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.

All’s well that ends well

Today, “Why Am I Dead”  is locked in at 100% complete.  It isn’t currently online because I’m trying to get a sponsor for the game, and releasing it to the public would totally defeat the point of that; however, it means that I can totally shift my energy onto other projects and endeavors.  I can also say that I’ve completed, from start to finish my first real game!  Mandate was a far more involved project, but at the end I can’t really say with confidence that it’s a game; at least, not in its current state.  So this is an important step for me.

I’ve spent the past month or so polishing the game, fixing things that bugged me or (more often) problems that I heard from player feedback.  Even so, I feel that there’s tremendous room for improvement; in the writing, in the gameplay, in the music, and so on.  And while part of me is tempted to spend more time fixing all the flaws I can see, the lager part of me is just tired of working on the game, to be honest.  Really, some of the issues are simply the result of the fact that on the outset, I wasn’t planning on making a game of this quality; I was doing a quick experimental game, and so I didn’t use a great amount of foresight with the game mechanics and writing.  So, if I want to satisfy my impulse to fix these things, I’d rather simply create a more well thought out sequel than endlessly postpone this game.

So, while I can’t put up a link for the game, here’s a trailer that I made mainly for fun!

Some other stuff I’ve been doing.  I took part in the 24th Ludum Dare competition!  It was my first one, and given that fact I feel that I held up pretty well overall.  If you aren’t familiar with it, well first of all, why not, and second of all, it’s a competition to create a game based on a given theme in 48 hours.

For my submission I made the weird and stubborn decision to just go on a clean slate.  No frameworks.  No old code from WAID.  While it definitely hindered my progress overall, I have to say that I actually enjoyed this decision.  Surely, I ‘wasted’ a lot of time programming simple things like collision detection, but I got to return to doing these basic tasks with a lot more experience in AS3 than when I first did them, and so in some cases did them more cleanly or efficiently.  There’s also something oddly satisfying about knowing that I physically typed out every little thing in the game in only two days.

The end product is admittedly ugly, obtuse, and unforgiving.  I literally did not open a single other program outside of FlashDevelop; it’s all just code.  No bitmaps, no tilemap editor, no sounds, just code.  And no instructions either.

You can play the game HERE, but if you actually want to try and enjoy the experience I would highly recommend looking at my LD page first, which attempts to make what’s going on in the game a bit more clear.

And lastly, about a month ago or so I had mentioned starting up a strategy game.  While a lot of my spare time has gone to finishing up WAID, I’ve chipped in here and there and have progressed a  little ways.

The first main thing that I want to do is create a map-editor for a polygon-based map.  This is something that I’ve seen people suggest for Risk-style web games constantly, but rarely see implemented.  And as a feature it holds a ton of promise.  So, I decided that I’d make it the first thing that I do.

A boon which I hadn’t actually anticipated for the project was this: I have escaped the TYRANNY OF TILES!

I’m done with tiles for now

Now that I think about it, the last three games I’ve worked on have been dominated by tiles.  In WAID’s case it isn’t quite as visually obvious since I go out of my way to break the grid and use some non-tile collision detection, but it’s still dominated by tiles.  With the move to this strategy game, I get to program a whole different set of stuff and challenges.  For instance, last week I spent some time coding a triangulation algorithm so that you could draw any shape you wanted and then have a 100% accurate hit-test for clicking and dragging that shape around.  The result:

Not tiles!

I’m pretty happy with how the editor is coming along.  The fundamental concept of drawing provinces, moving them around, and creating links between them is done.  My next step is to add other functionality like deleting shapes, selecting multiple ones at once by clicking and dragging, and so on.  Then after I’ve gotten the editor to a more satisfactory place, I’ll be working on writing the map into a file stored locally on the player’s computer, and being able to read that map back into the game.