Volvary • on 1st Alakajam! entry Hermit To Gold

Hey Everyone,

First thing I have to say before anything, holy hell, I need to step up my Jam naming game. I never seem to find good names for my games.

Now that this is out of the way, let's start this post-mortem.

Solo Jamming

Since I wasn't sure if I would have my entire weekend to do the jam, I decided to avoid leaving others in a pickle if I left. In the end, that was a good move as I had a lot of movement during the weekend.

While my past experience with solo jamming had been poor (couldn't keep going the second day), I was scared I would come out of the jam with an incomplete pile of code that could not be played. But I pulled through. Morning of Day 2 was hard to get into but I found the force to start and everything went without a stop until late into the night.

Game Theme and Mechanics

The aim of my game was to hit on that "mad alchemist, trying to create ressources from scratch" vibe and I think it's easy to see how. Although, as some comments on the game pointed out...

[...] I do feel it turned into a bit of a "try mixing all different combos one by one until I discover something". [...]

Lack of time did make me go very simplistic on the recipe system. And that is one of the things I am planning on fixing. In further Jams, I will need to shrink my concept even more when working alone. In retrospect, cutting the "Onion Farming" part and replacing it with a slowly increasing gold would have given me enough time to flesh out the research system or work further on the story of the game as the second part of the comment above mentionned.

[...] Didn't feel like there was a direction for me to go in, or any risk, or real incentive to play.

As another comment pointed out, I did skimp very much on the story in my rush to get a lot of systems in.

[...] Having no tips and just trying to mix counted component is a little harsh.

In the future jams, my focuses will probably be player attraction (through story or tutorial) as well as cutting down on mechanics to make them better.

On Interface Design

[...] Only thing I felt missing is the graphics that you could have added! No Sounds still works! But missing graphics give a emptiness feel. [...]

Being alone and not being that good of an artist, I left the game very basic looking. Looking at the game in my editor and fiddling with stuff, I think I understood why it was so weird to some. Removing the cauldron, which I made hastily, looks a lot more natural, especially for any veteran of A Dark Room or similar game.

[...] Perhaps the UI could be improved - I was already getting frustrated at scrolling up and down the list. Maybe I'm not just cut out for alchemy? [...]

Another comment I got a lot regarded the Interface and how tedious it became after a while. I have been compiling the comments and will have to do a lot of Quality of Life upgrade before I even accept to present the game HtG will become for another full test. Good thing at least is that the UI upgrades are my main concern at the moment.

From scrolling through an ever-growing list of ressources, to clicking through each and every component of a complex recipe (Pyritic Acid being made of 49 basic elements as one of the commenters pointed out), I have a lot to fix.

Difficulty And Length

...or, in an alternate interpretation, I just spent several hours of my weekend, filling out the blanks in an Excel-sheet listing fictional materials, with 90% of that time being spent on repeating actions I'd already performed multiple times before :-) [...]

One of the things I have always been having trouble with (be it video game making, D&D campaigns, etc.) is correctly aligning both pendulum to be centered at the same time. And it seems this time I have let both go far out of sync. As the comment shows, the game can take multiple hours (of repeated actions at this point) to complete, which is far over what you should have in a game jam. I will let another part of the same comment speak as far as difficulty.

[...] Out of these 231 combinations, only 23 are meaningful, i.e. moves the research forward by either discovering a new element, or by winning the game. Also, when an attempt is made, the materials are usually lost. And finally, losing an advanced element means that you have to spend time on rebuilding that element from more basic elements (using processes you have already discovered and followed previously), just to get back to the point where you can continue your research from the point where you left off.

As the game progress and becomes more and more complex, I will be very careful of monitoring both pendulums more accurately. (and a little bird tells me I will most likely need to add some tools in-game for me to analyze some sample playthroughs to understand where the game hitches)

What's Next?

As the game stands right now, I will have two things ahead of me: Improving and Progressing. As such, I will do some progression early but most of the early work will clearly be improvements. Most of those come from the comments I received.

Currently on my shortlist of things to fix:

  • Modify the UI to reduce the amount of scrolling through the list.
  • Allow for creation of intermediate products easily (to reduce the total amount of clicks to create the ingredients you are currently working on)
  • Make recipe results clearer
  • Correct the money generation aspect
  • Increase the amount of successful recipes (within the currently existing ressources)
  • Reduce the price of failure
  • Increase recipe hint counts
  • Improve the Shop

On the medium to long term list:

  • Improve the Story component
  • Improve the Recipe System
  • Improve the Recipe Book
  • Add an In-Game way of tracking your progress
  • Work on new features...

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