[Archives] Even In Your Postmortem

Archives, Game Development

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Where do I even start with this?  How do I write a postmortem for a gag game?  Whelp, here we go.

I wanna start off by explaining the decision to make this monstrosity.  The theme this Ludum Dare was “You are the Monster,” which, while sharing a striking resemblance to LD25′s “You are the Villain,” is just thematically different enough that it squeezed its way into the running and ended up winning.  

I dislike the theme for a number of reasons.  For one, let’s just resubmit my LD25 game and call it a day, right?  And secondly, the theme could really only be interpreted in one of two ways:  1) You are a mythological non-human creature that may or may not actually do bad things. or 2) You are a human who does bad things, a metaphorical monster. 


Not the gumdrop buttons!

The most interesting interpretations I’ve seen so far include a few monster dating sim esque things.  It’s just not a theme I could easily find a way to subvert like I did “entire game on one screen” (when I made the game take place on a TV screen, and involved you breaking out of the edges of the TV) or “unconventional weapon” (weaponized poetry!).

So at the hour of announcement, I’m complaining in the Fragment Friday stream about the theme, and somehow the topic of F.O.E.came up, and… Hey, F.O.E. is technically a monster!  You are the F.O.E.!  And as it turns out, the phrase “Even in your Ludum Dare” fits perfectly in the number of syllables used in the meme!  It’s just too good to pass up!  And thus, a gag game was born.

So then we went on about the different ways to make a game about being an F.O.E.  I think the obvious choice would’ve been to make a dungeon crawler where you send F.O.E.s out to surprise unsuspecting RPG parties, but that’s too obvious and kind of a lot of work and I didn’t feel like putting in the effort to create (probably randomized) dungeon layouts and party AI and faux-RPG mechanics and… yeah, no.

And then I remembered the nephilim from El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron and how adorable they are but how they’re actually super creepy, eating each other due to constant pain and anguish until they become so big they burst into flames and destroy everything around them.  Super monstrous.  So now these F.O.E.s are neF.O.E.s who eat each other and get bigger each time and eventually turn into full-on F.O.E.s, and now logic is going to shit and this game is getting more and more trash and I’m loving every minute of it.

Right, on to the actual postmortem.

What Went Right

  • I actually made sort of a competent game, for a gag game.  It’s fun, and most people who’ve left comments on the Ludum Dare page seem to enjoy watching events unfold and seeing little dudes (or big dudes, or giant dudes) eat each other.  Some people leave the game run for a super long time, becoming absolutely enormous.
  • The art’s pretty good.  The color palette is pleasing; the animations, while incredibly lazily made, work pretty well, and I learned some new tools in photoshop that I can use to make better art later.
  • The sound effects I made are relatively appropriate and kind of adorable.
  • It was a last-minute touch, but the puff of smoke that generates when you land really added a lot.

What Went Wrong

I wouldn’t say anything went straight up “wrong” but a few things went more poorly than they could have.

  • THEY’RE NOT DICKS. Really. (I actually realize how much the neF.O.E. meat tubes look like penises, and tbh I don’t care.  I’d probably care more if this wasn’t a joke of a game.)
  • I spent far too long trying to come up with music.  I had some rather specific ideas in mind for what I wanted the music to sound like, and I am not a musician.  In the end, I spent a whole EIGHT HOURS trying to get something close to what I wanted out of a random generator (good luck with that).  I did spend some of that time researching music theory in an attempt to tweak some of the generator’s sliders in a more favorable direction, but it turns out I just really like music in 12/8 timescale and the generator can’t do that, so I was a little shit outta luck.  In the end I got something okay, but I would’ve loved to spend that time doing something else, like creating a second song for when you actually become an F.O.E., or like… sleeping.
  • The theme, I guess.  Or my interpretation of it and disinterest in it.  Does that count?  That counts.
  • The idea that I need to keep improving with every game, and the crushing disappointment I have when I make a game that is worse or does worse than a game I made previously.  Actually, let’s talk about that for a second.

So last Ludum Dare I made a fantastic game.  I loved it.  The voters loved it.  Leigh Alexander loved it, at least enough to write about it.
I placed 85th Overall, 5th in Innovation, 15th in Theme, and top 50 in three other categories.  (TBH I don’t know how I placed that high in theme, I stretched that theme so far).
The point is, it’d be incredibly hard to follow that up, at least for me.  But I feel this immense pressure to do so.  I feel like my skill at design is inconstant at best; like my best games were just happy accidents, and everything else (like Little Ghost Flower) is what my real skill level is.  Actually, I think that’s a symptom of Impostor Syndrome.  
Of course I want to keep improving, that’s only natural, but I shouldn’t feel like I’ve stopped improving when I make a game that isn’t as well-received as the last.  I’m still improving and learning.  

But I feel like that pressure to keep improving really held me back this Ludum Dare.  I felt so much like there was no way I could repeat last Ludum Dare that I felt anxious even participating.  That’s not good!  I almost feel like making Even in your Ludum Darewas cathartic in a way.  It let me put out an absolute trash game without feeling bad about it.  Kind of like that time I made a game about throwing out everything you write.

Continuing on with the actual postmortem, let’s talk about 

What I Learned

To be honest not much actually.  One of the things I’m disappointed about is that I didn’t really push myself at all.  Jams are a great opportunity to learn and create something you’ve never done before in a space that’s safe from failure, and I didn’t take that opportunity nearly as well as I should have.  

To be fair I was able to apply some math to the game that I’d never tried to implement before in order to get the camera to zoom correctly in accordance with your size, and had some fun graphing.  So I didn’t learn nothing.

Something I want to do before the next jam is learn some music and music theory, and be confident in creating my own little dumb melodies for things, instead of needing to rely on a generator.  That and be able to actually use said generator to its full potential.  I looked into it a bit, and that thing is actually really powerful if you know how to do things with it.

Anyway, this is going on super long, so I’m just going to end this with the most amazing F.O.E.
Seriously, who sat there with the game open for this long?!