perfectly spherical

Game Design In Theory

Electromagnum: Postmortem

☰ Table of Content

So I finished my 7DFPS entry.

You can pick it up here. It’s a little rough around the edges. I don’t know if or when I’ll do another pass on it, though there are some things I should fix (for instance, someone got stuck on the intro to the Heavy Bolt).

So what did I learn?

Getting hit with an unexpected delay sucks.

Partway through my 7-day timer, I got sidetracked by some stuff I needed to help my housemates with. Between that and my sleep schedule inverting itself, I was dead tired for 2 days, right in the middle of my week–which left me scrambling to finish levels in the last 2 days of my time limit. (Technically I still had a couple days by the jam’s timer, but I wanted to take the 7 day limit Seriously).

I still finished a total of 8 levels (9, counting Road to Machinehead, which has no puzzles in it). And I’m happy with how they turned out, honestly, though I’m sure I could have detailed them much more thoroughly had I spent more time on them. But the delay meant I was rushed, and I can’t count on being able to churn out good levels when I’m rushed.

On that note:

Having some pre-planning helps, a lot.

My last post about Electromagnum went over the process I used to build the puzzles. And it turns out that was really quite useful! Having my verbs written down–enumerated, so that I could easily refer to the list–made it much easier to design levels, because I already know what kinds of things I could do with my mechanics. I didn’t have to grope around blindly for the building blocks of my levels; I had a neatly-sorted list of all the parts I had in inventory. I think this is what made it possible for me to put out good-enough levels in a short period of time–I frontloaded the hard work.

I also noted that I added a playing piece–the Barrel. The decision to add that was made while I was writing down the list of verbs–and it was an important addition to the list.

Show-Don’t-Tell tutorials are hard.

I was incredibly proud to learn that at least one of the people who played ElectroMagnum really appreciated the little “a-ha!” moments and the way that I tried to teach mechanics through the environment.

I was slightly less proud to realize that it wasn’t perfect. The fence in level 3, where you learn to use the Heavy Bolt, is a bit too high–and that led one player to try and smash it down. That geometry isn’t destructible.

If I really wanted to, I could have introduced the fences in level 1 or 2, letting the player get used to the idea that they’re solid. I think the real issue is that the fence is too high, though–I had noticed this in testing, but I’d gotten used to firing over it, and was busy trying to make everything else.

I need to figure out a process for this. I played it by ear this time, and it worked, but there has to be a way to consistently make a tutorial that doesn’t have to put any text on the screen.

I still have The Itch.

I’ve been thinking about what I’ll do next. I want to go back to Hellwave Roadkill, but I’m nervous, and another arcadey doom mod would do me some good.

Update: 2021-12-21

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