A few weeks ago I took part in the 4th Reddit 48 hour game jam. I'd never taken part in a game jam before, but it's something I've wanted to do for a while. To make things a little more interesting, I set myself the target of building my entry in Flash, a language I've never used before.
The theme was "Metamorphosis", so straight away I was looking at things like Dali paintings, insects and mutations. My first idea was to mix a puzzle game with a festive picture, such as decorating a tree. I'm not much of an artist though, so a game where art is the primary feature wasn't a good fit.
One idea that constantly came up was changing the appearance of something over time, either main character, the enemies or the world. I really liked the idea of attaching enemy parts to make yourself stronger, almost like Cyborg Justice or Biomotor Unitron.
In the end I settled on a simple version of "half minute hero", with some mutation bits thrown in for good measure. There's lots of room for improvement, but the game was playable and pretty fun after a bit of tweaking.
What Went Wrong
Slow start – I didn't actually start coding until about 16 hours in, which didn't turn out to be a big problem, but those 16 hours would have been handy for polishing things up at the end.
Awful balance – The number one comment I got was that the game was far too hard. I'd originally intended to have about a dozen enemies to fight, but only had time to sprite 3 mutations so the rest were cut. This left the level caps and final boss out of balance, so the game was impossible to finish (although this was fixed shortly after the final submission).
Hidden Stats – There was no way to find out how much experience you had, your level or how many of each enemy you have defeated (to figure out how you'll evolve). Again, this was planned but was cut at the end.
Unintuitive – Probably the worst part. There's no obvious explanation of what's going on, or how to get the various enemy parts, it just happens as you play.
What Went Right
It got done – This is the big one. At the end of the 48 hours, there was a playable game. Considering it was my first Flash, I was super excited. More importantly, it was a big confidence boost.
Planning saved a lot of time – I did jump in to code at the start, but took a break a few hours in to design the screen layouts and game flow. All the features I wanted were listed on a piece of paper in order of important, which really helped towards the end when things got tight.
Lessons For The Future
There were some excellent games entered, and I'll admit the high quality really surprised me, especially given the short development time. Presentation played a big part in the higher rated entries, so that something to work on next time. Having a distinctive style is important to help you to stand out, although having a fun game is the key factor.
Lessons for next time:
- Spend time polishing and play testing. If possible, have someone else play the game too. I knew the rules inside out, so I couldn't see the bigger problems.
- Join in. I worked alone and missed out on chatting with other developers. Next time I'll hook up a second monitor and join the party.
- Make a time lapse video. I didn't make one this time as it would mostly be me reading the Flixel documentation to see how things work, but I'm sad that I missed out on seeing how the game evolved over time.
- Start early, design more, get it playable ASAP. As soon as it's designed, get something playable working. This helps with motivation, but also lets you know if you're onto something fun.
You can play the latest version here: Monster Mash.
View all of the entries here: Reddit Game Jam #4: Final Submissions