LD#11: Minimalist Post-mortem

In one 48 hour period, I made a simple game based on the theme “minimalist”. I didn’t try to stay awake throughout the entire Ludum Dare competition, so the game was made in less than 48 hours.

What Went Right:

  • Used my build script to create a distributable game from the beginning.

    I have a build script from a previous project that allows me to use a single command to take my project source, build it, and create a .tar.gz file to distribute for GNU/Linux users. Towards the end of the competition, I wasn’t spending too much time trying to figure out how to get my project into a judge’s hands since.

  • Mouse control was easy to do and easy to use.

    Since I was learning SDL, I tried to make my game as simple to use as possible. I knew that using a mouse was a lot easier than expecting someone to use the keyboard, but I had never implemented mouse control in a game before. Luckily, it turned out to be very easy. As a result, the interface was very simple since you’re just moving the mouse around, and the game that this interface produced was better for it.

  • I got really involved in it.

    I had food photos and a time lapse video, and I even received two trophies, one for my eclectic food choices. Hanging out with all of the other Ludum Dare participants, even if just virtually through IRC, was a lot of fun.

  • I finished!

    Of course, finishing was also a lot of fun. While I could have used some more playtesting and would have loved some feedback before it was submitted, I think I put together a decent game in a short amount of time. It feels good to finish things.

What Went Wrong:

  • My work environment was horrible.

    A couch is comfortable…but not for marathon game development sessions! My back still hurts. I need to clean my office. Right now, I am using it as a giant inbox:

    Why I Use My Couch Instead of My Office

    I prefer development with my laptop because the CRT of my desktop is harsh on my eyes. Still, it would be nice to sit in a real chair while working. Alternatively, I can finally buy an LCD for my desktop.

  • My cats love to hang out with me.

    Even if I was sitting in my office, I know from experience that my cats would still jump up into my lap and try to rest their heads on my arm. When you’re using a laptop, there isn’t room for it AND a cat or two. Having an office door to close would help, of course, but the cats were quite a distraction for LD#11.

    Gizmo prevents me from game programming

  • I didn’t practice using SDL before the competition.

    It was a problem especially since I had decided not to depend on the Kyra Sprite Engine for future projects, but I really only used libSDL for input and creating a window prior to this project. When the first 24 hours are finished and all you have is a window rendered and the knowledge that the mouse handling is working (even if it isn’t visible), you might be afraid that you won’t have anything to show at the end of 48 hours. I did manage to pull it off, but by the next competition, I want to be able to work with less of a focus on technical details and more of a focus on game development.

  • I spent too long in the beginning trying to mock something up in the GIMP.

    Similar to the previous point, I was spending more time on technical issues than on creation. I thought I was more familiar with the GIMP than I was, and I spent a lot of my early hours fighting with it instead of just using pencil and paper. The worst part about it was that the initial idea was one I ended up discarding, and if I wasn’t wasting time with figuring out how to do some simple things in it, I might have been able to figure it out sooner.

What I Learned:

  • My kitchen goes to entropy during LD.

    When you’re focused on game development for most of your waking hours for two days, other things have to take a lower priority. One of those things was cleaning. I had a bit of a mess to deal with after the competition was over.

  • Even something incredibly simple can be a good game mechanic.

    I knew I wasn’t going to be drinking multiple cans of Mountain Dew or Red Bull, and I don’t drink coffee, so staying up for 48 hours wasn’t going to happen. I needed to work on a game I could finish, so I picked the simplest thing I could. Surprisingly, it was fun, and some of the judges have said so as well. At the end of the competition I already had a list of ideas that could improve it, and I hope to release an updated version with those improvements.

  • It’s possible to do a lot in a single day.

    Even though I spent some time learning how to use SDL, I still managed to make a game. The best part is that I can incorporate what I have learned into my personal library of code for my future projects. Also, there were over 70 games submitted, and it is amazing what some people were able to do in 48 hours. Some of them were learning how to program!

I set aside most of a 48 hour period, and I have a game, some new code, and more experience. If I could work on a project with a similar scope each month, I think it would go a long way towards improving my ability to create video games. Also, it’s a lot of fun, and I will definitely be participating in future Ludum Dare competitions.

To see my entry, check out the final version. There is a GNU/Linux and a Windows version.

[tags] postmortem, video games, game development, cats [/tags]

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