With the Ludum Dare competition over, I was at a bit of a loss. I had been in a bit of a slump, inspiration-wise, leading up to the competition. There were a number of factors, but the biggest being that my current project was quickly succumbing to the main issue I have always had making games. It was getting too big. I had good ideas, but the implementation was going slow, and I had lost some of the passion for the project that I had at the start. It was not dead, but there were some tough problems to work through still, and I knew any real progress was far off. The competition seemed like a good way to get a quick fix of user feedback on something that wouldn’t kill my current project.
As it turns out, I just can’t let go. Judging is still ongoing, and there are a lot of comments complaining about the difficulty, there was enough positive response from the community and from friends and family that I decided to take this little game all the way. The idea has limits, sure, it was built under extreme time constraints, but I feel like there is enough in the core to turn it into a $5 indie game. I mulled over the design for a few days after the competition ended to give myself a break from coding and fully flesh out the idea. Since I did so well under the 48 hour time constraint, and I don’t want to break from my current, unannounced, project for too long, I gave myself a one month time limit. It seems reasonable and won’t take up 100% of my free time to do.
It has been a week since the competition ended, and I’ve been pretty busy. My first step was to completely overhaul the graphics. The 8-bit retro style worked for the competition because it was fast and I was able to get an entire cohesive visual put together that way. I’m not a fan of that style though, and I wanted something at least a little better, so I quadrupled the resolution of everything. I spent a good four days doing nothing but drawing sprites. It’s tiring work and I’m not very good at it, but I think the results of that time made it all worth it. Graphics has always been a sticking point for me, and having that out of the way at the start does wonders for morale.
The next step was music. The original entry had no music, just a few sound effects I generated with bfxr. That tool is a great thing to have in a time crunch, but I would much rather have sound effects that don’t have that retro feel to them. I have dabbled in music in the past, so I set out to write some for this game. Since the run phase has a limited time, that one was easy; I threw together a quick rock song with a driving pace to give it that rushed feeling. The memory phase is less easy, as it has no time limit and the player will be spending a lot more time with it. I have a start on that but it needs more work; I want the song to be at least a good 6 minutes long, which even that seems too short as the player will likely spend four hours throughout the course of the game listening to it.
With the sprites finished and a good portion of the music ready, I dove into the code. I completely revamped the item system to something less restrictive. Many of the people who have actually completed the LD version of the game have had to use the guide to figure out the last puzzle. It falls victim to the classic adventure game issue: you don’t have to find a way to overcome the obstacle, you have to find the way the developer came up with to do so. I read an article a while back talking about improving puzzles in adventure games using cause and effect. I took a stab at implementing a type of cause and effect system and so far I really like it. It fell into place seamlessly with the current gameplay, and opens up a lot of options for better puzzles.
After a week’s worth of additional work, I’m pretty happy with my progress. I’m feeling good about getting this done within the time frame I’ve given myself. I will be posting regularly throughout this process to keep you all up to date on how things are going, and I will try and post playable demos of the game as it develops. I have updated the site with a button for the new game, and I got a listing on IndieDB for it as well. Enough chatter, this game won’t finish itself.