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ferra retrospective

miredly came to me with this jam right after theyd just made another standalone game for portfolio material (risky!!). i was in a bit of a sink & id not released even a small complete game in years, so i came into this project with absolutely no expectations of making anything playable; i just wanted to exercise the muscles required to work on something small while also having a full time job

it was challenging, especially coming into this using a brand new framework with not a single line of code to steal from past projects

but ive already forgotten how much effort it was, and all thats left is a cool little game thing. watching friends mash replay on it was more than enough to make the work worth it

starting out

we started with the lodestar of "frantic top down shooter" and explored from there. i made a quick character controller, gameobject system and then miredly took that and made the first boss

steal and shuffle

miredly was doing an "ultimate" (some ffxiv thing idk) and showed me some boss gameplay, and the loop looked cool. they wanted to heavily draw from the same idea and were dead set on huge floor attacks

this turned out great and learned into our lodestar of "frantic"

if this were a pure bullet hell in an arena, you'd be making almost surgical micro-movements like touhou, which isn't frantic. however, with gigantic sweeping floor attacks, you're incentivised to zoom around. these floor attacks spawn right on top of you too, meaning you WILL have to get moving

subtractive explosive scoping

we had a lot of ideas, and we had to be ruthlessly subtractive. don't implement it shittily - just don't implement it at all. it almost felt like a bad decision at the time, in a way that hurts your soul a little. but if we were not ruthless, we would have not made a good game, or maybe we never would have completed it at all

to interpret the jam theme "makeshift" we really wanted makeshifty mechanics;

i drafted out the first 2 but they weren't fun. they sounded like good ideas, but in practice they don't really add much

actually thats a rly difficult thing to notice - "if it doesn't add much". it's easy to notice if something's bad and makes your game worse, but if it's simply just "whatever", then it still doesn't need to exist. id much rather spend that bandwidth working on the things that do matter, and in this case that paid off a loooot

i stick to this philosophy quite harshly. not just for things that are outright bad - if something simply doesn't add to the game, we don't need it and it's getting removed

a ton of dimensions to your game always sounds good in your head, but even if you pull it off, you'll have a thousand unrefined features that clash, confuse or dilute your game. id so much more prefer a tiny set of mechanics that people can immediately grok, and surprise them with depth. underpromise and overdeliver etc

if you took one feature of any game ever, you could explore every aspect of that feature's design space, look at it from new angles, make permutations and innovations, and extrapolate that into a full game

i mean this didn't happen much with this game since its just a little top down shooter we made in the few hours we could scrap together but hey whatever, we applied it a little bit - we made a movement and shooty system that felt really good, and made bosses that were fun. we couldnt do this if we shattered our focus and confused our vision with a freaking gun-building minigame

agency for everyone

we discussed difficulty options for this game. i hate "easy" "medium" "hard" garbage to the degree where it makes me look crazy

but, we wanted casual players and supergamers to both have fun. we wanted a goal for everyone. so here's what we did

  1. for casual gamers, the goal is to beat the bosses and finish the game. you have a huge health pool so it's very forgiving, but this means even casual players can see and experience the final boss and say they fully completed it

  2. for supergamers, the goal is to beat the dev times. getting hit increases your time hugely, so it incentivises never getting hit once - a very supergamer thing to do! this became a lot of people's reason for mashing replay

some absolute fuicking viking got this set of times:

trust your gut

if anything makes you even slightly ":/" then fix it, because your fix will likely be pointed out as a good design decision. immediately take a mental note, because you may subconsiously talk yourself out of it. however, gamers aren't going to talk themselves out of it as easily, they'll likely have the same thought as you

i had this moment when the shears attack simply hit in a big arc in front of the boss. this was completely correct, visually, physically, logically, but it made me feel ":/"

i changed it so it only attacks in the rectangle where the snap happens. this had a cool knock-on effect where your dodges had to be specific - if you dodge away, you still get it because the shears reach far, but it's much more forgiving if you react and dodge sideways. now i feel ":>" and it might be my fav attack in the game

this mechanic got pointed out to me twice by friends who were playtesting it, so im happy i fixed that

art direction

i had a few teeny director-y moments on this jam which i was satisfied with

art direction was hard, we talked about making the bosses huge scrappy mechs, but the ideas just weren't gelling with me.. i just don't have the big mech gene in me

i had a meltdown and then just settled for something i always do, which is draw cute girls. i think leaning into things you unapologetically enjoy is good rather than going for.. whatever's sensible? or expected? and i love the juxtoposition of normal-looking characters being badass or having huge weapons

big clunky robots are like "damn this thing's huge but doesn't exactly do a whole lot"

cute girls are like "damn this thing's so normal but hits like a truck"

anyway idk i love that trope. it's very difficult to balance. it could very easily devolve into feelings like "i should NOT be having such a hard time against this dumb guy" which are demotivating

music direction

miredly did a kickass job, literally got a stream of compliments for the music miredly carried the music department but im happy with my 1 contribution which was the sort of "seed" of the vibe we wanted for this game. i gave them this;


the rhythmic, mechanical vibe of it just suited the idea of clunky mechs and big machinery so well

and they absolutely understood the assignment and made awesome permutations on the idea, the soundtrack rocks. im so happy that a single vision of the game was comfortably maintained and every part of it sang in the same tune, keeping the compass pointing to the same lodestar with concrete examples, and then they took it away and did great work


im going to kill the content pipeline

a lot of the boons from switching to this framework from love2d is actually the language switch. c# is really nice. i shifted back to love2d after the jam and i immediately miss strong types, good autocompletion, interfaces, little hack-together classes...

but monogame itself i can take or leave. i'm toying with the idea of using the c# raylib port for a future game

but yea

im so so so so stoked to have something released after so long. it was hard work, but it's almost given me more energy to work harder in future

qiolp;578dfopa'u,t;klguedkl;jtg;t'asjtg'dashng'lah4tyl;dfe;hdk;lh;lkl;ghl;ksdhg;shdkghs yknow what i mean

0 cools!!
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