Ludum Dare 22: Alone in the city

Me and my girlfriend participated on the Ludum Dare 22 competition about making a game in 48hours. After the total failure of the GGJ11 we wanted to make something more simple. The theme was simple: ALONE

I wrote a post-mortem about the game on the official blog, you can read it here.

General Thoughts

As always, I couldnt add enought gameplay, I’m a graphics programmer and I always end up expending too much adding support to features that only give eye candy. I wanted to have everything configurable from an XML file and that took me too much time. At least I hope I will reuse this in the future for other games.

First of all I have to say that my girlfriend Anna helped me to make this game, not only with his vital lovely support, also proposing ideas and creating most of the art you can see in the game. She is not “fluent” in pixel art but right now she is starting to get pretty good. I don’t how much this goes against the rules of the game, in any case, I didnt wanted to bother anyone, we were preparing for the event the whole month and discovered that it was a solo compo right when we started, so we just went on with it. In our defense I will say that we started the game on Saturday evening, and that most of the time we employed on arguing against each other.

The theme of the game was just a random exploration of ideas, she wanted to be more classical and I pushed her to do more crazy ideas instead of the classical games of jumping on top of the enemies. At the end we found this silly game concept of hoarding food from a pseudo-post-apocaliptic city (based on Barcelona).

About Coding

I reused the old framework I did for the Global Gamejam, it is based on Flixel which for this kind of projects is always my favourite choice.

I love how Adam Atomic decided to “rethink” the Flash API to keep it as simple and powerful as possible, sometimes too simple though. I encourage the people who wants to make online games to start with Flixel, you don’t need to know Flash, indeed most of the things you learn from Flixel are useless if you want to develop a common flash app because he just ignored the API and created his own. It helps to get you focused on the game.

I also put lot of effort on having a huge XML file with all the information of the game (map info, characters, vars, triggers, etc) so I can fine tune the game without recompiling it.

It feels great when you find a way to create a new game mechaning without changing a single line of code.

About the Art

I wanted to have lots of layers with parallax for the lanscape of the city, the problem is that you have to design the level from an XML file which is annoying and slow, so at the end Anna was just creating a single image for the whole map.

Example for the main street

The lighting was put on top as a Multiply layer, I like to do that so I can control the overall illumination parametrically, I love to over use the blending options. If an engine doesnt have blending modes then I wont use it.

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I also added some gaussian sprites to create the light halo around the lamps, but because the halos are on top of the light image, the effects is not perfect. The good solution would be to sum all the lights on a bitmap (ala RenderToTexture) and apply it on top, I will try to do that on the next compo (I hope flixel allows me to do that).

I wanted to play with different light images to switch between day and night, but there was no time. Indeed it wont be hard to have a night/day cycle using the assets the way they are now, but it was just eye candy so the idea was rejected.

But talking about the art of the game is talking about the amazing work of Anna and her skills placing one pixel at a time. Her main influences were the Super Bros S&S and some old school games I showed to her, and she was pleased to mimic those hard styles without hesitation.

She even made more animations and locations that didnt end up on the game.

Gameplay

We wanted to have a map to explore where you can stumble upon threats, but I didnt know how to code them in a clean way so at the end I implemented some basic behaviours.

I had three types of character behaviour for the NPCs, the follower (follows you around), the wanderer (walks randomly around the map) and the stalker (tries to get close to you and avoids eye-contact).

I like how some lines of code could add so much personality to a character. Sadly I didnt went too deep in this part.

Anna wanted to put effort on a clear interface, so the game mechanics would be clear from the beginning, but I like to leave those aspect to the imagination or the trial-error approach, I find it more thrilling to play without knowing.

Conclusions

I can’t say I have learn a lot from this compo, because I have made the same mistakes, but I like to use this compos to explore ideas rather than create a generic game. I think that Im getting closer to finish a game in a compo…

Anyway, I plant to keep developing this game for a while with the help of Anna, I think that if we explore a little bit more the narrative in the game we can find something interesting.

Cheers!

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