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.

Huh… Pixel Art Animating = Tough

This guy has done some great pixel art like this TF2 dude collection.

I got inspiration to draw some art (while thinking of what I’ll plan to do next – Ludum dare messed up every plan I had – *cough*). Since I’ve never really tried to do any pixel art animation, I thought I would see if I could get that guy animated. (I really like that simplistic style).

I re-read this tutorial about pixel art animating and started testing if I could do a 2 frame idle animation.

I ended up with this:

Credits for the drawing goes Vic, I merely animated the chap)

That’s somewhat decent when viewed 32×32 resolution (for a 2-frame animation), but not sure what that really looks like. Nevertheless, I decided I would try do also walking animation.

I ended up with this 6-frame (4 unique frames) animations:

It’s not totally smooth, but better than the idle animation… and I’m quite happy with the results since I’ve pretty much never done any animations.

This took couple of hours (of course I was learning / reading a bit while doing this).

After I was finished, I really started to realize how doing animations can take tons of work (when each frame gets drawn). I mean… just imagine how much time this dragon animation must have taken to draw. (That’s like… amazing – unbelievably amazing)

Animations can bring objects into life… but thinking ways to not to use animations can save tons of time & work. (Like… if you want to do a game with 37 monsters with each having 10 animations, and 4 different directions to look at… that can be quite a bit of work. Of course you can trick a bit, and use 3D models and pre-render their animations – but that’s still quite a bit of work.)

Just my 2 cents.

Zombie Dwarves, Or Dwarf Zombies…

I got the first (alpha I guess) version of the Zombie Dwarves game out in time and mailed it to those of you who have purchased it.

I also uploaded a new video and wrote a sort of a guide on how to play the game (it probably won’t make much sense unless you check out the guide).

Looking forward to hear comments from the people who bought it (or of course from those who consider getting it ;). And please – check the guide if you are clueless on how to play (due Ludum dare contest deadline, I could not build proper help/tutorial)

In the nearby future, I will make a blog post where I summarize what exactly I did, learned and my thoughts about this one-weekish game project results (and future plans – I intend to update the game a bit… :)

And Done… (Phew)

I just submitted my entry to Ludum dare (not sure if that link works for you, I hope so).

I managed to tackle the stuff I wanted and also managed to add bit more graphics (and tweak the gui, and add few things here and there) in the game, as seen for example here:

It’s now so late (or so early to be honest) that I gotta get some sleep now. I didn’t make the download link just yet, but I will get the thing for the first buyers – and try get their honest opinions here too.

The game is in unbelievably good shape in my own opinion (thinking that week ago I had nothing, and now I had done cut scene handler, comment system, different characters, combat system, special skills, bit of background art and so on)… but since it’s missing certain tiny but important features (such as “start new game” button :)) which without you can survive (new game = relaunch the application) but which are really quite annoying (thank god it loads fast).

Anyway. Now, I’m going to get some sleep. Tomorrow I prepare video, and get the full version to the hands of the customers. I try make a short free demo (not sure if Ludum dare actually requires that, I used placeholder link for now) at some point.

The point of this October challenge was to make a game. And sell one copy.

I’ve done that. Tomorrow I get it in the hands of the customers, and think more what I do next.

P.S. At the time of writing it says “October ends very soon” on their website, but here in Finland it’s November 1st. I’m on different time zone – thanks to it I made it in time.