The voting has ended for the Ludum Dare 30 (Game Jam) and the results for my game, Notes from a Mad Mage, are in!
Considering the amount of entries there were I’m pleased with the results. I’m especially happy with getting into the top 25 of the “Fun” category because, as I said in my post mortem of the game, my main goal was to make my entry as fun and crazy as I could.
The top 100 results can be found here: http://www.ludumdare.com/compo/ludum-dare-30/?action=top&cat=Overall(Jam)
The top 25 from each category can be found here: http://www.ludumdare.com/compo/ludum-dare-30/?more=1
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.
Ludum Dare (to give a game) is a game jam where you have to make a game in 48 or 72 hours. I opted for the 72 hour jam since I didn’t think I could pull the game off in 48 hours and I could use outside sources for help (music, sound effects, etc) whereas you cannot for the 48 hour version. The theme you had to stick to for this competition was “Connected Worlds.”
The results of those 72 hours is my newest game Notes from a Mad Mage.
The game draws on the “Connected Worlds” theme through connecting past gameplay with present. Everytime you die a ghost will appear and perform the same actions you did on the previous run. The ghosts stack so you can have up to 14 ghosts at a time (totally depending on how much you die). It gets frantic!
Ludum Dare entry: http://www.ludumdare.com/compo/ludum-dare-30/?action=preview&uid=27935
For a fun experiment I submitted Boom Boat 2 to several web game portals over the weekend. It’ll be great getting feedback from a new audience and taking valid critiques into account as I’m working on new projects.
[h2]Boom Boat 2 featured on Newgrounds[/h2]
As you can see from the above pic, Boom Boat 2 is featured on the NG front page with classics such as Climb Jon Hamm’s Dick! and Double Hitler. It’s great to be back on that site.
I’m working on a new game. The game won’t be out for awhile and besides saying a new game does, in fact, exist I have nothing else to say about it at this time. That being said, instead of leaving my blog section a barren wasteland of 2013 posts about how awesome Boom Boat 2 is I figured I’d bore what readers I have left with the tale of how Boom Boat 1 and 2 came to be. Where did the ideas come from? What went right? What went wrong? You’ll find out over this three part series starting with where it all begin…
[h2 align=’left’]It Begins[/h2]
On a hot summer day while mindlessly sweeping, blowing and pushing leaves off the roof of my house I came up with an idea for a mobile game. A boat, some bombs and oil gushers that needed plugging. The oil gusher inspiration came from the media blitz that was the 2010 Deep Horizon oil spill crisis so it already seemed interesting and topical to a mainstream audience. Couple that with my battery draining addiction to physics puzzle games on my iPhone and I was prototyping gusher bombing within the week.
|[photo size=’medium’ title=’Boom Boat Prototype 1′ link=’http://www.razoric.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/bb-prototype1.png’]http://www.razoric.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/bb-prototype1.png[/photo]||[photo size=’medium’ title=’Boom Boat Prototype 2′ link=’http://www.razoric.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/bb-prototype2.png’]http://www.razoric.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/bb-prototype2.png[/photo]|
Created with: Cocos2D engine | Box 2D physics | Objective-C code
[h2 align=’left’]Oil Crisis 2012[/h2]
Boom Boat was originally called Oil Crisis 2012. The core design for OC2012 was 30 levels of explosive mayhem using tilt based controls to drop bombs, level-altering concrete blocks and various other items that may or may not explode. Simple vector graphics and a UI inspired by newspapers round out the original vision.
|[photo size=’medium’ title=’Oil Crisis 2012 Title Screen’ link=’http://www.razoric.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/bb-oc1.png’]http://www.razoric.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/bb-oc1.png[/photo]||[photo size=’medium’ title=’Oil Crisis 2012 Menu Screen’ link=’http://www.razoric.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/bb-oc2.png’]http://www.razoric.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/bb-oc2.png[/photo]|
[h2 align=’left’]Boom Boatin'[/h2]
As the game reached a more finished state the more incomplete it started to feel. The levels lacked replayability, the ‘enemy’ lacked personality and the graphics looked like a programmer drew them (imagine that).
To fix the problem of replayability I looked to Super Mario Galaxy for inspiration. In Galaxy, even when you beat a level you could go back for additional challenges for more accolades. Some of these challenges could be skill based so there’s additional objectives rather than simply besting the level. Others could show you a better or different way to progress which you would use on future or even past levels. I fused this with the typical 3-star challenge system that scads of mobile games use to make it more digestible for the mobile gaming audience.
For more personality I needed a better villain. Did God cause the oil crisis? Did Satan crawl out of hell with the intention of drowning the world in a hot, brown liquid death? I finally settled on the most logical choice, the garden gnome.
With the new villain, the game needed a new name. Oil Crisis 2012 was bland, boring and forgettable. The original design document had a long list of names ranging from Petroleboom to Gusher Bomber to Boomer the Tugboat. After several minutes of rearranging various boat and bomb related words in my head and on paper I finally settled on Boom Boat. Those two words told the audience exactly what to expect and did so in a playful manner. Perfect.
The final issue that needed addressing was graphics. I didn’t have the time, budget nor talent to pull off what I was picturing in my head so I did the best I could with the skills I had. I had no choice but to polish the art myself and release as is.
[h2 align=’left’]Leaving the Port[/h2]
After the name change, the level redesigns, graphics polishing and a few weeks of forcing my wife to play test the game for bugs, game play quirks, achievement issues and more, Boom Boat was unleashed upon the unsuspecting world on January 21, 2011 for iPhone and iPod Touch. Eight months of development time starting from the initial inspiration while chasing leaves off my roof, to designing the game engine, drawing the graphics, play testing the game and finally marketing the title with a homemade website and launch trailer. Total development cost was around $200 which included the Apple Developer’s License, sound effects, theme song and beer consumed while programming.
|[photo size=’medium’ title=’Boom Boat v1.0′ link=’http://www.razoric.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/bb-screen1.png’]http://www.razoric.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/bb-screen1.png[/photo]||[photo size=’medium’ title=’Boom Boat v1.0′ link=’http://www.razoric.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/image5.png’]http://www.razoric.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/image5.png[/photo]|
The game received some decent reviews and ended up selling a couple thousand in the first few weeks. Not life changing but certainly enough motivation to continue down this path.
In the next blog post I will cover the major update that was made to Boom Boat as well as what went right and wrong with the entire project.
Go get it here: https://itunes.apple.com/app/id689074230
Whew, now time to rest??
Testing out the in-game replay functionality of Boom Boat 2 (via Kamcord technology).