RoboLike postmortem 1

I’ve been blogging my progress on the game devlog rather than here, but I’m planning on doing a series of postmortems which I’ll duplicate. This first one is a reflection on my take on the project from a personal point of view.

Well, I submitted. It was kind of touch-and-go whether I would or not (in the end I did two releases in the last five minutes as I realised I’d left my cheat codes in). it’s missing a lot of features I originally intended to include, and is horrifically buggy. In particular, it has a nasty habit of hanging at random points, and I was half a day short of being able to write a savefile system. The last-half-hour effort to at least save the RNG seed failed, so even that’s missing. On the other hand, you can theoretically progress through the game to its win condition as intended. Although now I come to think of it, I didn’t even manage to test that. Just the lose conditions.

It’s a flaw I recognise in myself that I will dream up great creative projects which look perfectly achievable on paper, but in reality turn out to be much more work and way more involved than originally recognised. I’ve talked about how game jams have given me a fresh take on this in the devlog of my main project, and that practice in being positive about descoping really helped me here. I reckon RoboLike needs the same amount of effort again to implement the features I think are missing, and I’m OK with that. At some point I will come back and finish it (as much as any piece of software is ever finished) and that doesn’t feel daunting.

The big question that needs to be asked, then, is did I underestimate the amount of work in my original design (bearing in mind that even before the start of the jam I’d descoped some of the ideas from my original original design), or did I overestimate my abilities? If you’d asked me at any point after the start of the first full day, when I posted that the project had a “20% chance of playability, 0% chance of quality, 100% chance of learning stuff” I would have said it was a bit of both. But now I’m not in the midst of it, and looking at the other submissions, I think the truth is that it’s almost all down to my lack of knowledge (and maybe an overestimation of how quickly I can learn).

To break that down a bit:

  1. I’ve been doing game dev for barely two years (although non-game dev for a lot longer)
  2. Almost all of that time I’ve been working on 3D games in Unity, while RoboLike is a 2D game in Godot. So that’s an engine and a language I’m still very much learning, and a completely new approach to graphics to learn. (Well, I did do some 2D graphics as a child, but that was back in 8-bit days.)
  3. On top of that, it’s a genre I don’t play (just admire the tales of others).

Which means I’ve spent a lot of time learning how to do things rather than actually doing them. Stuff like:

  • the value of FSMs (which I only appreciated in an 11th-hour effort to debug enemies that wouldn’t stay dead)
  • how to use the Godot RNG for procgen
  • why my sprites weren’t aligning
  • how to integrate a turn-based system with a real-time game engine

I reckon half my time was spent solving problems that wouldn’t have come up if I wasn’t trying to figure it out on the fly. Combine that with it needing “the same amount of effort again” and that suggests I pretty much nailed the sizing. It just needed someone who wasn’t having a “100% learning experience”.

And even then, there’s one critical thing I still don’t know:

Is the damn thing balanced?

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