I am very happy with the result, and that I managed to make (and simply get) ideal conditions for rapid development.
Ideal conditions involved unemployment and an understanding girlfriend, with whom I cold make the fact understood "long" before the contest, that for three total days, I would be absolutely unusable, sometimes pissed off, sometimes tired, that I would only be able to pay attention to programming.
I had a great luck with time too. The contest started in my country at 8 AM.... Three full workdays for the project without the need to break my sleeping routine.
So it ended up an intensive but quite friendly 12 hours per day developing.
I sketched up 5 ideas, 3D wasn't even considered, as I have never used an engine and 3D requires too much tweaking anyway (cameras, object sizes etc).
Luckily the sliding puzzle idea came up quite early. After maybe 1 hour of brainstorming. Making a puzzle was kind of default to me, I like puzzles, my girlfriend's parents always play with puzzles, and lately I was thinking about making a puzzle (a totally different kind). The simple ideas came rapidly, so in another 30 minutes I had all the game in my head.
Outline of the game:
The game is a level based sliding puzzle where you have to match the pieces of the Kraken's arms by sliding one row or column of the game-board at a time. All of the Kraken's arms must reach all the boat pieces to complete the level.
Idea is one thing, it has to be tested. Making a new kind of puzzle (maybe this type already exists, I don't know about it) can be risky in this time interval because if it's not that good, you can throw it out. But at least it's not as hard as prototyping a physics simulation thing or a 3D gameplay.
Luckily (for this project but not so otherwise) making games are always rapid prototyping for me (even if it's a proven concept like minesweeper), all the games I made were prototyped in max 2 days, so I have experience in that.
Throwing together the prototype was done in a half day with placeholder graphics for the cells. In this case, the prototype simple meant that I could slide the rows or columns in the game field, and see if it's interesting or boring, too easy or too hard, or is there a method the user can exploit that totally kills the challenge in the game. No winning conditions were examined, reaching a ship did absolutely nothing, the cells' images were just images.
There were quite amount of framework code lying around, as setting up an openGL window with the 2D projection, loading/uploading textures, font loading and rendering, generic mouse handling stuff, the windproc with the message loop, a ready to use Visual C++ project (these all mean I just used the skeleton of an old 2D editor I started but abandoned)
Prototyping involved hacking like crazy. I tend to hack but this time it was very embarrassing even for me.
I didn't expect to make decent art for this time interval. But it turned out I had plenty of time, and that I am quick with simple pixel-art. There was no time to try out ideas, but the themes were pretty default anyway. I admit I got some help by getting opinions about the finished images of each thingy, the opinions were about some colors only, otherwise it was "it's cute "
I used reference images, but just as a guide and only by eye. I mean I didn't manipulate or draw on top of the images. So the quick method was: draw the bulk of the image with a 6-8-10 pixel soft-edged brush (and refine curves by drawing with the background color), that gives you nice curves and smooth edges, then simply draw the outline pixel by pixel (on a different layer) in 10x zoom. It's easy to do as you can see the fading pixels and you can set up a vague mental threshold which pixels should be part of the outline. Then refill the shape with solid colors and get rid of the reference sketch.
The outlined, solid colored but semi-realistic objects in front of simple gradients Japanese style was the default choice, as I'm not good with lifelike smooth shaded or "cute characters" art.
I did the art as the "stepping away" part of programming and vice-versa.
There is no sound or music in this game, as I have never worked with those. But I don't think I would put sound in it anyway, because I guess most of us either listen to music or don't want sound at all.
The download link and some teaser images:
This little game turned out to be pretty good after playing with it for some time, I think I will make a polished releasable-to-the-wild game of it (and completely rewrite the thing). My girlfriend is testing the game "intensively" because she like it and she has ideas.
I don't think I will change the style, I like it Japanese (I will look into Japanese 'Kraken' mythologies and hope some kind exists...), but maybe some better frame and button style will be done. And more sets of textures for different resolutions.
Anyway, I soo needed this coding marathon as I hadn't done coding (apart from some random fixes for my portfolio) for more than half years. There's nothing like it.