Notes from a Mad Mage is my Ludum Dare 30 entry. It features a fireball throwing mage who is trying to escape a dungeon. Whenever you die a ghost is created that mimics the motions of the last game you played. These ghosts stack over the course of fifteen lives and you need to use them to solve puzzles and generally help you along the way.
This blog post is cross-posted on the official Ludum Dare site here: http://www.ludumdare.com/compo/2014/08/29/making-the-mad-mage-becoming-a-better-designer/
I’ve been dabbling in game design off and on for years. I’ve put out multiple Flash games and even released two full iOS games (link). All the while I felt as if I was doing it in isolation without really getting into a good community of game designers to toss ideas back and forth off of. I felt like I was spinning my tires as a game designer and I wasn’t improving my craft at all. I kept hearing about these game jams where you have to make a game in a very short amount of time and I decided to take the plunge. This is my first Ludum Dare.
Finding the Fun
This experience has been a blast in both game design and feedback. The time limit forced me to not overthink every little decision and just go with my gut. The only question I asked myself throughout the entire process of making my entry was “is this fun?” On Sunday morning I had created an elaborate tutorial system to teach people about the ghost mechanic I put in the game. Around noon I asked myself “is this fun?” The answer was no so I scrapped it and made the action start from the second you hit the play button. The downside is players might get confused as I don’t really teach them the game, the upside is they hopefully have fun while they learn about it for themselves. The feedback I’ve been getting from this game has been extremely valuable. From the comments, to the tweets, to watching people playing it over Twitch I can definitely see where I went right and wrong and can use that for future projects.
I also took time in this competition to work on ‘game feel.’ I knew I had only about 10 seconds to grab everyone’s attention as there are 2,000+ entries to be played so I wanted to grab the player instantly. Killing enemies had to feed good. The music had to match the tone and action. Firing your weapon had to feel satisfying (Camera shake goes a long way!). Also the feeling of watching the ghosts mimic your past movements was a lot more effective than I initially thought it would be.
Overall this experience has changed the way I approach game design. I feel like I can come at games from a new perspective and I have a community who will help me along the way calling out both my good and bad design decisions. Thanks to the staff of Ludum Dare for such a great idea and an awesome experience.