Agent Alea Postmortem
Last weekend, I participated in the GMTK Game Jam. I got to make a game in two days around the theme "Roll of the Dice", alongside over 20 thousand other game creators. There are 6000 games though, so I was mainly competing against teams (and even being on par with some of them, as some reviewers said to me, "great job guys!", thinking I was a team).
Oh yeah, this jam is big. Like, really big. I was surprised that only 8 hours after submitting my game, I had over 28 comments. That is more feedback than in the 2-3 weeks after a Ludum Dare!
The plot: time travel was invented. Of course, many exploited this invention for their personal profit. To capture them, lotteries and casinos were set up across time and space. But one traveler is particularly tough to catch: Julius Caesar, who won the lottery 99 times in a row to help finance the never-fallen Roman Empire.
You play as Agent Alea, a spy hidden inside a giant die. You have to storm Fortune Fort, and capture Caesar. Good luck.
That's it for the plot. In terms of gameplay, you can move around, and dash/roll. Every time you stop rolling, a number between 1-6 is cast. Some doors will only open if you rolled a certain number. You encounter many creatures, like ladybugs, who will chase you if your number matches the amount of dots they have. You will also face other spies, hidden inside mundane crates, and armed with plasma guns.
You can collect clovers to manually set the result of your next roll, and red poker chips to restore your health.
In the end, you face Caesar, who will slash you with his sword, throw his spiky laurel crowns, invoke spies made of concrete, and even have a second phase.
First time I made:
- A full rigid body game. I used no kinematic bodies or anything of the sort this time, except maybe areas for the simplest things (like slashes). This, alongside making traditionally static elements dynamic such as trees, greatly helps make for a more interactive/playful world. Every time you roll, you can bounce around and the room becomes a pinball of sorts.
- Animating a complex character. Caesar is the most animated boss I've done, it's far from the single head in Tax Mage or the hand with four poses in Snail Ragnarök. This proved to be a challenge when I had a few hours left to make him, but in the end, I think it feels really good to have him chase and slash you like that.
- First time I really used pre-made assets for (some) of my sound effects. I thank Kenney a lot for that, especially his casino sound package, where the dice rolling sounds are from. I still submitted my game as "audio made internally in majority", because the musics (and the retro sounding sounds) are mine.
What went right
- The juiciness. The first 2 hours of coding were dedicated to making the juiciest player character in history. Apparently, that's the method at Nintendo as well: if Mario isn't hyper fun to control in a bare grey room, then he's not ready for his game.
- The storytelling was also really appreciated. This is now a recurring point for my games, maybe I should try a more narrative genre (like adventure games) for my next one?
- The graphics. It helps a lot that I made nearly a dozen games with the same art style in the last two years, so it looks very polished by now. As a solo dev, I could also integrate them with the musics/physics/etc very easily (no communication problems when you're alone!)
What did not go right
- The randomness element. Sometimes, you need a dozen rolls to open the next door, and that can be frustrating. Because the theme was "Roll of the Dice" and you play as a die, I assumed I would put randomness for each of your rolls. But I played other games from this jam, and some of them are completely deterministic without being off-topic. Also, forcing a roll without manually spending a clover could be a good idea, like stealing the dots from the ladybugs you bump into.
- Beetles being invincible. Because they are very cute, I didn't want to give an incentive to savagely kill them, so I made them completely invincible. After all, their default state is peaceful. But some players complained they could not clear the room, so I'll see what I can do about that.
- Mouse-only controls. Originally, I did movement with the arrow keys and roll on mouse click, but I thought that would be best to get everything on one device for such simple controls. Although that would make for an easy port on mobile, maybe I should re-add arrow keys (and a dash key) as an alternative.
- Other things to correct: increase player invincibility time, and match the current number with the player's sprite.
Welp, this was fun. Results will come in a few days from now.
Reminder that I now have a Discord server for all my games right here: https://discord.gg/g8nsFpVUqs (this invite will not expire in time, but has a limit of 100 uses, just in case of spam you know)
See you on the next one!
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