Hue and Cry: LD33 post-mortem

It’s been a week since Ludum Dare and Hue and Cry has been rated 23 times: I don’t know what the ratings are like yet but there are plenty of comments to mull over.

Firstly, here is a timelapse of me making the game:

Let me examine each aspect of the game in detail:

Theme

After reading the theme of LD33 (“You are the Monster”) I went straight to bed (it was 2AM BST). I didn’t sleep much of course, but I at least wanted the cold light of morning before I started on anything.

I assumed most people would take this theme as meaning the player controls what would be the enemy in a normal game. I couldn’t think of any original or interesting ways of doing this, so I instead interpreted “monster” in the way it is used for people.

I was, of course, not the only one to do this,

The direction I took was quite a dark one, and I don’t think I handled it well enough for the serious topic. I originally wanted the player to feel she was accidentally causing the deaths of well-meaning innocent bystanders, but that’s not quite how it came out.

Mood and Setting

The mood of the game followed immediately from the concept. Everything was grey as soon as I started drawing, and the rain effect occurred to me pretty quickly.

The setting in England happened fairly naturally as I started drawing, as that is what I know. I think it worked well, but it meant several references were probably lost on foreigners (e.g. ‘ASCO’ and signs pointing to ‘The North’).

Art

I was pretty pleased with how the graphics came out. This is the first time I’ve drawn a significant amount of pixel art, and most of it looked alright to me. Several tips I’d picked up recently helped, especially the recommendation that everything should be slightly desaturated.

I used GIMP, which I hadn’t thought was good for pixel art in the past, but I pretty quickly set it up for quick workflow.

When I started I thought the introduction and conclusion would be told with a series of still digital paintings, but when it came to it I realised I didn’t have the skill or time to do that. The epistolary approach was very fast and I think effective too, though of course people are prone to skipping long chunks of text.

The human figures still need work. Animation was a pain to start with too.

Audio

The audio was one thing I think that could have gone better. The sounds I had in my mind were not what I managed to get out of bfxr and no amount of processing in Audacity seemed to fix that. I think experience will help in future, but live foley is an option too if I can get my old recording things set up properly.

Music

Bosca Ceoil was a very pleasant discovery last week, and using it was a breeze. The songs I made were very simple and repetitive, but I think that was the correct thing to do given the limited time. The one thing I wish BC had is a simple level mixer but equilization in Audacity managed to get the sound I wanted.

Development

When researching before LD started, I practiced with GameMaker: Studio a little. About 10 years ago I used GameMaker but had thought it was pretty restrictive in terms of deployment especially, and moved onto Flash – which was what everyone was playing at the time. Now most of my peers get games off Steam, and GameMaker is much more appealing. It was very quick to develop with, even given the steep learning curve. I was pleasantly surprised at how efficiently the games seem to run, as someone who usually develops in compiled C++.

Gameplay

I’ll be the first to admit that the gameplay isn’t great. it feels very unnatural that just touching an enemy kills you instantly, and it was necessary for some of the levels that this happened quickly, which together didn’t feel good at all.

It wasn’t obvious which blocks were solid and which were merely decorative, either.

The difficulty curve wasn’t great either, and at times the puzzles probably seemed very difficult. Several reviewers got all the way to the end though, which is reassuring.

I was pleased with the character controller, which I wrote in about an hour. That’s the first time I’ve written a tile-based platformer from scratch, and it seems pretty robust. I am indebted to Zack Bell for is excellent blog, which I read the preceeding week and whose ideas it was largely based on.

Conclusion

The game wasn’t perfect by a long way, but for my first game jam I think it went pretty well, especially the mood and graphics.

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