Ludum Dare 26 Design Postmortem – Click, Release
In the spirit of making a game in only 48 hours, I’m giving myself 30 whole minutes to write this postmortem. Make more things, deadlines spur action, yadda yadda yadda.
I’m really pleased with and proud of how my game turned out. There are a few things that I’d change if I had the chance to do it over again, but they are far outweighed in my mind by what actually went right! And in a game-jam-first for me, these positives are not just “Hey, I made something and it’s finished and you can play it w/out it crashing!” Artistically, I actually like what I made 🙂
So, before focusing too much on the product, I want to look a little bit at the process that got me there. As you may know, the theme for the competition was “Minimalism.” I was excited by this theme because it was abstract and didn’t seem too limiting. Immediately after the theme was announced I did some quick googling for inspiration. MoMa and this page had some good information and a few things stuck out for me. I loved the phrase, “the Minimalists attempted to avoid metaphorical associations, symbolism, and suggestions of spiritual transcendence.” To me, this had echoes of Eric Zimmerman’s “Let the games be games” mentality, and I liked that idea. I wanted to make a game that wasn’t about anything per se, but rather had the feel of minimalism.
To this end, I looked for minimalist art that I liked, and was immediately drawn to Donald Judd, Sol Lewitt, and Carl Andre. I looked and tried to pay attention to how I felt while looking at their pieces (Ed Note: Ugh. Too ushy gushy). I loved the way they drew me in – I wasn’t exactly sure what was going on and I wanted to explore them. I was a little confused, and definitely intrigued. I felt some hidden logic guiding the pieces, but was unsure about its exact rules.
To me, this was all great fodder for a game. I immediately had in my head some interactive piece that is somehow very exploratory. I wanted the user to not be quite sure what was going on when the game started but be drawn in to look further. I wanted a feeling of slight perplexity while playing.
My first idea was for the play to take place on a field of hidden “magnetic” forces. You would be able to see how they pushed and pulled you, but you would not be able to see them directly. The game would not present itself to you – you had to go out and find it. However, when built out, the invisibility turned out to be completely too obtuse for my liking. I made the fields somewhat visible and the game felt a million times better.
On the non-feelings side of things, I also wanted to mirror the repetition that I loved in a lot of the pieces. Variations on a theme. This is where the multiple rooms in the game come into play. Each one introduces a slightly different take on the basic click, release mechanic while still staying very much the same. Additionally, with each variation, I think it enhances the “what exactly is going on?” feeling that I was striving for.
I feel happy with how I captured the mood that I was going for. I think the exploratory aspect of the game works really well, and I’m extremely pleased to see that the game that it is having its desired effect on players. One commenter summed it up rather perfectly for me:
“I don’t really understand purpose, meaning and what you really wanted to express. Nonetheless, the experience was engaging.
I must confess I did not finish the game but I played it for quite a while. There were times I got myself just playing around with the sounds.
And now, I urge you to go experience it for yourself!