"Click for Dragons!" Postmortem – Ludum Date #31

31 Dec

This is a first.  Not my first Ludum Dare (it was my 5th), but the first time I waited until the results were in to write a postmortem.  See, the problem is I cannot tell if the game is any good…

The theme this time was “Entire Game on One Screen” and was a bit of a surprise.  The Unicode character for snowman “☃” had so many votes leading up to the final round that I had assumed it would win and was already thinking of ideas to build for it.  From the other entries I can tell I’m not the only one – there is a snowman in almost every game.  Life, uh, finds a way.

#TeamNeel is back

I entered this game jam as a team with my two oldest daughters, Hannah (11) and Rachel (14).   This is our second Ludum Dare together, the first being Ludum Dare #29, and my wife Cicelie (redacted) also pitched in again with some art help.  Since ☃ was out, we discussed ideas and eventually decided to combine Cookie Clicker with a fantasy RPG setting.  It helped that Extra Credits just did an episode on Idle Games, and my oldest is mildly addicted to them.  I mean, in as much as you can be addicted to a thing that, by definition, requires little to nothing from you.

For the development tools we used Unity, Inkscape, Paint.Net, and Gimp.  Project management was Trello and a few Google Spreadsheets to crunch numbers.  I also used BitBucket for source control, even though GitHub seems to be the popular choice.  Simple reason is BitBucket offers private repositories for free.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

The Good

This is by far the most complicated game I’ve done for Ludum Dare.

There are a lot of systems in the game.  There are two currencies, gold and experience, and a third if you count party member health.  Each class has their own damage and health stats, plus extras in the Cleric’s healing and the Thief’s stealing.  Each class has unique upgrades and there are also party wide upgrades.  There are upgrades for the players damage per click and also and over all skill level for the “depth” of the dungeon you are at.

I think we did a pretty good job of fleshing out the design of the system and making most of the pieces logically fit together and hold a valuable role.  I’m also happy that the code is not as nearly complex as it could be.  I can easily make changes to the systems, add or remove parts, and even work in completely new systems.  There is a good separation of logic from the graphics, so little touches like damage numbers floating over monsters were easy to implement.

The Bad

This is by far the most complicated game I’ve done for Ludum Dare.

Balancing all these systems was a nightmare, and something we did not achieve.  Rachel spent a good deal of time reverse engineering the progression curves in Cookie Clicker and that gave us a starting point but we ended up no where near a decent balance.

Because of the number of monsters and user interface components, there was a lot of art needed and time is limited in a game jam.  I have no problem admitting the art in the game is rough and jumbled, even for a game jam game.  There was also no time for music or sound effects which can greatly enhance the feel of a game.

The Ugly

This is by far the most complicated game I’ve done for Ludum Dare.

Bugs.  Not the typical “I made a typo here” or “I didn’t know that could return null” bugs, but design and system level bugs.  The kind you really only find by playing, or experience.  Big number issues like ints rolling over.  Most were caught, but this took time and a few were shipped knowingly.  If your gold goes negative just imagine Cthulhu showed up to wreck your reality.  It’s a feature.

Closing Thoughts

I said at the start I wasn’t sure if the game was good.  On one hand the lack of balance makes playing the game trivial and easily exploitable.  The graphics are not great and there is no music or sound.  On the other hand people told me of spending 20 minutes to an hour playing it and we scored 3.17 in Fun, ranking at 416 of 1270 entries, putting us at the bottom of the top 1/3 of games in our category.  There is also this Russian Let’s Play video which led to us going mini-viral in Russia and getting over 4K plays.

I guess I’d say this is a “game with promise” – a game that, if worked on a bit, has potential to be pretty good.  Before that can happen though I’d have to model the system and run simulations to get the balance right.  I have a whole new level of respect for games like Cookie Clicker that on the surface seem simple but hide a numerical monster beneath the screen.

You can play Click for Dragons! at my Itch.io page, where I’ve also consolidated all my other game jam entries.

And for your enjoyment, here is a time-lapse video of the entire development!

  • Nice post-mortem! I know what a pain the XP / level spreadsheets can be. I’ll try to remember to show the one that I did for TTYGFX at the next gamedev meeting.