This last weekend I joined Ludum Dare along countless of fellow developers. This game jam is about making a game solo in 48 hours, creating code and art by yourself in that short span of time.
Here's My Little Metal Joint, a club simulator. You can play it here. If you are a rating Ludum Dare entries, you can find mine here :)
The theme was "Entire game in one screen", and I already had something thought for that theme but… when I woke up on Saturday and had a shower I changed ideas. So simulator it was (clearly a wrong choice, but we'll discuss this later).
I decided to do a HTML5 game, because I think right now it's the best choice for me for 2D games, since I can get anyone to play my games without too much hassle. I miss Ruby and Gosu, but Phaser is a great framework, and although I hadn't coded with it for long, I didn't have significant problems using it (the documentation and examples are great).
The days before the competition I had prepared an skeleton project, with some basic automation on it (by the way, this time I went for Gulp because I wanted to try it). The idea? To be able to start coding straight away. Plus the ability to build and deploy was great (I was able to show the WIP versions to some friends easily).
Saturday was all about coding. I ditched graphics, decided to settle for some basic HTML-based GUI (my regret is not investing time in making it pretty). The simulator runs in ticks, so I could code the whole game with no graphics, just log messages. The day was quite productive, I stayed up until 1AM or so, and then went to bed.
Sunday was about art and finishing. I woke up late because I needed to rest. Luckily for me, I can do somewhat decent programmer art while tired, so it was Wacom and Pixelmator time. I'm not as proficient in Pixelmator as I am in Photoshop, but Pixelmator has a license I can actually afford, so there it was.
I had lots of fun drawing pixel art, specially the bottles.
People was fun to draw too.
I was running out of time, so I didn't draw any animations, except for this rat (which I love).
After the sprites were made, I scaled them up 4x to keep that pixelated effect in a high resolution. I used Imagemagick with the nearest-neighbour resampling algorithm , since Pixelmator doesn't have it implemented:
convert s_rat.png -filter box -resize 400% rat.png
Then I started to integrate the art into the game… Was pretty painless, except for the fact that Phaser didn't allow sprites of the same group (aka "display list") to share the same Z, so I needed to re-order the sprite group manually whenever a new person was added to the crowd.
By the start of the evening I was ultra-tired and took a rest to watch Barça's game (where Messi pulled off a hat-trick!). And then… the classic panic attack of every game jam: "OMG THERE'S NO TIME WHAT I'M GOING TO DO". The issues I was dealing at the time were:
- Awful game-balancing.
- Lots of missing features, which I think were needed to make the game fun.
- No audio yet.
I decided to carry on and release an entry, no matter what. I coded the win and lose conditions, an intro screen and decided to leave the game settings as they were. At 1AM (competition ended at 3AM in Spain) I decided to put the only animation I had (the rat!) into the intro screen because I think it was cute.
And by 2AM, when I was submitting, I reviewed the compo rules and… found out that you were only allowed to use assets not created by you in the 72-hour jam, not the 48-hour compo. So I quickly ditched the background music track I grabbed from OpenGameArt and released a silent entry.
What went wrong
I was sick the full weekend and taking medicine. It made me way more tired than usual, and definitely was the reason I overslept. On the other hand, this made me stay home while we were having an amazing sunny weekend in Barcelona.
Genre choice. You see, I had this grand vision of having this pixelated, cute metal joint where you could do things such as hiring a band, send out flyers, choose the music, control the price of drinks and food… You can know that this was clearly way out of scope, but I was blinded with the vision of drawing Charlie Glamour in pixel art (which I couldn't do at the end!). The theme was perfect for a classic-style arcade game, and that is precisely a very good choice for a jam.
Not reading the rules. I wasn't worried about the music because I was convinced I could use any asset released with an open license… I was wrong and found out when I was about to submit! Which rendered my game to be audio-less, which sucks. Audio is a very important for any game.
Not having everything ready for the compo. I spent about 1 hour on Saturday morning buying the groceries I didn't have time to buy on Friday, plus looking for some notepad to sketch stuff but eventually couldn't find any.
What went well
My rule of "the moment you have fever, you are out". I was concerned about joining the compo while being sick, but since I had to remain indoors anyway… Having this "red line" agreed in advance with myself made me confident that I would not put myself in a worse condition.
No pizza, no alcohol, no red-bull, not too much junk food. It totally made me feel better than in other jams (even though I was sick!). I'm definitely banning pizza, beer and energy drinks from future jams I participate.
Having an skeleton project already made. Saved me at least a few hours because it also forced me to choose in advance which libraries and tools I was going to use.
Not worry about crappy code. It is obvious that in these competitions code is going to be awful and full of hacks. I. don't. care. If you are curious, you can take a look at the source in Github.
Pixel art! It was relatively quickly to create, I had an amazing time doing it and everybody seems to love it.
I finished. Yup, it is an unbalanced, crappy-GUI, silent game but it is something you can play and I made it all over a weekend while being sick. So I'm quite proud of it.
An amazing weekend to do crazy stuff and push myself to finish a mini-project. These jams are very good to experiment to get a motivation boost, because it makes you realise what you can accomplish in a short amount of time if you are really focused.
Please play and rate My Little Metal Joint!