Jun 4, 2014

Ludum Dare 29 - Postmortem

Last month I participated to my first Ludum Dare whose theme was "Beneath the surface".
I made a game called "Digable Planet", that you can play here (Postcompo version of it).

Here you have the results (ranking is over some 1450 entries in the composition category).

What went right:

First of all, completing a "full" game in 48 hours is in itself an achievement for me.
Besides, as the results show, I made an overall rank of #124 (the top 10%) which I guess it's not bad. I was a bit deceived I must confess but seeing my game and the ones that made better scores, I can understand why.
Overall the reception was great, I had some nice comments and even someone donated some money.
It's really encouraging!!
I'm quite happy with the music and graphics in general, and although I started deep playtest 1 or 2 hours before the submission deadline, the gameplay is quite balanced, at least for a play session of 15min to 1 hour. Then you can find the best way to solve the problem every time.

What went wrong:

Before the beginning of this LD, I had told myself that I would make a game entirely and only playable with the mouse, since all the games I had made until then were only play with the keyboard.
Problem is I totally forgot to take in account people that don't have a mouse, and specifically that don't have a mouse wheel (people playing with the gamepad). The game was just to hard to play for them as the selection of the different machines was made to fast.
An other critic made was the lack of feedback, especially when you're about to drill the core, and that the game over screen seemed to popup without any reason. I indeed hadn't put any alert that the end of the game was near.
And, as always in my case, the final critic was that the gameplay was not explained clearly. I have to say that gameplay was exlpained clearly, but outside of the game and it's true that when you test a game in a game jam, you don't want to go through a full page of text to understand what it's all about. My problem was that there wasn't any explanation or tutorial ingame and players had to wonder a bit in order to understand what to do and how to do it.

What from there:

After all the feedback, I made a post compo version with better feedback and alternat controls. I guess in this state, the game is more enjoyable and closer to what I had in mind.
Overall, I've learnt some valuable lessons from this game jam:
- the feedback of any user action is one of the key feature that make a can enjoyable. Sounds, graphics, text, effects, anything has to be made so that the player knows instantly that the game has taken his action in account and what effect on the game his action has had. It seems self obvious, especially in well designed games, but that's most of the time the difference between a regular game and a great game.
- a game should explain ingame the basic actions so that the player knows what it's all about and what the basic controls are, so that he can start playing right away
- controls should be the more universal and accesible possible: give the option to play with keyboard and/or mouse, take in acount left or right-handed people, take in account keyboard with different key layouts (QWERTY vs AZERTY), even give the option to remap the key.

To conclude, I'd say that it has been a really useful and fun experience and I'm pretty sure I'll hop on the next Ludum Dare!

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