Oct 14, 2014

Awe: a Ludum Dare post-mortem

Hi folks!

A new post about the last Ludum Dare (#30) whose theme was "Connected worlds", and which resulted in the creation of a lot of wonderful games.

Mine is called Awe and you can play it there on Gamejolt.

The game

Before starting the Ludum Dare, I was already thinking of making a game about peace and calm. I wanted to have a go at a totally non-violent and non-conflict-based game. I also wanted to start experimenting on multiplayer games, especially the way games like Journey did.

Don't know if you've played the game (as a matter of fact, I haven't, since I don't own a PS3 or PS4, but I've watched so many gameplay vids on Youtube that it almost feels as if I'd had my hands on it), but in Journey, the multiplayer part integrates seamlessly with the solo part, and in a totally strange way: you can only communicate with other random players by emitting some musical note and interacting with your surroundings. A striking point is that there's no identification or personalization possible, all players have the same looking avatar. It results in a strange communication process based solely on the goals and attitudes of each player.

And that's what I tried to do with Awe: you can play offline but you have a multiplayer mode where you'll be able to play with a random stranger (if someone else is playing the game of course) and interact with him on the same planet.

The gameplay itself is kind of simple, although not really explained, what leaves the player self-exploring all the possibilities. I won't explain it in detail, in case you haven't played it yet, but I'll only say that it's based on colors and musical note (although the musical aspect is purely atmosphere-related and doesn't have any impact on the gameplay).

As for the design, since gamejams are (for me at least) a way to step out of you comfort zone and since all my games were 2D, I decided to go with a simple low poly render.

What went right

Well, I'm really pleased to say that the game has been well received by all that have tried it. Here you have the results of the Ludum Dare and as you can see, it's a lot of improvement since my last participation.

I've also had the honor to appear in various web sites (the biggest of all may certainly be the article of Rock Paper Shotgun) and several gameplay vids have been made of the game (you have to check this one, it's just hilarious)

Overall, I'm pretty pleased with the general look and feel of the game and I can say that I made what I intended to achieve, which is pretty great. I've had lots of compliments about the music and the ambience for being relaxing and peaceful. Exactly the feeling I wanted to give!

What went wrong

The first thing that went wrong was about the color recognition mechanic. In order to see if a color picked by the player is inside a pattern and since the number of colors on the planet are potentially (!) infinite (a base color modulated by two colored light sources), I had to measure the distance between the clicked color and the fixed colors used in the pattern.

At first it was a simple distance between the R, G and B components of each color, but I soon discovered that the result was really bad and from the point of view of the player, was interpreted as almost a game-breaking bug. I had to investigate a bit on the color theory on Internet and it helped me a lot fine-tuning my algorithm.

At the end, it's still not perfect but it's way better and less frustrating for the player that at the beginning.

The second aspect of the game that didn't come out as planned was the multiplayer part. First, the fact that somebody must be playing the game at the same time without being already connected to an other player is a bit limiting. Just after the Ludum Dare finished, there was plenty of people and it was easy to find somebody to play with. Now, it's kind of difficult since the traffic has reduced a lot.

The other point about multiplayer that didn't come out as planned was that "silent" interaction idea. I had the chance to have a play session with somebody in which we gradually found a way to communicate and to interact together to build the larger patterns. Unfortunately, it was one of many experiences and all my other attempts were only unsynchronized and chaotic clicking between the two of us that never allowed us to complete a single pattern. I guess it's not specifically related to my game but to any multiplayer experience but still, it's an interesting situation to experience.

What from there

I've had lots of comments telling me that players would be delighted to see an extended version of Awe, with more patterns to discover, more stuffs to build, more interactions between players.

The truth is that, although I don't have the time right now with all my ongoing projects, I'm really considering expanding it cause there're lots of interesting concepts in the game that'd deserve to be deepened: the color pattern discovery mechanics, the possibility for the player to "create" his own music, the god-like aspect, the "silent" interaction between 2 (or maybe more) players. There's plenty of room for a bigger and better project, that's for sure!