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Obscuria Post-Mortem

phiat

Rough Post-Mortem for GGJ10 - Project Name: Obscuria

Having just completed my first 48 hours game design/development jam, I must record my initial thoughts and impressions before passing out for many hours. This was more of a Survival Endless mini game... not our project , but the daunting task of focusing/refocusing/innovating/debugging/coordinating/communicating/simplifying/ designing . Never have I crunched so much and produced such a collaborative, useful, working design AND had a lot fun while sustaining the torture! Simply surviving the 48 hours of mind olympics coupled with eye strain and fatigue is a victory.

OBSCURIA theme: Deception contraints: Rain, A Plain, in Spain

After simplifying a few basic designs revolving around the themes of painting/color/camouflage/rain/surrealism, we started to tackle the technology. As Justin and I both had some recent Flash/Flex experience, we thought we could bang out a quick bird's eye view, keyboard controlled flex app. After the rest of the team spent the first night prototyping different ideas, I officially joined around noon on Saturday (27 hours to go!). We set up an svn repository and taught our artists how to export flex components from flash (from photoshop from sketchbook from brain). Once that was up and running and we started hashing out basic code structures and functions, and from there 20+ straight hours of jamming. a few notes:

1) Making a game in <= 48 hours is mega difficult.

2) SVN:
Although we 'lost' an estimated 1-2 hours of pure design time wrestling with all sorts of issues:
- DONT VERSION CONTROL PROJECT SETTINGS, DOT FILES, or DEBUG FOLDERS
- SERVERS GO DOWN AT RANDOM TIMES
- INTERRUPTING FLEX BUILDER WHILE SVN IS WORKING CAN CAUSE CATASTROPHIC EVENTS

3) Flash / Flex :
While Flash is a solid tool for prototyping and final applications, adobe does not support a Flash 10 POWERPC debugger. :( We couldn't rely on Flash 10's new class Vector, so we had to roll our own. Not too bad at all, especially just for simple additions and multiplications for player movement.

4) FOOD:
Bring/Prepare/Make better brain food. Coffee is good for a long session, not for 30+ hours. Bring avocados.

5) MENUS:
Make the menu flow before implementing too much of the main game code. This way, you don't waste precious crunch time later on.

6) ASSETS:
Make crazy long art assets and wisely sort their precedences. Unlike a lot of coding, which relies on parallel development of supporting features, most art assets (besides maybe your initial character or menus or level maps) can be made independently, whenever an artist finds the time/energy/vision.

7) NEXT TIME:
I think next year, I'm going to shoot even higher and more daring in the design and interface. 'The Hack' achievement seemed like an awesome excuse to go insane an invent profound ways to play games thru digital mediums with strange objects. Focusing on one of the more challenging achievements (like the MMO challenge? insane!) would definitely raise the stakes quite a bit. Not that our project was too easy, we just barely 'finished' with unfortunately 'no playtesting'. A definite let down, but we knew that we were sacrificing short term goals for a better code base to make a 'real' game. I entered the jam feeling the juices of competition against the clock, but with more than 20 hours left, felt very content with the overall, post jam direction of the project. I will probably approach next year with a more keen interest in developing a lasting, creative game vs. thinking about the jam as a competition against time and peers. Which makes this idea of jamming much more appealing for sparking creative talents on a regular basis.
I definitely plan on submitting some type of Ruby-Processing app next year to promote the most awesomest new thing I love. Its such a great framework/philosophy for the 48 hr events -> Ruby Language + Processing Libraries + Live Coding + Java VM + web + desktop apps = making much much more in way less time... The Ultimate Prototyping Toolset?

As for an honest assessment of our 'officially submitted', 48 hr limit game, I would have to point out the downsides:

1) Broken win condition. Easily fixed, but just couldn't get the updates in on time. This almost disqualifies it as game... But given another 5-10 hours, we should have multiple levels, much improved 'feel' via tweaked physics, 'more punishing' rain manager, a level complete graphic, and music & sound galore.
2) No Music. (deep down I'm actually a musician, and it makes me cry to miss an opportunity to bombard others with my musicalness)
3) More story/context/imagery to enforce the theme. OR much less story/context/imagery and go all out minimal/clean.
4) Only aimed at 1 real achievement (cross platform, web delivery), would've liked to strived to hit as many as feasible (natural language, no text, EGA lives, 5 minutes to play and beat, etc...)

Overall, I had a great time churning out code and wrestling with flash (ok, just an alright time with that part) and got to passionately design an entire game idea from scratch with some some fellow game makers and friends. Next year, schedule be damned, I'll be back.


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