4 Hugues Ross - Blog: Cloudy Climb -- The Announcement and Postmortem Double-Feature!
Hugues Ross

3/10/18

Cloudy Climb -- The Announcement and Postmortem Double-Feature!

Hello again, readers. It's been quiet around here lately, but that changes today. For the first time in quite a while, I'm releasing a brand-new game! The game is called Cloudy Climb, and it's--wait a second, we've done this before!


Not Quite a Remake

Yes, that's right. I've made a second Cloudy Climb. Like most of my projects, I was never really happy with the original. More importantly, I was in the mood to make a game. I've been working on this version for about 2 months, and I think it's finally reached a point where I can call it 'done' and not feel bad about it.

You can get the game via the widget below, or take a look at the git repo here.



A Postmortem for Our Dear Prince

While I still have your attention, I'm going to do a write a quick postmortem for Cloudy Climb. Postmortems are a very useful tool that I don't use nearly often enough. So, let's get to it!

The Story

I started Cloudy Climb during the last week of December, mostly because I was bored. After DFGame and Singularity taking most of last year, I was in the mood for some simple game development. I also wanted to see how well DFGame would fare under Game Jam-esque constraints, so I set myself a time limit of 1 week.

As we're all well aware, it took a little bit longer than a week. I got the basic mechanic and some of the graphics done in a couple days, but I got sick around the 4 day mark. Since I wanted to make something decent (and this wasn't really a game jam anyway), I decided to spend a few more weeks taking the game to a more finished state. Then, I just decided to take "as long as I need" to get the game into a relatively solid finished state.

In late January, when the game was really starting to come together I finally revealed its existence to some of my friends. Besides being friendly, I primarily did this to gather feedback. I started with this video:

...And slowly polished things over the course of a few more:


With the feedback gathered from my work, I completed the remaining assets and now we're here!

What Went Right?

  • Feedback! I'll be gathering more of that in the future. My friends caught a lot of little things that I was able to fix ahead of release. For a good example of that, listen to the stage end jingle in the last feedback video. One of my good buddies pointed out that it was too drawn-out, and I ended up cutting the final note out. I think it sounds a fair bit better as a result.

    There's also the really nice spike animation, which involved a bunch of critique passes in a pixel art community I found. I think the difference of quality there is very clear compared to the rest of the game's art.
  • Field Testing! One thing that I got out of this that I find really valuable is the experience of using DFGame on a non-trivial project. It's been really enlightening, and I'll be making (and in some cases, have already made) several changes to the API as a result.
  • Requirements! Because of this project, I was finally forced to get off my butt and learn audio. I'm still very bad at music, but I still think much of the game's audio is a good step up from previous games. I've taken the first step, now I just need to keep practicing.

What Went Wrong?

  • Rushing! A number of the assets could be much better, but after spending the better part of a weekend just making that spike ball I decided to try and make things "good enough" and move on. Frankly, it shows! Most of the art is pretty ho-hum, and it could've been much better if I'd taken the time to flesh it out and get critique. This was supposed to be a quick filler project, so I'm not too upset at the quality, but it's still a clear weakness.
  • Procrastination! I spent a long time finding tasks that didn't involve audio to do. This resulted in my last few weeks being almost nothing but music and sound, which got old pretty fast. It also means that the part that was my weakest skill also got the least amount of dev time! If my old drafts are any indication, the music would probably have been significantly better had I been iterating on it from early in the production.
  • The Core Design of Your Game, You Numbskull! So this is kind of a big one: Cloudy Climb's concept is pretty awful. The game works pretty well as an "infinite runner"-style game like the original, but the value doesn't translate well to a level-based platformer (in my opinion) for a few reasons:
    1. There's very little room for 'soft' failure states. For obvious reasons, messing up your movement always means death.
    2. Your character's only means of interaction with the world are 'bounce' and 'bounce, but moreso'. One could envision a game with one or two additional player actions, but the base concept pretty much requires one of the primary actions in the game to also be the basic movement.
    3. The game is extremely vertical, but the platform (PC) uses a horizontal aspect ratio. What's more, you move up and down pretty quickly thanks to gravity. A metroid-style camera would've helped, but I don't think it could've magically fixed the problem.

Takeaways

So the game didn't come out great, but at least most of my sins are pretty fixable, and a quick gander at this ancient postmortem indicates to me that I'm capable of learning from my mistakes. I put off much less of the content this time around, my code was perfectly fine, and I had a tight scope that grew organically to fit my needs and capabilities. Much like the game, the development process was distinctly not terrible! So here's my big lesson:

Iterate and get feedback on your big mechanic from the start, and make sure that your game is always presentable. That means taking the time to make assets (or at least decent placeholders), to ensure that you're always engaging with every aspect of the work and not leaving anything for the end.

There's More!

Even though this project is finished, I'm not moving on just yet. During the project, I found a few bits of technology that I want to explore, and this seems like a good opportunity to do just that. I'll be using this game as a testbed to get a feel for them, then I'll move on to something new. I also got an idea for a short tutorial/informative article based on some of my work on Cloudy Climb, so I'll be working on that as well.
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