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My 7 Day RTS Postmortem

I participated in the July Mini Ludum Dare competition. The goal was to create a real time strategy game in 7 days. Below are what I took away from the jam.

This article is a repost from my blog, and the Ludum Dare website. You can follow my rants on games, sports and more on Twitter


So this is a postmortem on my experience with the 7 Day RTS mini compo. I enjoyed reading some of the fun postmortems on other 7DRTS participants. While it was great to see the success of some of the games, I thought I'd share my stumbling blocks.  

It was fun while it lasted, but real life (and another game jam) got in the way. I did experience great progress on my game: “Aircraft Command”. In fact, I experienced way more progress on this pass of the game than the original 2009 attempt.  I credit my fast start with using a pre existing code base, and a scoping appropriately.

The initial concept was solid, a reverse Tower Defense. The player must escort bombers to a target using their resources (fighters and helicopters) to take out the computer’s turrets. With this concept in hand, I was ready to give this game a shot.

7dayrts-day-3-1-550x412

 

What Went Right:

Used existing code base: My main project is a shooter named Sky Hawks. Although the game is an action game, I was able to use a lot of the code for collisions, projectile instantiation and etc.  A friend of mine had already had given me models from a previous project. This was a big help as it gave the game a nice look right away.

 

Scoped Appropriately: This is a bit debatable. Had I scoped really well I would have finished. I got the main game win/loss condition going by day 3. Unfortunately because of my week’s schedule, I only had about three days to work on the game. I am happy that I had something on screen. It’s imperative to get something going as fast as possible, Playmaker and using old code helped me get to the first playable fast. The only problem was, once I attended my second game jam, I lost the momentum that I had on this project. Suddenly the task list seemed way too much. Game Jams are fun but they are draining.  In the future, I’ll make sure to get a playable demo on day one. Everything afterward should be polish.

7dayrts-day-3-2-300x225

 

What Went Wrong:

Spent a bit too much time chasing rabbits: I was trying to get Unity Playmaker to work for my game. One of the original goals was to use Playmaker’s visual code to simplify development. Like any new tool, the time saving is only achieved after getting over the learning curve. A short development cycle is not the time to learn new tools. Luckily, if a feature didn’t work, I reverted back to doing it through code.

2 Game Jams!!: I attempted to do two game jams in one week. Initially, I was going to skip the 7 Day RTS, but it is one of my favorite genres. I have wanted to make one forever. The only issue was, I had another game jam planned at the Field Museum here in Chicago. On top of that, I was taking engagement photos with my lovely Fiancee . Three  of the original 7 days were gone. I tried to get a head start on Sunday. This helped a bit, but in the future I will have a one game jam at a time policy. (no matter how tantalizing)


Programming, you're doing it wrong

What now? 

I really like the original concept for this game. In the future i plan on pursuing this project using something like Game Maker. This isn’t the last you’ve seen of Aircraft Command. I think that this game has the potential to be really fun. Working on the 7 Day RTS project rekindled my energy in my main game. I learned that I need to get the game in a shoawable state as fast as possible. It’s not a game until someone can play it. I also learned to keep the game in a scope that allows you to finish. These things sound fundamental, but a game jam situation managifies that. I’m off to play more of the games. Jam on Jammers.

 

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