The End of the Run.
Takeaways, thoughts, and groovy feelings from my first full Game Jam. - Devlyn Daubenschmidt
(Originally from my devlog, 6/24/2017)
The Pwny Xpress - playable in browser and downloadable.
tl;dr - It's dangerous to go alone! [But it can be done/You can have fun.]
The Ratings and my reactions to them:
CATEGORY - Placement. (Adjusted score):
GRAPHICS - 4th. (4.59 stars):
This was my main focus. The entire rest of the game was built around my initial horse animation. I am an artist and animator, so I wanted to show this part off. I feel like a solid 4.5 is amazing, as I have put out very little professional pixel art before this (I'm hiding in some Drawn to Death Taunts). Goal MET! The push to do my best with this aspect may have contributed to a fall in gameplay, but the aesthetic really came thru for me and I had a strong command over my chosen style with the palettes. I used PyxelEdit for all the art.
THEME - 4th. (4.26 stars):
I believe I was able to convey the western theme perfectly, the title played into it well, and the "always faster" element of play is what brought this score down. The gameplay doesn't clearly push you fwd faster without a player action (and the speed up wasn't immediately given in feedback to the player), so this is also right on.
GAMEPLAY - 22nd. (3.37 stars):
This was lower than I thought I should be rank-wise... until I REALLY thought about it. The main play screen looks cool, but it is vast and mostly empty space, and the pony animates without player control. I wanted the game to be simple so there would be less for me to break. There is for most of the game only a one-button player action (holding and releasing [X]). If you simply press [X] not enough happens. It wasn't satisfying if you didn't hold. The eagle and camera only zoom out if you hold it...
BUT I didn't make it ABUNDANTLY clear that the hold becomes necessary for advancement. I included two secondary modes of play which again play well and are easy, but there just isn't enough FUN to have here within those crucial first moments.
There is a great payout if you get the pony to 88mph but I couldn't tell you how many players achieved that moment.
[Future Mode for Holders]
So, well played, voters. I could have cut these other game-modes and focused on my core. I SHOULD have focused on the core. I ended up dropping a crucial element to the game derived by player behavior not speeding up so I could go on my mini-game tangents. This was a misstep.
[Nightmare Mode for pressers, never got implemented.]
Those who did get into it gave some really good positive feedback - and I didn't get any negative feedback that could have helped push the good bits into players hands. (Broken record plays in background... PLAYTEST WITH OTHERS.)
SOUND - 29th. (2.85 stars):
This was expected (at first) because I don't know a Yopp from a Yapp. However, after the submission deadline I got some comments that the sound volume was so low it might as well have not been there. It was fairly loud on my machine and this is the part where I tell you all PLAYTEST ON MULTIPLE SYSTEMS/STATIONS. I might have caught this before and troubleshot it. So, I was pretty lucky I was scored at all in sound. My intent here was to learn and not just go and pick up some royalty free sounds, so I tried various free sfx makers. I have Pico 8 and was able to squeak out a simple music track and a few sound FX. Check that "Master Vol." and output levels.
OVERALL - 9th. ( 3.75 stars):
So my strong aspects seriously carried the weight of my weaker areas of work; the score is a good reflection of where I stand with my work and abilities. If I were to go into another Jam I would definitely join up with a designer or programmer to see what we are capable of and how the experience varies from a solo run. This was a practice for me in maintaining scope and design choices, and creating an overall complete experience. I achieved that. I reached my technical goals; I have a set of complete game loops with working UI and HUDS. Hitting [ESC] actually closes the game. There is functional keyboard and controller support, as well as limited touch support (for the mini games). I hit all my art goals; I have what I consider a strong and appealing visual piece of art to show off as portfolio work if I ever jump into professional work again. I have a game that could be fun, and the feedback from some players stating they enjoyed aspects of it is a HUGE payout. The interaction with those who left comments telling me I was doing some things right is a reward for someone whose daily life consists of changing diapers and baking chicken nuggets.
RATINGS - 27.
Lastly, there were a high number of Jam developers who rated my game compared to most of the field. This effects the scoring when they use mean and avg., but to me it means a lot in a different way. Somehow, in some magical way, I was able to get people to play and tell me about what they experienced. I was able to bring them in. This bit of information, more than anything else, is what I want to investigate and replicate. I wasn't featured on the front page of itch.io (although 2 games were, including the #1 game, which is really, REALLY cool).
The one thing I DID do that could attribute to this was my use of Twitter (but how would I confirm this?). It has become primarily a sort of "art information" tool for me. I only follow a few irl friends. I follow a bunch of artists and makers who post great stuff and progress/processes of their work. So, I made a conscious effort to journal my progress during the 12 working days I had on this. I sent out my art and made gifs of the action (basically the ones within this post), tagging them with the CGAJam and pixelart this, gamedev that. And... people responded. People were interested. Not "One-half of Vlambeer" interested, but I caught kids eyes and think I generated a good flow of content to get people wanting to peek inside. I grew a small list of followers, made some new friends, and had conversations about art. Doing this slowly, surely, this is that "organic" growth everybody's been talkin' about. It is cool to have happen even on a microcosmic scale.
A secondary aspect of the experience - I had more traffic for my game after it was submitted than I expected: 289 views, 32 game downloads (other than browser playthrus), and 11 font file downloads. These aren't Game industry small even. But for some unknown human floating thru the internet in their first little Jam this is some tasty Jelly. It was scary to put a part of me out there to be judged. I feel lucky that I wasn't hit too hard and I landed on my feet instead of my face.
It took a lot of time from me. I spent more time piecing everything together and leaning on my spouse Than I should have. 8 of the days I clocked in for 12+ hours between development and creating media for social posting. I skipped out on wrestling with the toddler and playing Zelda with my older son. I slowly became a zombighost, quietly apologizing to everyone as I moved pixels and built them into the game.
On the first day as soon as I set up my idea I created a timetable for all of it, and by sticking to it as closely as possible, I only ended up 1 1/2 days behind my projected finish time. (Still early enough to submit - because build time in for MISHAPS!) This timetable also let both my spouse and me know what we were getting into for the 12 days I had available to work.
I was tired, and nervous I wore my love's patience/energy down so far it was like she was right here making the game with me, taking care of the boys, AND setting us all up for our out-of-state trip while I sat and played computer. When you Jam, your family Jams with you. Never forgat that. They will feel it. Second Hand Crunch Kills.
How I got here:
I've spent my small amount of time in the game industry as an artist and animator. Most of my work has been doing very simple, rough, stylized art. Thankfully my middling stats work well in early development and as a concept artist.
The last year I studied and practiced pixel art using mostly twitter and tumblr posts as my instructors, posting to Pixel Dailies every so often. I like to focus on animation frame economy in my work - trying to do as much as possible within 32px boxes with only 4 frames. When I left professional work for the role of at-home parent I invested some money in Construct 2 (because CHEAP$$$) so I could have something to play with while at home, and I have been slowly learning the ins and outs of how it works so I can prototype small ideas.
I recently joined itch.io so I can put my tiny creations up and show my friends/kids; while exploring what itch has to offer I saw that it hosts Game Jams. I have wanted to get into a Jam for a long time. I even practiced and almost made it on time to Ludum Dare 38 (my creation for it, not submitted, is Tiny TAG). I came across the CGA Jam both on itch's front page and the host, Davit Masia's posts on Twitter. I really liked the palette restriction of CGA JAM. I signed myself up. And now I have a pretty decent pony run cycle and some new internet friends. And I am still married (as of the time of this writing).
Thanks for running with me.