Game Dev Journal Entry 4: Second Game Jam Postmortem

“Do a lot of work. Finish a lot of work. Share a lot of work.”

My second game jam game — The Merchant and His Daughter

For my second month-long game jam, I was a bit more ambitious with the scope of my project and made a game with a small narrative. Overall, I’m pleased with how the game turned out and that I’ve kept up this daily project habit.

What Went Well:

  1. Scoping and finishing: Once again I was able to actually complete the game I had envisioned. I was able to do so because I kept the scope of the project to the bare minimum. I decided that the narrative was what would drive the player in this game, so I kept the game play to a simple mechanic (racing through a maze) which saved me time. I think this was an appropriate place to cut scope, particularly because the game mechanics reflected the story I was trying to tell. The game play, while simple, still enhanced the experience I was trying to provide.
  2. Telling a story: Based on feedback from players, the story and theme I was trying to convey actually came across and was compelling! This was particularly satisfying as I’ve never attempted to “tell a story” like this. I was concerned that the themes and devices employed weren’t explicit enough, but luckily that didn’t seem to be the case.
  3. Learning: I learned a lot more about Godot and building a top-down game, which will be useful going forward (I imagine most games I make will be in this top-down 2D style). I also found that I really enjoy designing and tiling the maps. It felt like I was building a little world, and I look forward to making my own artwork and making my own world from the ground up.

What Could’ve Been Better:

  1. Messy code: By the end, the code was a mess (again), which has been a calculated compromise to quickly finish the project in a month. But after the initial release when I was polishing a few things, it took considerably longer to make modifications and additions to my messy code. At the least, I hope I can learn from the unintentional anti-patterns I’ve fallen into and avoid them when it matters.
  2. Menus, sound effects, art took the backseat: I didn’t spend much time finding music, the game didn’t have any sound effects, and I found a free asset pack online instead of creating my own art. Again, a calculated compromise, but I’d like to develop those skills. Deciding not to spend time on these things enabled me to finish the game, but they’re very important and interesting aspects of game design that I’ll want to make time for in the future.
  3. Player tutorials: The tutorials for teaching the player how to interact with the game sometimes went unnoticed. The tutorials consisted of 5 second button animations with blurbs describing the actions they performed. However, the player sometimes didn’t see them, usually because another event (leaving the room) would happen that shortened the life of the tutorial. At polish time, I made some improvements by not marking the tutorial as completed until the full 5 seconds played and adding indicators for interacting with NPCs on the NPCs themselves (rather than a one-time tutorial upfront on the player). Tutorials are a frustrating and interesting design challenge.

Going Forward:

  1. Write “how-to” blogs: I’ve found some extremely helpful “how-to” videos and websites as I’ve learned how to do things in Godot. Some answers were a struggle to find, usually because I wasn’t searching with the right question. I think blogging some of the answers I struggled to find would be a rewarding way to give back to the community.
  2. Focus on assets: In the next game I make, I am going to focus on the game assets (music/sound effect/art). I’ve neglected these components in the past two games but I want to take the time to learn them. I’ll need to limit the scope to account for these assets in the next game.
  3. Make an asset pack: Along those lines, whatever assets I end up making (music, sound effects, or art), I want to release them online as an asset pack. I used Gerald’s Keys in my game, and Gerald said it’s “the most popular thing I’ve done in game dev”. I think it’d be really cool to create assets that other developers like and use in their games.

If you’re interested in trying out my game, The Merchant and His Daughter, check it out on Itch.io

Also, the Game Dev Field Guide has been a great source of learning and community for me. This blog is based on my participation in the April Game Jam. I recommend anyone who’s interested in game development check it out!

Previous Journal Entries:
Game Dev Journal Entry 3: First Game Jam Postmortem
Game Dev Journal Entry 2: Why This Time Will Be Different — Strategies for Finishing a Project
Game Dev Journal Entry 1: Deciding on a Game Engine

http://nathanielmorihara.com/

Software Engineer @ Compass. nathanielmorihara.com

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