So I might be a little bit late on this but I figured I'd write something about my Ludum Dare entry.
(Ludum Dare is a competition where lots of people get together and try to create the best game they can in 48 hours completely from scratch.)
Scavenger is a little game where you fly around a debris field, sucking up valuable cargo and selling it for upgrades to your ship.
Out of 121 entries I came second! This little fact made me so happy I cannot even begin to describe. I'm no stranger to LD (and I think my last record was third) but considering the sheer number of people doing LD now coming anywhere near the top ten is a hell of a feat.
Enough patting myself on the back. I came at LD differently this time than usual. Here's what I decided with to do from the onset:
- Pick a simple idea and roll with it.
- Never leave an unfinished feature.
- If anything can be polished then do it - If an animation can be added to something then do it, if a small particle effect can be added here then do it.
- Don't stress over running out of time. When it doubt, pretend this was the plan all along.
This worked spectacularly.
My Initial Idea
Yeah of course, the first thing that came into my head was totally picking junk up in a debris field, I think not. My first idea was to procedurally generate a galaxy, and have the player travelling around shooting people and, and, and... stuff!
Anyone who tries procedural generation for a 48 hour GAME competition is generally either doomed to failure or doomed to end up with a pretty 48 hour tech demo.
Rule #1 stated simple. I knew I wanted space (I love space games more than anything else in the world) so I scaled back the grand epic idea of a galactic-scale game down, down, down and down to a single asteroid field. I thought that might be a bit overplayed so I switched to a debris field.
The idea I ended up with was a game whereby you are given missions to find special expensive things in the debris field amongst the usual crap, have to locate them and compete with other aggressive scavengers for the loot.
Take note of Rule #2; This is not the game I ended up with.
So I started with space, I created a pretty nice multi-layered parallax starfield. I know most players wont notice the effort, but Rule #3 stated I must do it.
Then I messed around with a player ship and had him flying about, I spent a lot of time making the ship smooth to play, Rule #3 said not to half-ass this.
Then I added little bits of junk, I made them collide with the player. Rule #3 told me to make them physical objects that reacted to player collisions properly.
Starting to see the pattern? I clung to Rule #3 like a limpet throughout the entire weekend and it really paid off - most of the positive comments I got were along the lines of "Wow this is so polished for 48 hours."
As the weekend drew on I realised that there was no way in hell I'd have time to finish what I initially wanted to. In light of this and Rule #4, I wedged in a kinda half-assed upgrade system to seem like that the goal all along and gave the player something to work for.
This was a good choice, it gave a feeling of something that was more complete in it's design (especially with the fact that the upgrades were visibly obvious to the player.) In reality it was a half finished spectre of what I really wanted to do.
My conclusion is this: Polish makes your game more interesting to a player and in the end makes up for any massive gameplay flaws or mistakes. (Of which my game had a lot, people picked up on them and still thought they were "nit-picking". Whatever.) Also, you probably won't finish what you started so when that becomes obvious you need work with what you have and quickly mould it into something great.
Oh yeah, don't skimp on audio either. I swear, even if it's bleeps and bloops - don't make a silent game!