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Fail Fast…And I Forget The Rest

December 19, 2012

Just a quick post about my Ludum Dare 25 experience.  The theme this round was “You are the villain”, which pleasantly surprised me, since I was almost positive people would vote in “End of the World”, given the timing.

I really started to fall in love with my interpretation of the theme.

I really started to fall in love with my interpretation of the theme.

I can say, at least, that I came up with a solid game idea and implemented it in the space of 48 hours.  Unfortunately, as with last time, I don’t think that I can say I created a fun game in the space of 48 hours.  In this case, I created a text-based game that was too open-ended and didn’t have a strong enough text-parser to accept nearly enough player input.  The result was a game that basically asked you to guess a small set of key-phrases to proceed, and threw back most everything else with a standard “…I don’t understand.”

You can play the game here, if you at least want to know what I’m talking about below.

This was partially the result of an over-ambitious subversion of typical text-adventure design, as well as a failure to get any play-testing in before the deadline.  The typical text-based game involves issuing commands to the player involving physical objects.  The commands that are acceptable nearly always have to do with those objects that the designer introduces.  For instance, if the text game puts you in a room with a door, the designer may reasonably conclude that the player will try to interact with the door, in which case there are a small set of commands that can be anticipated.

In my game, you do not issue commands; you simply make statements, and with very little context.  The breadth of different inputs that can (and did) come to the players’ minds obviously dwarfed what I could predict by my lonesome, and as a result, the game was unfortunately more frustrating than fun.

Some of the very few commands that my game actually DID react to.

Some of the very few commands that my game actually DID react to.

The one nice thing about all of this, though, and the reason behind this post’s title, is that I got to botch this idea in only 48 hours, when I could easily imagine myself taking weeks to botch it.  I would have spent time creating all sorts of different levels for the game and different endings to the levels, and way more graphics, but would have still completely overestimated my ability to create a text-parser flexible and broad enough to be fun to interact with.

If I continue working on this, I’ll be able to go at it from a totally different and way more productive perspective, and I think the result will be far better.

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