This weekend I spent 4-5 hours livestreaming a personal warm-up for Ludum Dare to make sure that my workflow in Unity 3d and Blender was ready to meet the challenge of another game jam.  I may do another warm-up this upcoming weekend as well.

 

The Good:

  • My Unity knowledge seems up to snuff, even when it comes to doing new things that I haven’t explicitly done before.
  • Even though I didn’t finish the game (which was never my intention during the warm-up), I created a LOT of content in about 4 hours. I’m working much, much faster than the last time I used Unity for Ludum Dare. Both because I’m more familiar with the tools, but also because I think I’m structuring my content better.
  • I can whip out (very ugly) 3d models in Blender extremely quickly, which is good.  Animating a convincing walk cycle is still probably out of line for a 48 hour competition, but I’m happy that I can have more than cubes and capsules this time.
The Bad:
  • Focusing too much on the “theme” before deciding on the “gameplay”.  It’s too easy for me to get overly focused on mechanics and simulation and to forget that I need a game in there.
  • Not deciding on a single aesthetic first. None of my models really looked like each other — they weren’t even the same size. I need to keep this in mind a little sooner.
  • Finding out that there’s no native IK support in Unity 3d, which is a real shame. I don’t have the experience to write an IK Solver in a 48 hour compo either.  It would have opened up some interesting possibilities.
The Ugly:
  • I got really frustrated trying to sort out the “gameplay” issue and even snapped at the livestream chat, which is very much not okay. I was feeling overwhelmed by trying to read so much chat and filter ideas. Taking a 10 minute was all I needed to sort out my brain, get some inspiration, and be balanced and level-headed again.  I need to schedule more breaks, especially early on when we’re still in the “idea” phase.  Walks are good. (Also, it helped to turn off the mic/camera for a little while and just get “in the zone” with the programming for a bit, rather than try to entertain people.)
The Unknown:
  • Is it good, bad, or ugly to use a well-established gameplay mechanic (“tower defense”) and just try to adapt it to a theme?  On the one hand, how many truly unique gameplay mechanics exist out there? Most things are just something that already exists (first-person, platformer, rts, 4x, side-scroller, etc…) with a twist.  Trying to come up with something completely innovative is hard/impossible in general, and to come up with something spontaneously AND finding a good way to implement it in 48 hours is probably idiotic.  Many of the best and most original LD submissions (and artistic/original indie games) ARE things like platformers with a twist.  Braid, VVVVVV, and Super Meat Boy are — in many ways — basic platformers. And yet they stand out as completely unique at the same time.  
Personally, after the more relaxed pacing of my LD22 and LD23 games, I think I want to make something quite a bit more action-packed and adrenaline-inducing this time around.
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