Dwarf Game First Week’s Post-Mortem

Fellow indie developer talked me into doing a short entry for the Ludum dare and I got this tactical–dwarf-zombie-alpha-game-thing done.

This was last week, and thought I would do some sort of reflection about it. Sort of like “post-mortem” for the first week (but rest quite assured that I shall update the game a bit) here’s some thoughts about it.

Getting things done

  • First of all, I think it was a great idea to participate. I feel I got to do something totally different, and since there was a time constraints (bit over one week when I started), it was good to know how much time it would require to do.
  • I was quite surprised how much I could get done. I try to list some things I did for the game: character art, cut scene handlers, simple “level” builder, tile art, gui system for buttons and texts, gameplay mechanism with different actions, special powers for several characters, background story… and probably something I forget. Okay – stuff is simple and there’s also missing important things like sound & music or “new game” button… but the barebones version – the gameplay (with some artistic touch) is there.
  • …and this was a lot taking into account that I was (1) doing contract work and (2) also helping mom take care of the baby – and I was spending (3) nights coding. Drunk more coffee too.
  • And, also made 11 sales (some even from people I don’t know, heh)

Customer feedback always surprises
I’m waiting to get more feedback, but from what I’ve already got – I’m positively surprised about the things people say.

  • The intro screen got praise couple of buyers. One said certain one-liners saying that “I was laughing so hard that I couldn’t read the next 2-3 lines of dialog.”. Other said “intro was funny”. Nice to hear that.
  • Combat was said to be hard/odd/something.

Both of these surprised me. I did spend some time to fine tune the intro and thought that it was a fun touch – small thing that helps give purpose for the actual gameplay. It wasn’t planned, and didn’t anticipate that the cutscene was thought so nice. Now I’m reasoning that I’m definitely going to add more lines into it (and I already had ideas about having different cutscenes in the beginning so that you would not skip the intro after seeing it once).

It also reminded me why making games is fun. It’s not about getting money. It’s about providing experiences to others. And when I heard this stuff about the intro screen, that alone made the whole project a success in my books.

Also, I did anticipate that combat system is different, but it looks like that people were expecting that “when I click attack, the guy attacks and then the next guy attacks. Hey, why cannot my char attack twice in a row? And where’s hitpoints?”

(Interestingly enough, I started thinking: “maybe I should do a dialogue based adventure game instead, and just ditch the combat” ;))

The gameplay mechanism is taken from the board gaming world and the combat is supposed to be different. You actually need to plan your moves, and the characters will die from one hit. I did write a brief FAQ that explains how the combat works, since due time constraints I just couldn’t do any tutorial or help on how the combat works. After you read the FAQ, things make much more sense. At least they should.

Third interesting thing – assumption of mine – is that I’ve got the feeling that “turn based” thing is bit less cool that “realtime”. My approach came from board gaming world, and I feel that people like more when things are realtime. I have no solid facts to prove this, but just a general feeling about this after hearing some words about the combat system. But, maybe this is not true.

Payment system
I made a system that I call “gamepal”. It’s basically bunch of PHP + SQL code + instructions that make it so that people can order game using paypal, and they get a download link. And their customer data goes to your SQL db and things are good. When I take a bit more time, there’s some chances that this will become public and help you get paypal payments for your game. The code is not clear & easy-to-use yet, so no point to release yet – sorry.

What next
The biggest thing I was reminded about that doing a game (prototype) does not need to take so much time. When I focus on the essential stuff, I can get stuff done. This was a “small project” and I approached this as such. And got tons of done.

With these lessons in mind, I’m going to take a good look on my The Infected game and apply what I learned here. One thing I feel really important that I feel that it would be good to prepare a playable demo and re-think certain issues and see what would be good way to get more visible stuff done and for people to test.

With all this being said, I am going to listen to the feedback I get from the people who purchased the dwarf game (funny how it still has no name). I do plan to draw bit more stuff to make the game look prettier (there’s so much plain black now that I don’t like it), write some more story, and add certain missing features (based on feedback)… and get it out again so that it resembles a real game. Nothing too fancy, but something to make it feel good enough.

Also, like said, I’m going to re-think my current approach on The Infected and who knows – perhaps I simply do my own “ludum dare” and nail the bastard’s first version out in a week.

Juuso Hietalahti


  1. First, thanks for your original post “Make a Game, Sell 1 Copy”. Although I read the challenge back in September, I didn’t get involved. Your blog helped push me over the edge of indecisiveness.

    Second, thanks for the post-mortem. I’m a big believer in them and getting your insights is invaluable.

    Because I ended up starting late, I’ve decided to treat the challenge like it was issued for November. Additionally, I’m considering a different model for the payments (http://bit.ly/cXCGDq).

  2. Yeah, I’m timid about promotion currently. I’m not happy with where it is and want to fix it up more before a lot of people see it.

  3. @Rob: It’s bunch of php+sql code + paypal. I’ll see if I get it updated a bit for somebody to check out at some point.

    @Jake: Cheers. I’m looking forward seeing your feedback on the game ;)

  4. Dang. You need to make a vid.

    Also, it’s good to link to the game + ask people to buy it. ;)

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