The work behind making new equipment, as well as swapping between pieces of equipment, are trivial.  And though the prototype doesn’t have flashy animations, the poses behind each action are convincing enough to make this effect, at least to me, visually impressive.

Yes, it’s kinda choppy. Yes, vectors would rotate better. But bitmaps have more charm!

So that’s about it.  I’d love any feedback on my li’l prototype, since it’s still in an early and flexible stage.  I’ll actually be taking a break on this project in order to handle some real-life stuff and other things I’ve been juggling around, but I definitely like the direction this is going in, and fully plan to return to it in the future.  With a tutorial, an equipment screen and some kind of metagame, I think this could be a really deep and fun game.

My first game launch, as it were

I got off extremely lucky compared to many other North-easterners regarding Hurricane Sandy.  In my area there were power outages and the occasional tree falling on some poor sod’s car, but no floodings or fires or what have you.  I wasn’t even one of the people who lost power, I just lost internet for several days, and I’m pretty grateful of that.

And not long after my internet returned, my first game is now online!


As my first game’s launch, this is kinda how I feel right now:


The image is taken from this article written by Derek Yu, which mirrors my thoughts and feelings on finishing a game in a myriad of ways.  I mean, I had kinda already finished Why Am I Dead a long long time ago, but only sort of finished it.  This time, I finished finished it.  And it feels good.  Oh, here’s another image from the same article that seems appropriate:

feels good man

Anyway.  With all this excitement, it’s pretty much impossible for my standards of success not to be met.

“This game is too short!”  == My game left people wanting more.  Success!

“This game confused me.”  == My game got people thinking.  Success!

“This game was impossible to beat.”  == My game was ambitious.  Success!

“I absolutely hate this game and I want to injure you.”  ==  My game, uh…created an emotional response.  SUCCESS!

…On a more serious note, I’m looking forward to getting feedback and growing as a developer/designer from the responses I get.  And of course, other projects are in the works, one of which I’m very overdue on talking about!