Thursday, January 16, 2014

Death Plot: A Post-Mortem

Time for the essential conclusion to the game jam recipe; the post-mortem. It is here where we examine what went right, and wrong, with the game in question, and discuss interesting aspects of its creation. We then talk about what will be done better next time, before concluding with shameless promotion for the game.

Here it is: The Post-Mortem of Death Plot. First a foreword: This article is going to be written from my (Xeon's) perspective. It will contain my feelings nearly exclusively, with sprinkles of what I manage to extrapolate from Sebastian based on his post-mortem, which you can read here.
Also: You can play the game here on the Ludum Dare page, or here on this blog. The feedback form is here.

Let's get the bad out of the way first:
The Negative:

Time Management and Lack of Time-
Our time management was absolutely terrible. We spent about half of the 48 hours grappling with issues causing us to restart the project from scratch twice. Due to our paucity of time, we were unable to add a lot of  key features. Were we not struggling with time constraints we would have much less bugs, causing the game to be in a playable state. Right now the game is only playable for the first twenty seconds before the enemies stop spawning. If we had more time, we would have been able to add the main feature of the game, wherein the enemies shoot bullets in patterns. Without that feature, the game is a mere shell of the original vision, if it even resembles the original plan at all. Finally, we were unable to port the game to the originally planned Web, Linux, and Mac OSX due to running out of time.
That leads us to the second problem with the game: (and touches on the third)

Lack of Downloads-
Writing this three days after the game was submitted to Ludum Dare, I can say our amount of downloads of the game, based on our comments, (or lack thereof) is very low. I attribute this to two reasons, the main one being rooted in our lack of time.

1) We were only on Windows-
This, I think, is the main reason, and is due entirely to my dearth of time. I was missing out on the Web users, the Linux users, and the Mac OSX users. Those, mainly the web users, are a huge amount of people who would play the game, where it available on those platforms. The worst part of this all is, those ports are fairly easy. If I had even two hours more, I could have the game running on all of those. Oh well. Something to do better next time.

2) The art isn't flashy or click-garnering-
This is also a fairly large reason, but isn't the fault of our time management, and instead our art ability. We just aren't very good at art, and so couldn't draw real good textures. I mean look at our background. The only thing remotely good is our bullets. Actually, I really like the bullets. But everything else needs work.

Creating an Engine From Scratch-
This is both negative and positive. The problems with creating an engine from scratch are three fold. First of all, we spent too much time on the engine. Seriously. Problems with the more technical parts of the engine, and the game states, took up about 28 hours of our time, only to be scrapped and rebooted. These reboots, and the time sucking were caused by the scarcity of our experience. Me and Sebastian are fairly good at programming, but we are nowhere near the best. Coding an engine in 48 hours is actually more difficult than it might seem, and it seems difficult. Creating an engine isn't all bad though, and is actually one of the things we did really right with Death Plot...

The Positive:

Creating an Engine from Scratch-
I see three benefits to this off the top of my head. First of all, I can use the engine for future projects, and I most likely will. I am continuing the Death Plot engine through March, and I will decide what I will do with it then. I may actually release a game with it eventually. Another benefit, even if I don't use the engine, is that Sebastian and I gained valuable experience from it. I had already created engines before, but I still had, and have, a lot to learn. This was as far as I am aware, the first engine that Sebastian has participated in coding to a state where a game can be playable from it. Lastly, and more key in the long term, but also played a role in LD is that I have full control over it. There is nothing like having full control to realize your vision.

Streaming and Live Tweeting-
This went well. I could've live tweeted a bit more, but I was streaming for about 50% of the development, which was the target goal. Anyway, I added this to advertise that the videos of the stream are now here on the Kerinova Youtube.

The team work aspect also went well. Sebastian and I have actually done one project before, though nothing came out of it (at the time at least). That was Defence Paradigm, which was for Mini LD 44, or 7DRTS. That project went absolutely horrible. We were nowhere near finished with the game after a week. It wasn't even vaguely playable. This was due to the time management and inexperience, which was even worse than this time. We, or more accurately, I coded the engine from scratch that time too, and that engine's legacy lives on in the Kerinova Vector Nine Engine. The namespace of that engine is actually Defence Paradigm. Anyway, tangent aside, we were much better this time.

Finally, flexibility, which we also were. This refers to changing our plans on the fly as we started running out of time. We did that well, and sadly, often. It also refers to the all important bug to feature. We had lots of bugs, and some of them actually provided a new direction to take the game that we agreed with. I had lots of examples, but one of the main ones is the change to an endless runner style game. There were bugs with our camera system, so we changed it into an endless runner, without compromising too much on the original vision.

In conclusion, I will describe the future of the project. I am going to continue working on and supporting Death Plot and the Death Plot engine until at least March 2014. Other than fixes, which I need a lot of, I will add: Online High Scores, Multi-Platform support, Options Menu, Touch support, Power-ups, a tutorial, and much more. Lot's of content is coming. I feel like despite the issues, Death Plot has a bright future.

Once I get over the Ludum Dare Flu.

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