Post Mortem

And we’re done! Well technically we we’re done several months ago, but it’s nice to revisit this project at its end. I’m overall happy with my contribution to Aetherial as a coder. As a game designer however I have some reservations.

The code works, there are no major bugs and there is a clear and working way from the start to the end. The game is full of devices and artifacts I am quite proud of, such as the updated transition effect which is made using a real time generated noise map providing alpha to a cloudy background. As the noise maps alpha gradually turns up to 1 the clouds emerge and cover the whole screen, showing the units on it only as silhouettes. Or how the NPCs get lost and wander randomly when inside this cloud. Or how the whale appears and you have to rip of the armor from its back before you can hurt it, sending it packing once you’ve properly burnt it with your laser. The code works, it’s just not very fun.

Most of the game is perfectly fine and what you’d expect from this sort of project. But I find myself thinking that when working away at the final boss I should have thought a bit less of how to make the boss this way, and more of how it should be. The early appearances became just speed bumps, a weird little ritual you have to complete to trigger the scene transition. Maybe it was just seeing so many people even at the final showing failing to understand what to do despite the text right there explaining it, but I think the design worked better in our heads. Perhaps the biggest issue is that we didn’t revise our design as soon as we had an opportunity, always thinking that it will make sense once the placeholder art is replaced and new UI is in and the controls are improved etc etc…

I don’t know what we would have changed to make the boss more interesting but it can definitely be improved. My takeaway on gamedesign will be the same thing that I’ve learned and keep relearning about programming: Be more aggressive deleting stuff. Start over more often.

Looking at the way I’ve approached game development so far I’ve also noticed that I am very algorithm-oriented. So far this summer already I’ve developed several mechanical prototypes with little concern for where they would actually end up in terms of games. I did this at least a little too during the shoot em up course, the first blog post being an example of that. While I did refine my work there to make it fit the game and believe it went very well, a big motivation was exploring the mathematics that could create such movement, not just whether it looked good or not.

On the other hand, maybe this is just me being bored from having played every segment so many times over. The playtesters heaped praise on our game, so I guess I should be happy with that.


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