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Beneath The Sea and Ludum Dare 29 Results.

Beneath The Sea is the game I created to Ludum Dare 29, under the theme “Beneath The Surface“. In this post I will talk a little bit about how was the process to create it, including all the good and the bad things that happened on the way.

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The Game

As all Ludum Dare games (in the solo competition), this game was created in 48 hours. Well, actually, it was around 30 for me.

Initially, I was thinking in creating a platform game using physics and tiles. The player would have to run, jump, grab and climb to make his way out from a desolated and unknown cave. I would like to related this “run-away-from-a-dark-cave” game with clinical depression and how hard is to be free from it and how easy it is to fall into this dark cave.

That wasn’t going very well. I’ve implemented the tile system using CreateJS and Tiled and integrate the physics engine. But after 12 hours, I’ve realized that it is pretty hard to create a good platform game. I mean, you have to tweak a lot of variables to make a satisfactory gameplay. To make things worse, my plan also included pixel art, but I also realized that I have no idea how to create pixel art!

So, in half Saturday, I forgot my first idea and had to formulate a plan B. Now, I wanted to create something simple, using only the mouse or a single key button, and I wanted to create something using vector art, because I can do it on Inkscape pretty well.

Last week I was taking a look into the Orisinal games, and I remembered their Silent Water, which is an example of simplicity and which I could based my game.

With these conditions and references, Beneath The Sea came up. I thought in put the player in the charge of a battleship with the task of killing the evil summons of an ancient badass god, holding them as long as he/she can. I know that this isn’t an original idea, but it was what I could do with the 30 remaining hours.

Graphics

I’ve started with the background and the core sprites because I think it is easier to see want you will need in the game – despite the fact, that is so much better to program a game with pretty graphics.

I choose to use only silhouettes to represent the battleship, the bullets and the creeps because it was the easier and faster alternative I could find. Silhouettes also have the advantage to work well with a various graphical styles.

The background was based on classical vector art tutorials, other water games, and sponge bob. If I had more time, I would make the clouds, sun and water animated. I also wanted to put some bubbles and explosion effects, but the time was short.

Programming

Programming Beneath The Sea was pretty easy. I used the CreateJS bundle and some utilities functions (such as scene management, scene transitions, layout management and flexible images) I had here. Notice that, you can only use personal code if you make it public before the beginning of competition.

The code logic is pretty simple: create creeps and make them go toward the surface; create bullets and make them go toward the bottom; check collisions among bullets and creeps; check collisions among the ship and creeps.

Then, after a long night of work, and an exhausting Sunday morning, I had the games mechanics ready to go.

Sounds

Sounds were my biggest problem. I had no previous experience on audio edition or composition and I only know how to use Guitar Pro.

As a priority, I created the main music, which is the most important audio in the game. You can’t put several sound effects without a background music! I’ve based on the Terminator theme, with a lot of bass beats. After trying several instruments, melodies and combinations, my music was complete.

For shoots sounds I’ve used drum beats amplified and equalized on Audacity. To the explosion I’ve recorded the sound me lightening a match, and slowed and equalized it on Audacity. Finally, for the overheat signal I’ve just whistled.

I hate the sound effects I put on Beneath The Sea, I had just a few hours to finish the game and I still needed to adjust the gameplay and the kongregate api.

Gameplay

I’ve tweaked the gameplay as fast I could. I added the overheating system to control the bullet flow and created a mechanism to increase the spawn rate of creeps and weapons relative to the time.

Summary

Based on my experience on this Ludum Dare, I can summarize some important things:

  • Keep It Simple, Stupid! I didn’t followed the KISS principle when I was creating the conception of the game on Friday night. As a result, I’ve lost a lot of precious time.
  • Do what you know. My first plan involved too many technologies, mechanisms and techniques that I am not familiar with. You can’t learn everything in 48 hours.
  • Take a break, periodically. The lack of sleep and fatigue are your enemies. Without sleep, you can’t concentrate very well, so you need to take some breaks periodically to rest a bit.
  • Make TODO lists. Without concentration, you lose efficiency and time, so, make TODO lists to keep tracking what you are doing. Before starting the development of the game, create the TODO of the features. Before starting each feature, make a TODO of the tasks need to complete the feature. Before each task, make a TODO of simple changes and additions to the game.
  • Prioritize the features of your game. You probably won’t finish your game, so, prioritize the core features. If you finish the important parts and got some time, then you can do the fluffy things.

Results

Check it out the screenshots of the game:

You can play Beneath The Sea on kongregate

You can see the entry on Ludum Dare

Inkscape Logo

Tips to Getting Started with Inkscape

Inkscape LogoI love inkscape! It is a great tool to create and edit vector graphics. It is free, has a lot of features, has an intuitive interface and usability. It works in Windows, Linux or Mac. It can produce high-quality bitmaps. Do I have to say more?

Inkscape is one of that kind of programs that you must have to install in your computer, even if you don’t have plans to use it in a near future. This is my favorite tool to create graphics for my games or other visual applications, and in this post I will give you a little introduction of how you can do that too.

Before anything, download and install the last version of inkscape here.

Start with simple things, rounded ones. Create some circles, reshape them, apply some colors, try to do something without any help. Inkscape is a very intuitive tool, you will probably discover the important features by yourself.

There are several tutorials around the internet and you can follow them. My favorites are in the blog 2D Game Art for Programmer. Chris Hildenbrand, the author, presents basic and advanced tips to create characters, objects, backgrounds, among other elements for 2D games.

Recommended tutorials:

When you feel comfortable with inkscape features, try creating things by yourself. My suggestion is using references such as images and drawings, cartoons are a very good choice. Just remember you are creating a new art, do not copy anything, just use the references as references!

My final tip to you. I have no skills to choose colors and to painting my drawings. Most of you probably feel the same. To overcome this problem, what I do now is searching for color palettes or creating ones from images.

Sites with color palettes:

Sites to create your own color palettes:

Note: I will start to publish some tutorials here, stay sharp!

Alan Wake

I Am a Programmer and I Don’t Know Any Artist

Alan Wake

I know a lot of good programmers that want to develop games, but don’t go forward because they don’t know any artist and lack the skills to make something beautiful. For a while, I also complained about that. I am a skilled programmer, but I ain’t an artist, what should I do?

My answer for you is: stop whining and deal with it! Yes, you don’t need the artistic skill to create a copy of Bioshock Infinite, or the wonderful atmosphere of Alan Wake. You need, most of cases, simple graphics. You may want to create a ultra beautiful game with painted sprites that even Picasso would be proud, but you probably won’t. Recognize your limitations and adjust your game to what you can do. Go for simple graphics and work hard in the gameplay and other aspects of the game.

Following, I will give some tips to create you game art. I’m not a Picasso myself, but I can handle the basics. I hope I can help you in this process.

Know Your Tools

Before starting to draw something, you need to know what tools you will use, but remember that a tool itself doesn’t do anything, you do. Personally, I like vector graphics, for this I use Inkscape, but you can use Corel Draw, Illustrator or many other tools like them. You may like pixel art or 3D models – you can use GIMP, Blender, or even MS Paint – just choose the tool you feel more comfortable with and learn the basics.

For the final touches, I use GIMP. You can use Photoshop, Z Brush or any other tool related to your style of art. Again, just pick one and go through it.

Follow Tutorials

With your tools ready, go for tutorials. There is a lot of them around the internet, a simple search can reveal several great how to’s. I recommend you follow sites and blogs with general tutorials, such the 2D Game Art For Programmers and Tutplus, also take a look on Devian Art and other artistic forums where people create a lot of tutorials.

Do it for specific things too, for example, if you want to draw a simple sword for you game, take a look on google, you will find a lot of things, e.g.:

Use References

When you have a certain skill with your tools, go for references. Search images of real things, line drawing things, clip arts, etc. You don’t have to create everything from zero. For example, if you want to draw a hand, take a picture of your own hand, search for images of hands on google or use reference such this one:

Hand Reference Sheet by Ultimate Iron Giant (http://ultimateirongiant.com)
Hand Reference Sheet by Ultimate Iron Giant (http://ultimateirongiant.com)

Learn With The Bests

When you see a game or a cartoon, pay attention to details. For example, cartoons usually have large borders, ridiculous proportions, fast movements, caricatured expressions, simple forms, poor shadows, just like the Dexter Laboratory. The Samurai Jack is other example, but now without any border, which makes it special among other Cartoon Network’s programs.

cartoons
Pay For It

If you are too lazy to learn new tools or can’t spend any time to do it, or even simply don’t want to, your solution is: pay for it! There is a lot of freelancer sites and forums where you can find artists and pay their prices.