Spacelunky Post-mortem

As previously mentioned, I’m attempting 1GAM again in 2015. My attempt for January is Spacelunky. Download it free from Itch.io.

Spacelunky

Spacelunky came from my admiration of Spelunky, and the fact I’ve not really made a platformer before. So at the beginning of the month I outlined my plans for what I thought was ambitious for my 1-week time limit, but felt I’d be able to complete a decent chunk of it. However… I barely finished anything. It feels like a 48-hour game jam’s worth of work.

What went well

Let’s start with the good! I tried to put into practice what Casey Muratori calls “compression-oriented programming“, where you don’t design the code in advance, but write it as simply as possible, and see what structure naturally emerges. The result is that I’ve written much less code than I normally would, but with the same effects. It’s quite liberating, but does take some practice.

I wrote music! It’s mutated a little as I converted it from in-my-head to on-the-computer, so it doesn’t really feel appropriate to the game, but it’s not actually painful for me to listen to, so I’m making progress from my previous attempts. Still very rough though, I hope to be much better by December.

I’m also pleased with the art. OK, the tiles are a bit horrible, but whereas I usually don’t animate things, this time I put some effort into doing so. The player and aliens have walk and death animations which I’m really pleased with.

Finally, and this will make more sense in a minute, I kept going, and made sure I had a playable game now, even if it’s not a very good one. I was really worried about meeting the deadline, and nearly just gave up on the whole thing, but I’m glad I finished something.

What went poorly

The first problem was over-scoping: the game design was too big. I knew this before I started, and hoped that as most of the design was optional, it wouldn’t be a problem. It wouldn’t have been as much of a problem as it was if it wasn’t for…

Having a terrible week! Many of you will be aware that I suffer from depression, and this week was not a good week. I don’t know why, but I just felt rubbish. I would sit down, intending to work, and just stare at the code with no idea of what I was doing. Not great.

I’m not at all happy with the generated levels. The algorithm I think is fine: it creates a 5×5 array of chunks, with connections between them, then slots in a pre-defined tile layout that matches the connections. (e.g. a chunk connects up, down and left, so it finds a layout for it with those connections.) The problem is the levels are dull and repetitive. Partly this is from the lack of available things to put in them, but also because of a poor decision I made early on that the layouts should be 10×10. This is much too small to fit anything interesting in, once the appropriate corridors are added.

What I would do differently

Definitely next time I will shrink the scope of the game significantly. In February I’ll aim for the sort of game I would attempt for Ludum Dare, and see how that goes. I’ll try to look after myself better and hopefully avoid feeling so low.

Anyway, if you want to check it out you can do so on Itch.io. It’s a free download, but does require Java.