[LD29] Eskimo Run Post-Mortem

Eskimo Run is my fourth entry to the Ludum Dare competition. The theme this time was “Beneath the Surface”, and the optional theme was “Pepsi Consultant”. I opted to go for the infinite runner type gameplay where your character is constantly running right and you have to jump to avoid obstacles (except with a finite number of hand crafted levels). The twist I incorporated into the game to follow the theme is that you are running on a surface of ice that you can dive through to then travel beneath the surface. While above water, you jump to avoid spikes and blocks, while underwater you dive to avoid spikes and fish. In order to follow the optional theme, I made the enemy chasing you the pepsi consultant! You have to make sure to move faster than him by avoiding obstacles, otherwise he catches up with you and sponsors your game jam!

Play the game | Ludum Dare

What went wrong:

Level design

Oh dear. I personally consider this the biggest flaw of this submission. Because of the poor level design, the levels just don’t feel like they flow well. Ideally, a good player should be able to run the entire map perfectly without any stoppages. In this case, I rushed through the level design, and the poor placements of tiles and spikes cause the flow of the game to feel lacking. You constantly get stopped and slowed down, which really detracts from the feel of the game. The other issue with level design is that I made the underwater section too difficult! The theme is almost ignored because it is almost always detrimental for you to go underwater. If I had a few extra hours to work on my levels instead of rushing through them, I think the game could be multiple times better.

Code efficiency

For the first time in all my game development projects, I ran into performance issues. This was mostly caused by the stitched together particle emission system, which constantly produces snow, ice and bubble particles. In the end, a lot of people had trouble running the game smoothly enough to play, and I ended up making a light version which does not use particle effects. In the future, I will try to use a game engine that incorporates opengl just so I don’t have to worry as much about performance.

Bugs

Unfortunately the physics for the spikes often produced a buggy feeling due to gravity not being handled properly. Sometimes, the game would think you are standing on spikes even though you are slightly elevated next to it. This greatly impacted the game as it made it feel incredibly unfair at times when you actually do make the jump but get slowed down anyway.

What went right:

Art art art

I dare say that this project is a massive improvement in terms of graphics. I like the pixel art for my character, the background, the clouds. the tiles and the fish. I find that all of them match well together to form a cute and polished looking game. I spent quite a lot of time drawing the sprites, and I feel that it really shows. I also spent a lot of time on some subtle particle effects like the snow, bubbles and ice shards when diving through the water. While trivial, along with the fish and clouds, they really help in making the world feel like it is actually alive.

Variety

Instead of spending all my time coding, I decided to put a bit more effort into making more assets like sprites and levels. This time, I managed to make a variety of sprites and three different levels. This made the progression a bit more fun and interesting than last time because you are introduced to new things every level.

Music

I DID IT! I ACTUALLY HAVE MUSIC THIS TIME. Ok, I kinda consider it cheating a bit, but I used a random music generator that I found online. Apparently that completely conforms to Ludum Dare rules, and I’ve seen quite a few people do it. While feeling cheaty, I think it was worth it. It didn’t take much time at all to implement into the game, and it really helped the atmosphere and variety to have this lively music playing in the background. Will definitely be doing this again in the future.

Theme

Although the level design didn’t really accommodate well for it, I felt that I had a fairly unique spin on the theme and endless runners in general. I really like the idea of having two channels to navigate through the level which you can switch on anytime. While you could technically complete the level only using one path, sometimes it was easier to go the other way. The use of the pepsi consultant was also a huge plus as a lot of people who understood who he is found it hilarious. For three out of four of my Ludum Dare games, I’ve used a strange twist like the pepsi consultant for the story context, and I think it adds a lot. Even with identical gameplay, a silly story can make the game feel more fun because you get a little more immersed and amused as you play. Hopefully I can keep thinking of gags revolving around the theme!

Conclusion:

I think this was probably my ‘best’ Ludum Dare entry if you look at it overall. While I found the gameplay more fun in The Naughty List, Eskimo Run simply had more content and polish. The art and music just made the game feel much more complete. Hopefully in my next game, I’ll be able to strike up a better balance, or perhaps just work faster so that I can get in all the features and assets I want!