My idea for the theme was to go minimal with the user interface. I like the “less is more” philosophy, even though I rarely hold to it when designing my own things. Rather than pages of text that explain what is going on, I wanted to design things in a way that how things worked was made apparent naturally.
Some of these things made it into the game.
- When you start a stage, there’s nothing that says “click a button on the left!”, but that’s the only thing in the interface that appears interactive.
- Once you click the button, all spots on the ground start pulsing to lead you to the next course of action, clicking on the ground to plant.
- Once you plant, what next? The circular progress meter beneath the plant lets you know that something is going to happen if you wait. This was a major failing I had with the laser in my first Ludum Dare.
- Once the meter completes, it disappears and the seed is on top. The fact that there’s no longer a meter charging prods the user into action, but what? The only thing that’s changed is the appearance of the spinning seed, which leads them to click on it.
Here’s where the design largely fell down. The count of seeds in the upper-right increments when you click a seed, but it’s very non-obvious. I’d planned on having the seed slide to the upper right, possibly adding to a growing number of seeds, but I didn’t get to it in time.
There were many other minor touches left undone – the “plant” buttons on the left were supposed to be infographics that showed a seed pointing to the tiny plant, a picture of 3 seeds pointing to the medium plant, etc. They were left as plain GUI.Buttons for time. The stage select screen is also in desperate need of a makeover.
This was the first time I tried mapping out what I wanted to do before implementing, which I’ve never done for any of my games before. I think this is because I’m getting a bit more comfortable with the tools, so I can start focusing on what do I want to do instead of what can I do.
I think it worked out very well. I like being able to focus on implementation details while developing instead of thinking about what I want to do at the same time. I’ve been garbage at planning before, but I’m betting it’ll get easier the more I do it.
Of course I ended up planning much more than I used, but I will be trying to work some more in before submitting this as my #4 Game for One Game a Month.
What went right
I’m somewhat satisfied with the look of the game (what little exists). I was able to create the plants, seeds, and ground (yes it’s just a cube, but got a correct UV map) very quickly in Blender, which let me get to other things. Large areas remain unstyled (title screen, level select, etc), but what’s is there fits.
The sound is also much better than my other games (a rather low bar to clear). Using a couple piano notes and chords for various actions kept with the “minimalism” theme, and it was a very fast and easy way to produce a cohesive audio set. Swapping instruments for the flower pulsing helped stress the difference in behavior from the other plants.
What went wrong
I think the major detractor is the limited scope. I had to cut so much out that it didn’t really get to the point where plant positioning made any difference. Shade that affects plants and water that needs collected were in the works, but I just didn’t get to it. This left it with little to no challenge to overcome, like my last Ludum Dare.
There’s a lot more feedback / minor touches I wanted to add. Plants swaying in the breeze, some interaction from the plants when they received the boost from a flower, etc.
Some real life things popped up, leaving me with less time than usual to put into the game. I’m still getting faster with the tools, but there’s a ways to go before I feel I can implement a full “game” in a weekend.