This was the first time I entered ludum dare. It's been a very nice experience to develop a game from concept to "somewhat finished" product in two days, although it’s been an exhaustive experience. This time I’m going to write a small postmortem for my entry, Enola, which you can check out here.
What went right:
Having a clear concept for the game from the begining. The first thing I did was write the entire (tech) document on paper. I wrote what the entire game would be about, tech aspects and limitations. This prevented me from getting lost during development.
Using a tool I already knew. I’ve been using UDK for some time, and that knowledge helped me to better decide the kind of game to develop (in conjunction with the previous item), so I didn’t find myself trying to figure out how to do anything.
Simple graphics style. The theme “alone” can mean many things to many people, but many entries agree that “mood is important.” For Enola I used simple models, only a couple of textures, but I compensated with the use of some post effects to sell the look and feel of the game (like the thick fog, the exaggerated DOF, and soft bloom).
A simple control scheme. I wanted Enola to be the kind of game that takes as much as you want to finish. There is no combat or action sequences involved (so you can’t really die in the game), and that makes the game very inclusive, and (almost) anyone who can use a keyboard and mouse can play it, allowing players to play at their own pace.
Using the environment to guide the player. When you start the game the first thing you see is a glowing red orb and when you grab it, it says something like “the trees are pointing in the same direction.” This was a simple way to guide the players, so even if they get lost, they can follow the pattern of the trees to find the way. On the next level, you get a “clue” from a painting so you know it’s important, and I think these clues serve their purpose well.
What went wrong:
Not being able to work full time. Yesterday I realized I’d only worked around 23 hours on the game. That’s because I had to go out a few times, so I couldn’t work as much as I wanted. Besides I got sick on saturday, and the pills I took made me drowsy, so I lost a lot of time sleeping.
The game is too short. Since I couldn’t work as much as I wanted, the game is too short. The second level was planned to be twice as big. I had planned a bigger house with more to explore and do. Besides, the bigger house would have added to the “mystery effect” where the house looks very small on the outside, but way bigger on the inside (like the Diablo chapel).
Not entirely happy with the audio. I really had to rush the audio “design,” and while the audio fits the mood, and the “noise” gets higher as you reach the goal, the entire set of sound effects could improve, a lot. All sound effects were recorded by me, using my microphone.
The game is way too short. I can’t stress that enough.
No time to optimize. The game is around 100mb, and that’s after I manually removed some of the things I was sure weren’t needed (for example, why UDK includes the Mac app builder when building the installer is beyond me). It also includes some other things like Shader Model 5 materials the game shouldn’t use since I was using DX9 exclusively (or at least I suppose they aren’t needed). Pretty much finding out what the game didn’t need so the download wasn’t 100mb in size would have been a good thing.
If you ask me, I’ll definitely be in the next ludum dare, but I have to find ways to ignore real life during that weekend so I can post a better game overall next time. I should also find a better way to make sound effects.
I've also been wondering if/how the game could be made into a full game, depending on people's reaction, since the concept can be extended very easily, and the clues you get from the game hint a larger story.