So, here we are again. Another Ludum Dare in the bag. We really didn’t want to take part this time as it came so soon after LD#38, which left us pretty burnt out. Our last entry, Murder 38 was a lesson in over-scoping. We finished it in time but much was left on the cutting room floor, so to speak. This time we thought if we do take part then we will take it easy and make something simple. Then we realised that we both had the Monday off work.
We’ve never both had the Monday off, luckily my day off always falls on a Monday but Rodo usually spends the day at work. In previous jams, Monday is spent with me trying to polish, finding all the bugs and anything else I can do by myself. Then Rodo gets home roughly 3-4 hours before the deadline and I bombard him with crap the minute he gets home. Poor guy. Actually not poor him, poor me! Ludum Dare is harder than most day jobs. While he is swanning about in work I’m trying to come up with a description for the Ludum Dare website with 0% brain capacity left from the night before.
Anyway, we both had the Monday off this time so we knew we could probably do something decent rather than taking it easy as we had planned.
What we always make, a ridiculous point and click style game. We always like to interpret the theme via story over gameplay, though we do try to make the gameplay fit as best we can but we mostly just want you to have fun and laugh through our shoehorned story. So we made Super Helpful Man, a story about a super hero who is running out of super power due to old age. Super Helpful Man once wielded the Power of DIY but his power has been waning in recent years. You’re gonna have to help him with his last few odd jobs.
It’s classic point and click fare but we think it’s pretty fun!
We both wanted “You are not the main character” for the theme. We had a really good idea for that. We pretty much hated all the other themes though once you think about any of them long enough an idea will eventually pop up. Not so much for “Running Out of Power”, it took forever to come up with an idea!
We finally came up with the idea of a super hero handy man that is still working at age 80 with poor vision, mobility and hand eye coordination. It would have a point and click puzzle game framework with little mini-games that display Super Helpful Man’s decline in health/power.
Day 1: We hash out the game from start to finish then I start some basic drawing while Rodo sets up Unity and lays out the rooms and stuff. We remind each other that we’ve somehow agreed to make a handy man simulator and get working.
For Murder 38, I spent the first morning writing a game design document for the first time. It was invaluable! So I did it again this time. It contained all the rooms, characters, puzzles, object descriptions, rough story and all the dialogues. Whilst writing it I am constantly stressing about the time wasted doing that instead of drawing or the million other tasks but once it’s complete it’s worth every minute spent. When I came to write the script properly having that backbone already in place really helped.
Once the GDD was finished I hit the art hard cause Rodo needed it to continue. He had spent his morning doing all the jobs we usually do 5 minutes before uploading like a title screen so it was nice having that stuff out of the way already. Once given the placeholder art he set up the game world and added the interaction hotspots. We couldn’t do anything in our game world but we had a game world all the same.
Day 2: I wake up at 9am and notice I have a text from Rodo from only 1 hour ago. Rodo is 4 hours behind me so that means he’s gone to bed around 4am. Awesome that he’s been at it all night but that means he won’t wake up for another 7 hours. I’m a big boy, I can work on my own but losing that communication for that long can be painful, especially if I’ve broken Unity and can’t do anything until he wakes up. Luckily, I didn’t break anything but that feedback loop is definitely missed. Well, I miss it. I think he stays up late to work cause I’ll be asleep and won’t stop him every 5 minutes asking if this looks like a cat..
Anyway, while I waited for Rodo to sleep I completed 90% of the art and began writing the story properly. By the time he woke up we had the bulk of the game, content wise, it just had to be put together. This is when we had our first conversation about scope.
We had plans for mini-games that play on Super Helpful Man’s age. We wanted his vision to be in and out of focus for certain quests and counter intuitive mouse controls to suggest his loss of hand eye coordination as well as some interesting physics based puzzles we had in mind. We wasn’t really sure how to implement those features though so we had to make a call between spending all day working that out, possibly finding out it’s unfeasible and being left with nothing or just get what we already have in the game and see where we stand after that. Well we decided not to gamble it and we agreed that Rodo should start getting everything into Unity at the risk of having a less exciting game than we could potentially have had. That turned out to be a good call because just getting what we had meant working harder than we have ever worked on a Ludum Dare game. On the plus side we did get the out of focus vision in for one of the puzzles.
Rodo got the content in then spent all night on the first puzzle and I finished the story and input it into our lovely Speecher program.
Day 3: I hated day 3. It made me question if I’d really like to be a game developer full time. I couldn’t work at that intensity 5 days a week during crunch months, it was absolutely exhausting. We barely stopped all day, only to grab bites to eat. It took me about 6 hours to record and trim all the voice over and then correct all the times I went off script so the subtitles match. Rodo pulled his hair out all day fixing the conditionals on all the puzzles. “We’re making a first person shooter next LD.” he says. I tip my hat to Rodo cause he had some serious work to do on Monday and he’ll probably make sure he is at his day job on the Monday come the next Ludum Dare, it will definitely be an easier shift.
We had both each wrote a song the week before so we decided to use them for our game plus we created a couple of little piano loops to play for the rest of the soundtrack. We didn’t have enough time for many sound effects, sadly.
We finally had the entire game minus a bunch of polish about 2 hours from the deadline. 2 hours of furious polish and bug squishing and we get it uploaded in time only to find a massive bug that rushes you right to the end if you click on a certain object. Rodo stays up late, really late, once again to fix it.
Day 4: There isn’t technically a Day 4 but my first time of playing the game properly is downloading it myself from our itch.io site. There are so many typos that I have to go in and fix some of them. We won’t touch it again now as a Ludum Dare entry, it is what it is. However, we will continue polishing it for release as part of Point Bleep TV where we hope to implement some of the mini game features we missed.
Then I wrote this waffle, forgive me if it’s gibberish, I’m very tired.
I think so. For 3 days work I am really proud of what we accomplished. It’s our most feature rich game and it feels like we’re improving in design and efficiency each time. We didn’t finish the final puzzle completely but it still works.
I’m a fool for the creation process of anything, knowing that on Friday this game didn’t exist at all, now it does and other people are playing it. If the game is good or bad it doesn’t matter, we created something that wasn’t there before and that is a really satisfying thing which makes this process so much fun.
Yeah. I always have music on in the background but this time I listened to loads of comedy on Spotify. It kept me in a good mood and got me through the difficult hours. I heartily recommend it.
Yes, that’s it. Fine, I’m going. I hope you enjoyed playing and if you haven’t played it then thanks for reading this ramble. Take care!