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Epilogue

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Orymus3

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I've taken the time to reflect on the competition now and decided to do a short pre-post-mortem (as I do intend on revisiting after seeing comments from the judges).


Why did I join?
Bluntly put, I wasn't supposed to, but at the last minute, my schedule opened up for that very week. I'm an avid fan of this event, and had participated twice before (WoA2 and WoA3).
That being said, I had a reason to join these events, whereas this time around, it appears I only joined because it was convenient. Uh oh...


My expectations?
I didn't expect much this year. I did well on WoA2, and didn't have much time to contribute coming in WoA3 making it a rough attempt. For WoA4, I wasn't sure how much time I'd be able to contribute, and whether I'd find a partner. Given I had to go solo ultimately, I figured I'd probably not do any better than WoA2 so best just enjoy the ride.
I always found the idea of completing something to be fulfilling, even if its just a 'crappy game'. A lot of my modern job description revolves around management, so its always good to finally get back to creating something.
This it was my intent to set aside some time to make something from scratch, but I didn't necessarily have the competition in mind.


The themes?
The themes were fertile ground, but perhaps too fertile. After a few minutes of looking at them (late on Day 1 actually), a lot of thoughts came rushing in, and I realized nearly every game could fit these themes in one way or another. In order to remain focused, I chose to impose an additional restriction on myself: try to use all 4.


What went well


  • Overall, my skill level with unity has dramatically improved the past year, and it showed. Though I didn't get around to 'show-off' my 'mad animator skills' I was quickly able to establish a near 'component-based' architecture which allowed me to put the game together.
  • I also think the song came out alright. It is definitely not in rhythm which makes me cringe every time I hear it, but it is probably the best I could do for a song given the time allotted (during which I was actually available).


    What went wrong


    • Too many sounds. I quickly reached a point where having too much feedback started to clutter the sound channel and had to actually scrap some of the SFX I had created in favor of a cleaner game. The impact of this can be felt throughout the game (ruins not emitting sounds when firing their projectiles for example) and would've required more thinking. My usual mindset in gamejam mode is to do now and think later, and it showed.
    • Too much art. I'm not an artist and I didn't have a partner to share this burden. Unfortunately, my concept would've worked best with an animated enemy, another animated character for the player, and a bunch of FX I didn't have time to make. I quickly chose not to do most of the visual artwork, and got stuck with my original placeholders.
    • Bonepiles didn't work at first. I wasn't sure how to incorporate them properly as I really wanted to give a reason to the player to go at the forefront. Originally, the player was to be able to die in combat, which made the risk-reward fork of going for bonepiles all the more treacherous. The feature, in many ways, was added simply because it made sense that a skeleton would drop bones, and I went from there, but it took some time before it started making sense and actually shaping up the game's economy.
    • Missing GPI behavior. I wanted to have one of the Ruins be able to draw the bonepiles slowly and collect them in a given radius. That feature got axed based on priorities, but in hindsight, I believe it would've provided the player with some more meaningful choices.
    • Ruin types. It took a while before I settled on 3 different ruin types, and it was conveyed by the design, which most likely makes it confusing to the actual player. I've tried to make it easier to read by providing 3 unique shapes to work from, but though I believe it worked in helping identify all 3 types, I fear it may have limited my artistic capability to deliver on the 'form meets purpose' for the actual ruin states. color swaps are hardly an indicator of what does what and so I had to put together a quick guide which unmistakably should've been in-game.
    • Songs 2 and 3. I wanted to have 2 additional (short) loops) for the main menu and the lose screen. Unfortunately didn't have time to put that together given how long I had already spent towards getting that one song into the game.
    • Killcount. I wasn't sure I had a metric by which I could judge the player. The intent was to use this for the Lose and Victory screen (and originally, there wasn't an actual boss, and the game had a system where an infinity of waves could be fought). After realizing none of the metrics would really matter (time and kill count both being finite measures of the wave the player is actually in) I ultimately chose to add an ending to the game (the boss) and keep the end of game screens simple.
    • Missing SFX / Screen Transitions / FX - There's a lot I would've liked to polish (fade to white before victory screen, victory jingly) but ultimately had to prioritize areas of the game where people would spent the most time (playing). I had justly anticipated that a limited amount of players/judges would make it to the end, so it was best to shift my focus to the game itself.
    • Design clutter. Some of the gameplay mechanics are not necessarily apparent at first, and may not be required to win the game, making them somewhat irrelevant. The ability to push around ruins was the point from which I started to get this concept started, but by the time the concept was completed, the idea may not have made as much sense. I haven't noticed that until the very end, at which time it wouldn't make sense to change it altogether. I'm on the fence on whether this is an 'intriguing little extra' or 'an annoying part of the game that wasn't necessary'.
    • Most importantly, losing an entire day to a tornado / power outage combo. This was crazy. My next door neighbor had their old 60+ years old tree cut the street in half, and they were far from being the only ones. My entire area was cutoff from the rest of the world for more than 8 hours (the cops even had trouble getting in). The bottom line is that, I was on-time until then, and afterwards, realized I was a day short and had to make some very difficult decisions regarding what would go in or not (and exactly how much sleep I'd get).

      Overall, I'm somewhat satisfied with the entry given the time I had to invest.
      Of the 16 hours (roughly) I ended up working on this, I spent approximately:

      • 5h - Art (character static, skeleton static, skeleton color swaps, ruins bases, ruins cracks, ruins color swaps, projectiles, etc.)
      • 2h - UI implementation (including custom 9-slice)
      • 3h - Prototyping gameplay (some of which reusable)
      • 3h - Strengthening the systems (refactor, making things more modular or easier to configure)
      • 2h - Polish
      • 1h - Bugfix

        Outcome
        That being said, this year's edition leaves me with a sour taste. Not one directly related to the competition itself, mind you, but rather, an observation that disappoints me.

        When I first joined for WoA2, I was amazed by my ability to find a solution that was on-theme and felt like a complete and theme-centric experience. It was the kind of game that would most likely not exist outside of this competition.
        To a degree, though rushed, I also felt like my entry for WoA3 worked well. Both of these entries were holistic entities that embodied and embraced the theme. Neither were established gameplay patterns (particularly not WoA3's!) and they felt refreshing.

        My entry for WoA4 is basically a Tower Defense with a twist. I was expecting more from me, and didn't realize until later how uninspired this concept was. If anything, WoA4 made me realize that I may not be particularly creative. I tend to execute well, but don't necessarily find inspiring and original ideas easily. Rather than bleed through this process as per WoA2/WoA3 I may have chosen to go a simpler road, one that's not as inspiring or creative, and this is something that concerns me and that will unmistakably require further introspection.


        The game that almost was...
        Now, to leave the reader on a more positive note, I'd like to share a few thoughts on what my entry could've been had things been slightly different (note that all of these were considered during the development of this game):


        • Have some enemies enter from the sides or the bottom. This is a thought I had around Day 2 or 3 when I started considering how to make the game less repetitive. Unfortunately, but then, the projectiles and enemy core AI had already been established and would've required a hefty refactor. I chose to continue adding value instead of tweaking things, and left the item on my secret to-do list (the one I didn't mention on my earlier journal posts as they were quite unlikely to get done).
        • A strict tower-defense. Early on Day 1, I briefly considered a concept where there would be no Prometheus but quickly turned away from this as I felt it wouldn't be of any interest as there are already so many tower defenses out there. That being said, 'towers' would've been moveable even in this concept as it was core to the ruins I wanted to establish.
        • Ruins (rubble) could only be pushed before being evolved to any other state. From a top-down standpoint, it made sense for rubble to be pushable whereas repaired/constructed ruins would necessarily be idle. That changed for gameplay reasons and to keep the concept as simple as possible (it wasn't any simpler to go either way from a tech standpoint). Another idea I toyed with here is to have the ruins pushable until they would touch other pieces, at which point they would interlock, but I felt it was a bit too punishing and ultimately decided on the 'free-form'.
        • The 'Shades' (enemies made of smoke) were meant to convey the light theme. I toyed with a solution that would make the entire game generate its own light and have the shades 'swallow the light', but it quickly became apparent that such a solution would require more time than I had to give, and would endanger my delivery. I shelved the idea for now, but am currently looking into ways of making it work. I knew that foregoing this idea would also nullify my ability to hit the 'light' theme as the Shades are incomplete in their current form.
        • Perhaps a bit more cosmetic, I briefly considered having different powers associated directly with the 'cracks' state of a GPI, instead of having the current model where each ruin has different stages, and each stage has its own 'destruction level'. When looking at it in-game, I realize it looks a bit weird, but I felt it was necessary to convey the addition of new abilities, but overall, it now feels a bit clumsy.
        • Before settling on the 'mega shade' ending, I considered adding enemy ruins that would get unearthed and have a textbox explain that Hades was sending pieces of its Temple to fight off Zeus (time to make a stand!). Unfortunately, for reasons discussed earlier, the requirement to doing this was unsustainable from a logic standpoint. I also felt it was a bit cheesy yet...
        • ... I also considered a 1v1 variant of the game where two players would reconstruct their own temples and wage war. The ruins I had envisioned were a bit different (the straight shooter would've been there, along with a Golem ruin which, once evolved, would walk in is lane and seek to attack is enemy). I felt it gave a light 'Plant vs Zombie' feel and could've worked as a game, but because judges weren't expected to have another player at the ready, I felt the inclusion of a complex AI would've been too consuming and would've negatively affected the rest of the game. Still worth exploring though!
        • There would've been an Actraiser ball!

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I think saying you aren't creative is wrong. In WoA 2, you had a simple driving game, but the story behind it was deep. Especially for a game-jam game. Quit beating yourself up! :)

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Thanks for the pat on the back, but please allow me to rephrase: I feel like my recent game jam entry hasn't shown the same kind of promise as my ealier entries (WoA 2 was a satisfying entry I believe). Since I don't live up to what I had set as my expectations, I'm lead to believe I am not intrinsically creative and WoA2 was either a stroke of luck, or me going the extra pile to pour out an idea. Most likely, it was just me being creatively lazy for WoA4, but hey!

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A little aside on the tornado thing. It took 13 civilians, past midnight to try and get a bus out of the area which had been stuck there since 9PM evening. Talk about a crappy thing!

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