Glider - Postmortem
On Friday 13th September 2013 at 7:17pm I hit the ‘GO’ button at www.indiespeedrun.com and our theme of ‘First Planes’ and element of ‘Toupée’ was randomly generated for us to build a game in 48 hours.
Arguably this was one of the most challenging game jam themes I had been tasked. We struggled for a good few hours in trying to come up with an interesting or unique take on the theme.
The game is a fairly straight forward avoider/shooter game with some minor interesting dynamics in place. I liked the idea of having a shooter game where all the characters in the game were piloting vehicles that appeared to be powered by kinetic energy. The art direction is loosely inspired by the imagery of Mr Da Vanci’s inventions.
What’s good about the game?
Ramping Difficulty: The game has a stable difficulty curve that ramps up over time. It does well at introducing new enemy types by giving players a chance to see how they function as a singular unit. It’s important to teach players how a unit functions alone before overwhelming them with that enemy type and with other enemy combinations.
Customizability: This is both good and bad. It is good that the game features a customizable character. However, it’s bad in that it makes a very little impact in the game. The playable character is fairly small in scale so it is difficult to visualize. This was actually the first time I have worked on something with character customizability. From a design perspective this was maybe a little pointless and looking back I probably should have been focusing on designing units to make for an enhanced player experience with gameplay variety as opposed to a customizable player experience with limited gameplay.
Feedback (Kongregate): Some of the feedback we had for Glider was surprisingly positive. A large number of the suggestions made so far are for power-ups, mute button, less repetitive gameplay/more enemy variants. Glider definitely seems to appeal to a certain type of gamer, with a little research into the specifics of what these types of players look for and don’t look for in the games they play could really help Glider develop into a more gratifying flash game.
What’s bad about the game?
Replay Value: When players die in Glider, they are sent back to a loose screen where they then have the option to replay from the start or select outfit. Other than the fact they can change the outfit of the character there isn’t much in Glider does well to motivated players to play again from the start. This could be overcome simply by keeping players in the game, giving them a less harsh penalty for dying with the loss of potential high score record as the only downside to dying perhaps. Alongside this it would be important to give quick respawn times to make for instant and even faster paced action crossed with constant flow of action gameplay being thrown at the player.
No Substance: What I mean by this is that it’s nothing special in terms of artistic value or originality. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that. It would have been nice to experiment a little more with something that had a little bit of substance or potential for artistic merit. Of course iterations could always be made to give a game like this artistic substance. I like the idea of making a shooter where player play as the bullet. It’s important to consider what any type of game doesn’t do and experiment with those ideas for substance.
Gameplay Variation: As there are only 3 different variants of enemies to shoot there is limited dynamic variety in the core gameplay. As a result it players tend to gets bored fairly quickly once they have been exposed to all enemy types. This can easily be overcome by simply adding more enemy types and then building levels with variations of each combined into randomly generated positions of set waves.
What I learnt
Pacing: One thing that is fairly interesting and new to play around with for this jam was the pacing of a game. Generally speaking the games I have made in the past have been quite slow paced or ‘clunky’, Glider was purely an attempt to make a fast paced game.
I learnt that when designing levels it is sometimes nice to give players a moment to take a break – particularly in games with extended periods of faced paced gameplay.
Art Style: Because we had to pay a $25 entry fee for this jam, and as well as some of my favourite games designers judging (Jason Rohrer) there was a lot of pressure to make something of a high standard, which arguably is in some parts. With this in mind, we very much played it ‘safe’, particularly on my part in terms of art direction. The art is very similar to a game I had previously made I felt in the shadow of the last game I worked on and was a little bit hesitant to leave my comfort zone and try something new for this jam specifically with all the pressure. Looking back I could have been valuable from a learning perspective to take that risk.