Monday, March 26, 2018

#LowRezJam 2017 - Post Mortem

Seeing as it's been longer than 6 months ago, and I've had significant time to reflect, it's probably time to do the post-mortem for this game. Around August I was both extremely busy and extremely frustrated and wanted something small I could complete and get some satisfaction from. By sheer coincidence, a new #LowRezJam had started around the same time. I'd made Shogun Assassin, my most successful jam game, at the first #LowRezJam. The jam had already been going for a week when I started, but I still had about a week (including 2 sets of weekends), so I was confident I could get something out. 

That something was "50yd. Fight!!". You can play it here.

As with the previous #LowRezJam, the only rule is that you have to make a game that fits a tiny resolution. While the first jam was 32 x 32 pixels, this jam had increased that to 64 x 64 pixels. Theme, engine and anything else is left to developer's choice.

I can't remember exactly why I was in a mindset to make a tower defense game, but I think around that time I might have binged on a couple of random ones I picked up in a Humble Bundle. The genre definitely came before the theme/concept though. Originally enemies were going to be zombies, but I knew I needed to try a little harder. Thus, the premier evolution of ballsports as we know it was born. 

While I'm pretty happy with what I manged to do over a week (while still completing my regular work), I don't feel there's a need to write a novel over this. I'll summarise the rest of this post-mortem.

The Good 

- I've still got it! I was worried my ability to do rapid development had dulled, since it wasn't as much a part of my role at work anymore. However, I still feel like a completed a lot for the time I had and it was great being able to tweet visible progress (almost) nightly.

- Concept and theming was interesting and different. I'm unlikely to do anything more with this, but I do feel like there's a lot of potential that could be built upon. 

- There are some issues and design quirks, but otherwise this is pretty complete and feature packed for a weeks worth of work. There are four deadly turrets and four unique enemies, built-in instructions and intro/end screens.

The Bad

- The core loop is kind of broken. While having 12 quarters was intentional (as per normal football rules), it ends up looping back around forever. I was hoping the procedural generation for enemy waves would eventually end up making enemies too hard to kill, but...

- I had no time to really balance things. The turrets themselves are somewhat balanced and have their own unique strength and weaknesses, but the upgrade system effectively breaks that. The upgrade system itself is pretty poorly implemented and hard to describe to players. Looking back on it I wish I had just taken it out, even if it did mean an upper limit to how far players could get and less strategy.

- The pathing system does some crazy things. Initially, I was pretty happy that I managed to learn pathing in GameMaker Studio in a night or two, but the basic system has some kinks in it that can cause some wacky behaviour. It's still playable, but if I had the time I might have tried writing my own pathing algorithms instead. 

- No sound. No time.

- Saddest of all, I broke the one rule of the Jam: things don't always match the 64 x 64 pixel resolution. I had noticed GMS doing some weird sub-pixel placement when spraying blood early on, I didn't end up fixing all of it. I baffled how it happened at all, but it's still disappointing. 

The Ugly

Keeping track of time was the last thing on my mind for this jam. Based on my twitter history though:

Night 1 & 2 - Pathing, spawning, turret placement
Night 3 - Enemy damage & gore, turret sensors & firing
Night 4 - Waves, money, health, UI
Night 5 & 6 - New turret and enemy type
Night 7 - Sprites & animation
Night 8 & 9 - Title & end screens, instructions, UI uplift
Night 10 - New enemies, new turrets, general polish

A Fistful of Dollars

I'm happy with what I made for this jam, but I am a little disappointed in the resulting scores. I've obviously got to take the low score for sound on the chin, but I don't think the sub-pixel placement was really that noticeable. There were a lot of great entries for this Jam, so I'm OK with not breaking into the top 50, but general lack of reviews is another thing that was kind of disappointing.

For next time:
- Be sure to add something sound-wise.
- Maybe make something that's quicker to complete. Game Jam's aren't the time to be looking for value via quantity.
- Maybe it was sports/strategy that stopped people from trying the game? Maybe using a title screen instead of gameplay in the entry thumbnail had a negative effect too? Gore seems to be fine though. Many of the top entries were violent/bloody.
- Maybe just make a platformer... That seems to be the evergreen choice.

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