Fail Fast…And I Forget The Rest

Just a quick post about my Ludum Dare 25 experience.  The theme this round was “You are the villain”, which pleasantly surprised me, since I was almost positive people would vote in “End of the World”, given the timing.

I really started to fall in love with my interpretation of the theme.
I really started to fall in love with my interpretation of the theme.

I can say, at least, that I came up with a solid game idea and implemented it in the space of 48 hours.  Unfortunately, as with last time, I don’t think that I can say I created a fun game in the space of 48 hours.  In this case, I created a text-based game that was too open-ended and didn’t have a strong enough text-parser to accept nearly enough player input.  The result was a game that basically asked you to guess a small set of key-phrases to proceed, and threw back most everything else with a standard “…I don’t understand.”

You can play the game here, if you at least want to know what I’m talking about below.

This was partially the result of an over-ambitious subversion of typical text-adventure design, as well as a failure to get any play-testing in before the deadline.  The typical text-based game involves issuing commands to the player involving physical objects.  The commands that are acceptable nearly always have to do with those objects that the designer introduces.  For instance, if the text game puts you in a room with a door, the designer may reasonably conclude that the player will try to interact with the door, in which case there are a small set of commands that can be anticipated.

In my game, you do not issue commands; you simply make statements, and with very little context.  The breadth of different inputs that can (and did) come to the players’ minds obviously dwarfed what I could predict by my lonesome, and as a result, the game was unfortunately more frustrating than fun.

Some of the very few commands that my game actually DID react to.
Some of the very few commands that my game actually DID react to.

The one nice thing about all of this, though, and the reason behind this post’s title, is that I got to botch this idea in only 48 hours, when I could easily imagine myself taking weeks to botch it.  I would have spent time creating all sorts of different levels for the game and different endings to the levels, and way more graphics, but would have still completely overestimated my ability to create a text-parser flexible and broad enough to be fun to interact with.

If I continue working on this, I’ll be able to go at it from a totally different and way more productive perspective, and I think the result will be far better.

Parting Comments on Why Am I Dead

I’ve been talking a lot about Why Am I Dead recently, mainly because I’m pretty sure 90% of my readership is now coming from people who played the game.  Of course, I’ve been doing other stuff this whole time, but before I move on to other things I want to comment on some of the most common comments/questions regarding WAID that I’ve gotten.

1. Are there alternate endings?

Yes and no.  When I was originally making the game I wanted to have at least two different endings.  However, I cut a lot of stuff out, so the original release only had one.  But after I saw this question repeatedly, I frantically whipped up an alternate ending somewhat similar to what I had been planning before.  So, yes, there are currently two endings to the game.

2. The end leaves so much unanswered!  Who’s the (spoiler)?  And what’s the (spoiler)’s (spoiler) all about?

This was partially because I rushed the ending.  But some things were intentionally left up to the player to figure out based on hints scattered through the game.  I’m not a fan of keeping people guessing for its own sake — generally everything that’s brought up has a canonical answer to it, and not some cheap “Ooh we’ll never know!

3. Why doesn’t the ghost influence people more, especially at the end?

I had always imagined that the ghost merely pushed people in more subtle ways, rather than completely possess them.  In hindsight, I didn’t communicate this to the player well enough.

4. Why don’t you remember why you’re dead?

You have just been turned from a living, breathing grown man into a floating piece of cytoplasm.  You don’t have a brain anymore.  Memory loss, to me, seems kind of inevitable.

5. The game was/is glitchy as hell!

Yeah, it was/is.  Sorry about that.  I think I got most of the major bugs by this point.  However, some portals may be using older versions of my game.

6. It should have been longer, or there should be a longer version of this concept!

Good news!  I very much plan to make a sequel that will be a longer version of this concept.