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IceBreaker – PostMortem | Ludum Dare

Posted by pentaphobe


IceBreaker is a minimalist free-pause RTS-ish thing (probably better described as an FTL-like, though bearing little similarity) set in a Cyberspace similar to the one portrayed in William Gibson's Neuromancer (a book which changed my adolescent life and is at least partially responsible for my getting into programming). I didn't get much (okay, any) journal-writing done during the weekend, though there's a vague run-down of events in the project's github page. So consider this (rather large) postmortem post-hoc overcompensation. (and apologies in advance for the spam)  

Blender was extremely helpful for rapidly producing the future-retro look very quickly, even the sprites were tiny renderings with wireframes

  You can't quite tell, but it's a stripped-down RTS:
  • no resources or buildings (instead you have gestation periods for replication)
  • since you can't build unit factories, you instead have to replicate (and be vulnerable), but if you're standing still you will heal
  • there /are/ classes, but they are restricted to *strength* (hit amount) and *vitality* (health)
  • it's meant to be broken down into very short levels, generally with you collecting/destroying something which is being protected.


  • Four litres of coffee consumed
  • A whole forest of tobacco
  • 3,617 lines of code
    • That's 60 A4 pages if printed out
    • According to Wolfram Alpha that's:
      • about 17.8 metres ( 58 ft ) tall
      • 6.6 storeys high
      • and about half the diameter of the Hindenberg
    • Very sore wrists (hush, you!)
  • somewhere between 3 and 6 hours of sleep


What went wrong

  1. strong underlying system
    • unlike my last two LudumDare attempts, I knew what I wanted to do very quickly, I wrote about three pages of ideas and then stopped when I realised I'd already made my mind up to do the first one. However I didn't flesh out the details as much as usual and so started building the basic framework while pondering, knowing I could change the details later on. This resulted in a lot of code ( ~60ft worth! ) that, whilst extremely useful was probably not necessary to get the basics of the game done. I remain convinced that it was doable within the alotted time period (the post compo version is only an extra 4 hours work, with the last 3 mostly being unnecesary tweaking)
  2. not enough testing of environment
    • I did more preparation than previously, but I wasted time on a few things which could have been sorted out before the compo:
      • setting up the live stream stole about 1-2 hours, admittedly I was feeling a bit braindead/overwhelmed/uninspired so this was a better utilisation of time than say, nothing. But this should have "Just Worked"
      • Final builds (I'll get to that)
  3. using an unfamiliar framework and language (again)
    • In my first LD, I used AS3/FlashPunk which I'd picked up a couple of hours before the compo. In the second, I used Java/LibGDX and didn't complete - whilst I had familiarity with Java I was very very new to LibGDX and as a result spent wayy too much time googling. This time was a fair bit better (Haxe is quite similar to Java/AS3) but I still had little to now experience with either it, or HaxePunk
    • HaxePunk is quite nice, but unfortunately not quite "there" yet for me, I wrote a disproportionately large amount of patches to the library in order to get basic features to work normally. This stole quite a bit of time, but it was far too late in the project to change ships. I look forward to using it more though.
  4. refactoring at the halfway point
    • despite having most of the system quite well designed in my head, I had to stop and write a vast swathe of code on day 2, partially to undo the odd choices of my sleep-deprived self the night before
  5. sleep (braindead 6+6 hours)
    • I should have done it sooner, and more. I'm quite good without sleep, but I ran rampant on the code-base when I started getting exhausted. Much time was spent rectifying this spaghetti. I'm not sure how long I actually slept (somewhere between 4 and 6 hours), but I easily lost 12 hours to silly choices and then the bleary-headedness upon waking.

      an early screenshot complete with pointless UI and ugly tiles

  6. didn't demonstrate theme clearly enough (despite following it)
    • I had basic gameplay down very early in the project this time, but the sleep-spaghetti resulted in about 10-12 hours of programming which left me (effectively) where I started
  7. planning
    • I actually planned quite well in a lot of ways, but some very fundamental (and rudimentary) aspects were overlooked initially, resulting in much confusion and wasted time
  8. submission process panic!
    • I tested my environment this time to avoid this exact thing. However I discovered (at submission time) that whilst my project ran perfectly in the Flash standalone player, it would silently fail completely in-browser. It turns out all I had to do was add "-web" to the build command, but it took me far too long to discover this!
  9. no end-game detection or automatic level progression
    • despite "shipping" with a few levels, the submission process issues resulted in my missing the 20 minutes that I needed to finalise this important factor of a "short-level based game" and the gameplay suffers for it.

What went right

  1. strong underlying system
    1. Yes, it's a dirty trick having this in both sections. But I maintain that the approach was a good one, early efforts resulted in the tutorial system being a mere 45 minutes to implement, and most new features were added extremely quickly
    2. I used JSON for most of the configuration of the game, allowing rapid prototyping of enemy AI, character attributes, menus and the tutorial system)
  2. using Haxe and SublimeText 2
    1. This was a pretty awesome combination, I look forward to being able to justify the $70 license for SublimeText2 (this was my first real experience with it, and it was wonderful). I have been using (shudder) Eclipse for a while despite my lack of appreciation for IDEs in general so it was nice to have a "real" development environment again. However I've gotten rather dependent on Eclipse's easy mass-refactoring, and you can really tell (names of things changed through the course of the project and thus there are some things named Agents which are actually Actors and so forth)
  3. the game idea
    1. I think this concept is pretty sound, and I enjoyed playtesting it. Definitely building some more levels and a little more "Juice" and thrusting it in the face of anyone who walks by
  4. music and art
    1. There were a few times when my brain completely went on strike, so it was good to change gears and work in Blender or Renoise to build some of the feel, having these elements in game was also fantastic for morale.
    2. The music was made in about 5-15 minutes for each of the two tracks
    3. Art was quite quick too, despite a few false starts
  5. tutorial system
    1. I'm really happy with the tutorial system, which could also double as a mission introduction system. It hooks into game events and each dialog of the tutorial can have a number of events required before it appears, or disappears making it very easy to make a clear (and importantly, responsive) tutorial.

The in-game tutorial system is quite smart, if a little overenthusiastic

Last words

Thanks to everyone for an awesome experience yet again! Project source (github) | Project page | Live stream (twitch) I strongly encourage you to

Play the Jam/Post-compo version Here!

  after you've rated, as it'll be a lot more clear what I was trying to achieve  

LD#25 You Are The Villain

Posted by pentaphobe

I'm still brainstorming 2.5hrs after the theme announcement. This is a tough one!

I have a nine page bullet list of ideas, but choosing is a little harder than it was last time because:

  • My favourite ideas are likely the favourites of many other people
  • My least favourite ideas mostly fall under the following categories:
    • nice concept, but where's the game?
    • how does that differ from the hero version?
    • nice game, but where's the concept

Normally at this point I'd start work on coding up the basic framework and getting the generic skeleton going, but since I'm not sure which game I'm going with I still don't know whether AS3/FlashPunk or Java/LibGDX are going to be more appropriate.

I'm leaning toward FlashPunk again simply because more is covered by the library, but that would instantly limit my chances of doing anything simulation-based as the VM (as far as I know) is not as well suited. Distribution is significantly easier though.

Another caveat if I choose Java/LibGDX is that less people will play the game unless it's embeddable in the browser - outside of Processing I've never attempted this, which could either be deceptively simple or a waste of a few good hours.

More coffee, and standing in the sun before I choose.

I give myself one hour to choose, and a further hour to get whichever dev environment I go for setup and ready to go. If the setup is not yet done by that point I shall switch to a simpler environment.


Switched to Markdown

Posted by pentaphobe

I've moved this blog over to using a Markdown plugin for WordPress - most of our workflow is markdown oriented, so this just makes a lot more sense.

It may however break a few posts, I shall be sifting through to repair any potential damages over the next 24 hours.

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Sid Meier Keynote and my thoughts on game odds.

Posted by pentaphobe

Interesting talk from Sid Meier - I'm still watching, but this is a note for later.

At around 20 mins in, Sid introduces a conundrum regarding player combat and the discrepancy in player perception of odds.

The example given is of the player accepting that they may occasionally lose a 2:1 battle (approximately 1 in every 3 games) - but has difficulty reconciling the idea that they lost a 20:10 game "I have 10 more!"

Sid points out that this their assumption mathematically unsound and continues to speculate on the psychology of gamers (while the audience chuckle derisively in the background).

This scenario makes perfect sense to me, however.  I understand the basic mathematics of 20:10 == 2:1 (obviously).  However I propose that the two may not be that similar, especially in terms of combat (and other somewhat complex, or emergent) systems.  Instead it should be looked at in terms of combinatorics, possibly considering the average individual's combat capacity, rather than the sum.

See, the reason the player has difficulty with this is that every single player they have in advantage, should also have a (randomish) high chance of fighting well above their capacity.  Ie. just as the disadvantaged player in a 2:1 battle has a chance of winning, every additional unit on the field in a match of equal ratio should have a chance of beating at least 2 (or more) opponents.

What seems logical for a player is the idea that in (say) a 20:10 match, they should be able to be down to their last player with their opponent absolutely slaughtering them, for example 1:9 and there will still be a chance - albeit a small one - of pulling out a victory.  Perhaps the remaining opponents have already been weakened by other (now dead) allies?  Perhaps the survivor has learnt a few things watching their mates getting killed?  There are any number of justifiable (though mathematically 'illogical') reasons to assume this is okay.

I feel this is because rudimentary statistics like those used on horse races are inherently unsatisfactory for modelling higher-level processes like fighting, survival, etc.

So what?

I'm going to give this a little more thought, as it could easily be modeled with an iterative function:

function calculateTeamOddsScalar( teamObject, teamAverageStrength, opponentAverageStrength ) {
   var total = 1;
   for (var i=0; i<teamObject.totalUnits; i++) {
      // results of a simplified combat, > 0 for our winning amount, < 0 for our losing amount
      var diff = random(teamAverageStrength) - random(opponentAverageStrength);
      total += diff;
   return total;

I would, however like to find a more elegant mathematical solution.

No really, so what?

The numbers will more accurately reflect the type of odds we expect in real life, rather than the pure mathematical approach.  We're constantly skirting the odds and statistics are useful for certain types of analysis - however they are limited by their simplicity in common game engines.

Remember that odds make sense generally over very large sample sets, not necessarily on a short time scale.  The fact that I have a higher chance of dieing in a car-crash than an aeroplane crash doesn't in any way reduce my chances of being in an aeroplane crash.  These statistics are only useful when looking at humanity as a whole.  And really only good for proving inane points, or seeming like a smartass.


I'm clever and this is a good idea so poo poo to you you.

Or I'm potentially a complete moron stating the entirely obvious.

I'd give you the odds that each of those statements are true,

but they'd be meaningless.

GDC 2010: Sid Meier Keynote - "Everything You Know is Wrong" - YouTube


Arthropod evolutionary missing link found 520 million fossil

Posted by pentaphobe

Relevant to our long term project.

Arthropod evolutionary missing link found 520 million fossil.


stairs, better shadows, game-like-things

Posted by pentaphobe

Made this video a while back.  I was still on 3G internet at the new house so I couldn't upload it.  Now I can.


  • muzzle flash is more obvious
  • bomb explosions now chain properly
  • added a reload key ‘R’
  • zombies now have random speed and attention span
  • zombies get stunned by damage
  • player damage now has visual feedback:
    screen gets redder as health goes down
    screen flashes red when hurt
  • fixed a bug in the event system which was causing some events to take longer than expected
    eg. bombs or fire taking too long to do their business


  • added stairs up and down
  • added simple persistence layer – currently only stores which entities have been removed from a level
  • added health bar for damaged zombies
  • added physics to items
    • shooting/exploding near items now causes them to move
  • shadows now match the subdivided walls more closely
    • though this means slower draws (up to 36 lines per tile instead of 4)
    • I will of course optimise this though
  • fixed a couple of bugs in the map generator code, unfortunately the maps are now less interesting looking
  • melee attacks have changed:
    • they now point in the right direction (woops!)
    • punching and crowbar have different spreads, currently 120 degrees and 180 degrees respectively
      • this makes the difference between them quite noticeable
      • this also makes punching crowds of zombies hazardous to one’s health
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LD24 – Review E02 by ojbhbz

Posted by pentaphobe

Tee hee!  is doing an ongoing review of LD24 games, I'm giddy to see mine in there.

However it's a good example of how little AS3/FlashPunk experience I have that he's getting so much lag.  There are very few entities onscreen so I must be doing something extraordinarily stupid in Flash terms..

LD24 - Review E02 - YouTube.

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I got done! And didn’t pass out! 23 hours!

Posted by pentaphobe

Despite internet failing at (literally) 12 minutes until the deadline I've pulled through.

It's not everything I had hoped for, but significantly more than I had fretted for.

How did I get a shot with no brains in it?I can't believe I'm looking at this thing done! Now to go rate the others.. Or perhaps sleep first.

You can play it here

Due to work and slumber this ended up only being about a 23 hour compo for me, I look forward to attempting the full weekend some time.

I think I'll explore the whole LD experience and do a PostMortem soon, too. Perhaps more appropriate to do it for a fixed up Jam version so that the original idea gets across more.

Nonetheless, for the curious here's a little run down off the top of my head (after the break):


Sketching away

Posted by pentaphobe

Filed under: LudumDare #24 No Comments

Can’t talk, panicking!

Posted by pentaphobe

So - I knew it'd be a little rushed given I was away from computers for around 12 of the allocated 48 hours, but after a few rather exceptional bugs which kept me scratching my head for much of today's attempts I am left with only this and 13 hours!

Those are brains, you get 'em to upgrade your evolution points, which give you better skills

Right then.

Back to panic!

Filed under: LudumDare #24 No Comments