Post Mortem: JMAC's Visitors from Sheba

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JMAC
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Joined: Wed Jun 18, 2008 12:40 pm

Post Mortem: JMAC's Visitors from Sheba

Postby JMAC » Tue Aug 19, 2008 7:24 am

Good:
My first full, winnable game/level (w00t). I really enjoyed tweaking the mechanics (of which there remains still more to be done!), and once I got down to making the level itself it was a blast (albeit slowed down by doing all of it with the C++ code, ha ha). My actual trigger/theme verse is given in the ending, and, while potentially cryptic, I was really hoping to see the theme of Proverbs tied into an expression of the gospel message - harder to do in a non-text-driven video game than I might have estimated. I hope that my at-times warped humor in the symbolic characters is enjoyable, without detracting from the lesson!

Bad:
I am not a night person. Too much of this I tried to do too close to midnight several days in a row - the first week I had lab work, the second week I was on vacation with my family, ha ha (sounds like everyone's story!). As a result, there are some silly gaffes I ended up forgetting about or neglecting to remove (the worst in my opinion is the non-sticky keys - holding down keys like space or return counts as multiple key presses, making it possible to bounce yourself across the level or into a certain forbidden item). I have doubts as to how well-balanced the game is - I realized about the day after the contest closed that, for example, the lady in red can see you quite a bit before you can see her, so she'll start chasing you before she's even on screen. I'm also paranoid that there's some memory or resource leak that'd destroy somebody's computer, but that comes with the territory of liberally using pointers everywhere.

Program-wise, I know it's a good idea to use timers to guarantee that the game runs uniformly across a variety of systems, but that didn't make it into this cut. Also, the fact that it requires DirectX 9 to run a few (*cough) interestingly drawn sprites will probably raise many eyebrows.

Obviously the point is the Bible verses - I place them at the top of the screen, but that might make it too easy to miss them, or not get chance to read them in the heat of battle. I am thinking about word balloons that appear closer to the relevant character, but we'll see. I know for sure I do not want it to pause the gameplay, just because the gameplay would then be paused way too often in certain denser level arrangements - irritating to most players in this kind of game.

I didn't get to sound effects or music - I had ideas for funny sounds and voices, but when I saw that it would require learning DirectSound in about 30min as well as the potential embarrassment of needing to hear my own weird grunting and all, I procrastinated sound effects straight out of the game for now. (though I'm told I do a passable Wookie growl, I'm not sure where that would fit in)

With the single level, the epic story didn't quite get developed. Neither the Queen of Sheba nor Solomon actually appear, all that...

Ugly:
I underestimated the amount of time the art would take. Even with my sister drawing some of the characters (notice the blatant change in art style, ha ha), it then took almost two hours to digitize them (without destroying them, which is debatable whether I achieved that). I kind of stayed inside the box - the DirectX SDK says it's important to keep texture sizes around 256x256, and since I divided that into 4x4 grids that leaves me with 64x64 characters. I'm just sorry I couldn't get my sister's excellent artwork into the game to reflect the good job she did. There's also a whole character missing, because when the end of the time came I chose to concentrate on working with gameplay elements I had rather than work on programming the new enemy (although there's an easter egg allusion to him in the weapons).

I'm also a little disappointed with how derivative the game seems in the end - it's clear that I play a lot of Mario, and it's clear that my dream of making my own Mario game managed to work its way into this project. Avid gamers might also spot ideas reminiscent of Mega Man or Toy Pop.

Finally, there might need to be some explanation for that lady in red. Purposely drawn in a bizarre way to avoid making the next Erin Esurance, especially out of such a disreputable character. Reading through the relevant chapters from Proverbs should help you see how I came to that design - I think it's fun, but definitely could have and should have been drawn better. Unfortunately, my sister saw it and cracked up, saying it should stay as it is.

Overall:
Thank you again for the opportunity and encouragement to complete a real project so quickly! I had fun making this little spiel, and hopefully it runs nicely enough to bring others a fun little way of walking through a few Proverbs.
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HeardTheWord
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Re: Post Mortem: JMAC's Visitors from Sheba

Postby HeardTheWord » Tue Aug 19, 2008 1:17 pm

Yeah, I understand your pain with artwork. I decided to use premade graphics this time because time was tight.

Sounds like you had a good time making the game. I'm looking forward to playing it.
Matt Tuttle
Check out me games and music!

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit
[esv]Ephesians 1:13[/esv]
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ArchAngel
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Re: Post Mortem: JMAC's Visitors from Sheba

Postby ArchAngel » Wed Aug 20, 2008 10:33 am

JMAC wrote:Finally, there might need to be some explanation for that lady in red. Purposely drawn in a bizarre way to avoid making the next Erin Esurance, especially out of such a disreputable character.


Zookey knows about me and Erin Esurance. haha.

...good times.


Anywhooo.
I enjoyed your game. I find myself playing it again and again to see how far I can get.
Q.E.D.
JMAC
Posts: 37
Joined: Wed Jun 18, 2008 12:40 pm

Re: Post Mortem: JMAC's Visitors from Sheba

Postby JMAC » Wed Aug 20, 2008 12:22 pm

Thanks for the kind words!

I saw CPU's ratings, it looked like it ran badly for him (because I left out the timers!) - does that mean you didn't run into that same problem?

Either way, I am still tinkering with this little guy - I have already put the timer system in... but it threw off all my carefully adjusted physics parameters, so I'm back to the drawing board there, ha ha. The problem I'm hitting is, as I simulate a slower computer (with a hungry 'for' loop) and the time step needs to become bigger, it then ends up skipping certain crucial points in the objects' motion. Most crucial that I've found is the jumping - a large time step causes the jump height to reach a lower maximum (because the frames skip over the peak of the character's motion), and most of the platforms become unreachable. When I have the opportunity, I'm going to do yet another thing I should have from the beginning - Runge-Kutta integrating for the motion, rather than the sloppy Euler integration I have in there now.
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HeardTheWord
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Re: Post Mortem: JMAC's Visitors from Sheba

Postby HeardTheWord » Thu Aug 21, 2008 8:26 am

Great game! I got it to work on my pc last night with no problems. It's a fun platformer game and the graphics are good enough to tell what everything is.

I had a really hard time getting to the rod of correction. For some reason I couldn't jump out around the top ledge fast enough and was only able to get it once. Other than that I really enjoyed this game!
Matt Tuttle
Check out me games and music!

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit
[esv]Ephesians 1:13[/esv]
JMAC
Posts: 37
Joined: Wed Jun 18, 2008 12:40 pm

Re: Post Mortem: JMAC's Visitors from Sheba

Postby JMAC » Fri Aug 22, 2008 6:00 am

@HeardtheWord: Ha ha, thank you for trying it out!

To get the rod of correction, unless by "can't move fast enough" you mean the game speed is way off (I'll be paranoid about that till the end of time now!), the easiest thing to do is, from the platform immediately below the rod, jump from there to the highest platform in the second column (it requires careful timing to not knock your head on the rod platform). From the second column, jump back to the rod platform. Get the rod and do some correcting!

Alternately, those enemies there don't actually harm you. You can jump off their heads if you like.

From your description it sounded like you were attempting a hook-jump, which I'm pretty sure wouldn't work. Either that, or the wicked little boy already moved past the screen - he'll still be there following the Fonz, and the Fonz moves back and forth along the path I designated - he will not just keep going to the right, but his path does end.

Also, just because I was doing so much so close to the deadline, I actually didn't make any of the ground tiles traps - even though the Fonz walks there, it's still safe. It just so happens that the rotund son is walking around there and will probably block your path - smack him with a rod (which is admittedly tougher to get to than it should be in a game's very first level), and the way will be clear.
JMAC
Posts: 37
Joined: Wed Jun 18, 2008 12:40 pm

Re: Post Mortem: JMAC's Visitors from Sheba

Postby JMAC » Fri Aug 22, 2008 7:47 pm

http://web.utk.edu/~jmcdonne/csoft/sheba_timed.zip
I've done a little work on it, with a preliminary timer mechanism attemptedly stuck in there. I also (rightly) redid the motion to use Runge-Kutta integration - this may or may not be noticeable, but it's there. I still need to tinker with all the physics parameters - now it looks somewhat jittery to me. I'd like to run it faster to get rid of that, but with my simulation of a "slower" computer that seems to cause a little trouble - and the crown goes completely insane. But I like tinkering, and it'll take far more than two weeks to satisfy me!

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