This past weekend was another Ludum Dare game competition, and the second one I’ve taken part in (this first you can read about here). I also organized a local meetup with the Knox Game Design group and we had five games in total submitted by the deadline. So without further adieu, here is my wrap up of what went right, and what went wrong!
Theme “You Only Get One”
For my game, YoGo Burger, I used the theme in a few ways. The setup is, due to some budget cuts, you can only put one topping on a burger. The customer will either be okay with it, or hate it and this will affect the amount of tip you get. To make matters worse, if a single customer complains to management you’ll be fired. To keep this from happening you use your tip money for bribes.
In practice the game is like playing multiple games of Mastermind at the same time. Customers will get back in line and order a second burger and if you remember what they liked before you can use that to get it right the second (and third, forth, etc) time. To make it interesting I reset the customer preferences each day, added more customers, and I also upped the value weights behind what they like and don’t. The effect is you’ll probably be deep in debt and fired by the end.
The design was very emergent. The initial idea was a Burger Time / Tapper / Diner Dash clone with one ingredient. It’s fair to say I didn’t really have a strong direction at the start, but as I added mechanics it began to take shape. I’m very happy with where I wound up and think that this kind of creative exercise is what the Ludum Dare excels at (even if the game isn’t fun for very long).
Programming in Unity
Just like the last time, I used the competition as an excuse to learn new technology. You might say this is the wrong time to learn something new, but twice now I’ve done it and shipped a game so we’ll have to agree to disagree. The new tech this round was Unity 4.3’s new 2D support.
Having working in Unity before, and having read up on the new features, this wasn’t so bad. Prior to the competition I had started porting my XTiled library to Unity, so I wasn’t completely green for this project. I had to google an issue here and there, but for the most part things went smooth. For the most part. Let’s talk animation…
Unity revamped their animation system for the 4.x release, and it’s now called “Mecanim”. It’s a very complex, yet powerful setup allowing you to define animations then link them with a state engine and create smooth transitions procedurally. That’s all good, but I need to move a sprite a few steps to the right and this seemed impossible. I’m sure spending more time with the system is what’s needed, but I have reservations about any system that cannot handle a simple, common use case well. If you cannot do the simple well, how am I to trust you won’t make the complex a nightmare?
In the end I wrote a few lines of code to handle all animations. I’m a programmer, it’s what I do.
Nothing good to report here.
I am no longer satisfied making excuses that “I’m a developer” or hearing “not bad for developer art” or worse “it’s so bad it’s good – you nailed the MS Paint ironic art style!”. See, I’m not trying for that. I don’t expect to be amazing, but I think it’s perfectly fine to expect decent. I commonly tell people I’m not “talented” I’ve just spent a lot of time writing code and anyone can reach where I’m at. I believe this to be true of anything, and it’s time I took my own advice.
So next year I’ll be reading up on art 101 and spending quality time with Gimp, Inkscape, and even Blender. Check back with me after 10,000 hours.
I needed exactly one sound effect for my game, so why is this even a section? Because it was my favorite part of the whole competition!
I wanted a cash register sound when a customer paid for their order, but because of the rules I cannot use anything I didn’t make during the competition and this include sound effects. Normally I’d use the amazing bfxr app to generate game sounds, but it wasn’t really suited for this task. I grabbed a portable microphone and headed out to hunt samples Foley style!
In the end I used a bell from my daughter’s bicycle and the opening and slamming shut a wooden drawer full of screws, bolts, and nuts. I then edited and combined those samples in Audacity, speeding up the playback by about 150%. The end result was a very convincing cash register ca-ching!
While I’m a horrible graphic artist, I am “decent” at music. This time I wanted to use my own guitar playing (as Dylan and Levi have done), however I’ve never actually hooked up a live instrument to FL Studio with my current audio gear. This led to a frustrating session of attempted guitar recordings before I decided there wasn’t enough time left to keep fooling with it and went with all synths – something I’m pretty comfortable with. (Yesterday I tried again, and it turns out I made a very simple mixer error).
The music inspiration came from the depressing, you-can’t-win-gameplay and reminded me of Papers Please. To get in the mood I loaded up some depressing Russian folk songs and waltzes until I had the right state of mind. Not going to win a Grammy, but I think it fit the game well.
And finally, as it tradition, here is a time-lapse of me making the whole thing – 17 hours compressed into 3 minutes!