Last year, my friend Aurélien invited me to participate with him and a few other friends in the Ludum Dare, for the 26th edition. We made a Flash game, which is probably why I didn't write about it (how could I face my Mozilla colleagues after making a Flash game? ). It's called Sniff and it's about a drug dealer that needs to deliver its magical powder to his customers. As those customers are in a night club, you will need to use the music to find your way through the town. Beware of the cops that want to catch you, and beware of not using the different powers the drug gives you...
This blog post is not about Sniff, though. After having only organized, and not participated, in our last Game Dev Party Jam, I felt a bit frustrated and really wanted to work on a game. So I called a few friends and invited them to join me for the Ludum Dare 29 weekend. 4 of them answered, and we had a team! Caroline joined us as our graphics person, Pierre-Etienne would take care of all music things, while Maxime and Rémi would join me on the programming of the game.
The tale of Michell
The theme of this edition of the Ludum Dare was "Beneath the surface". I was not much inspired by it, but I dislike multi-words themes in general. After about 3 hours of brain-storming, we decided to go for a tower defense game, with a bit of Hack 'n Slash in it. The idea was for the player to defend against troops sent from hell: Michell, the hero, peed on Lucifer's flowers, and that didn't make him happy at all. So Lucifer decided to send all his troops to kill him! But Michell is no mere hero, he is a magician that can grow strong plants to help him.
So, there you are on a small platform. Demons will be appearing around that platform in waves, and they will attack you. You can either fight them directly by clicking on them if you can reach them, but that is dangerous. Your other solution is to use your magic to grow powerful plants to help you. Click on a button at the bottom or use the shortcuts, then place your tower. The only limit is that you need to go close to where you want to build the tower, and wait until it is fully grown before you can do something else. The first tower is a bit weak and attacks enemies. The second one is more resilient, but it only slows them down.
Play Michell in Hell
This is the current version of the game. We continued developing the game after the end of the Ludum Dare, and have fixed some pretty big bugs. We also added more content (the second tower, the boss, sounds... ). If you want to see what the game looked like at the end of the weekend, you can play the Ludum Dare version.
The Ludum Dare 29 is now over, and we have the results of the voting. People liked our game, it seems, as we got only above-average marks. Unsurprisingly, the graphics and audio were what people liked the most! Overall we had slightly worst marks than for Sniff, but that doesn't surprise me: the game was less polished at the end of the weekend, with some annoying bugs. I hope people had played the updated version instead, but I realized only too late that I could edit the entry. Anyway, here are our ratings for the Jam competition!
Notes about Phaser
We used the Phaser game engine for this jam. I had played a little with it before, and I thought it was pretty cool and complete / stable enough. As usual, this assumption was stressed a lot during the weekend! Overall I am satisfied with it, the performance of the game is pretty good, the engine was quite easy to use, and the code of the engine itself is pretty clean. However, here are a few things that I didn't like or feel could be improved.
Documentation. That's the key for every developer facing code. If it isn't correctly documented, it's going to be very hard to use, people will get frustrated and the software will slowly die, or never get used at all. In the case of Phaser, discovery of features was the most difficult thing. I realized several times during the weekend that some things I had coded were already built inside the engine. That is frustrating, especially when coding in limited time like in a Jam. The API documentation was very complete and pretty good in my opinion, but it could do with some work on the search features.
Some things are still buggy, or at least did not behave like we expected them to. For example, we struggled a lot with the physics, and especially with the collision system. Sometimes collisions just stop working if you make objects unmovable. Objects push each others by default when colliding. And there are few incoherences in the collision functions that I would like to fix whenever I can find the time to open a pull request to Phaser...
The groups feature was the most misleading thing we used during the weekend. What we didn't know at first was that groups define the order in which objects are displayed. That's cool, but. If your Game object contains groups, those groups will be displayed in the order they are in Game. That's probably expected and a good behavior, but as we used groups for logical grouping (enemies together, towers together... ) and not for display grouping, we ended up with a messed up displaying. Basically, towers could never be behind enemies, even when that enemy was clearly in front of that tower. Same for the player. So I had to re-work our logic to not use Groups but lists, and use Groups as display layers. A bit confusing.
Overall, I was satisfied with Phaser and I want to use it again on my next Jams. Hopefully I will take some time to fix the few bugs we found during the development of Michell in Hell!
I want to finish this article with a big thank you to Caroline, Maxime, Pierre-Etienne and Rémi who made this game with me. I really enjoyed this weekend with you, and hopefully you did too!