Friday, February 1, 2013

Post Mortem

So! The jam finished about a week ago, which has given some time for the dust to settle and for us to collect our thoughts.  This was a really tough jam, a lot of things went wrong and we didn't quite get where we wanted to with the game, but we still had a blast and made a prototype which I hope shows a lot of promise.

Before I start I should say that all opinions are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the rest of our team!

What Went Wrong

In short... a lot!


We were ridiculously ambitious for our game. Shortly before this jam we'd done really well in Ludum Dare, winning the "Overall" category in the jam with our game Ore Chasm. 12 days seem like a really long time, we have a good idea for how much we can get done in a weekend's time for a typical jam timespan but the longer time threw us out a bit and we set our sights too high.  Doing a 3D game is almost always a terrible idea for a jam, and we wanted a 3D game with different mechanics per level, a strong narrative, unlocks and a metagame, dinosaurs and time travel! Which lead to the next issue...

Spreading ourselves too thin

Working on so many different scenes and mechanics meant we never could give enough attention to any one aspect.  In retrospect we should have cut down on story elements, and probably done either only the driving sections or shooting sections, and fleshed out/polished either.  We spent a lot of time on content that didn't make it into the game at all.  It is common jam advice to work bottom up - make something small and improve on it - but we worked from with a top-down methodology.

The Ouya/Dev environment

As is to be expected from a product in such an early phase of development, we had a number of issues with the ouya itself.  The first and most significant being that our Ouya dev kit didn't work out of the box at all! We were lucky to know a nearby developer who also had an Ouya that we could use to test our game on. Still, this meant we had far less time to test our game on-device than optimal.  Building the game for Ouya and deploying also took up a fair amount of time - compounded by the fact that I had never built a game for the Android environment.  The support given by Ouya staff and resources available on their forums were great though, and we managed without too many troubles.

We also overestimated the power of the device, especially on the video side.  Luckily the visual style of our game suits it being run in ridiculously low res (I think in the end we settled for 270p), but even that in addition to a fair amount of optimisation was not enough to stop the framerate from chugging at certain parts of our game.  Another reason we should have made a 2D game!

Finally, the Ouya controller is kind of... bad. The ouya devs have since responded and are improving the controls so I trust this won't be an issue on launch - but the large input delay and inaccurate axis readings made that our game doesn't play nearly as nice with an ouya controller as it does with an Xbox controller.  In the end we opted for a deadzone of about 0.4! We tried to compensate for the problems by adding in a lot of autoaim, which helps, but does not solve the problem altogether.  By carefully watching the youtube videos of other entries it seems evident that other devs were facing the same issues. Again, I don't think these are massive problems for a product in its infancy and the ouya devs are aware so I'm sure these issues will be solved before launch.


As a result of the previously mentioned problems, we did not spend nearly enough time actually just playing our game.  The controls aren't as intuitive as they should be, the difficulty is a bit haphazard and there are a fair number of bugs present.  

I'm stupid

Yep, I'm stupid.  Only a few hours before submission, I accidentally our whole Mercurial repository by committing stuff with the LargeFiles extension, which bitbucket does not support. This meant that the frantic bugfixing which always happens a few hours before submission in a jam could only be done on one machine. If I had more time I could probably have fixed my repo, or worked out a different setup for our mercurial, but there was no time.

What went right


I think our concept for the game - having lots of different, semi-repeating scenes getting weirder and more difficult a-la Amazing Wagon Adventure is really strong and if fully realised would have made for a really fun, whacky, replayable and unique experience, while allowing us to do pretty much what we want gameplay wise.  Doing something more narrative driven was also a nice change for us, and we learnt some valuable lessons there.


As per usual our (one man) art team did a kickass job and produced more content than we could even use.  I really like the visual style of the game. On top of that we had some cool terrain tech that allows us to have rippling terrain and marks on ground, making the game quite 'juicy'.


Even though it does not come across nearly as strongly as I hoped, I still think we somewhat succeeded at establishing the mood we intended - of survivors on an island encountering increasingly weird scenarios.  We did have a whole story planned out - which would have explained what exactly is going on on the island and tied everything together - but we didn't have time to implement it all.  I think the story screen also works quite well - although the writing itself didn't have time to be iterated upon, and I'm not a particularly good writer.


Although again not nearly where we wanted it to be - I think the game sections are quite fun.  Shooting could certainly have been improved by a lot, but there are a lot of different ways of playing the game, and killing mooks by throwing guns at them is quite fun.

Vehicle section

The vehicle section is probably the strongest part of the game - everybody seems to have liked our laser-breathing T-Rex. It's also a lot of fun to play with a friend, and can be quite chaotic (in a good way!).

Final Thoughts

So, our jam didn't go nearly as well as I'd hoped, and I'm not quite sure of our chances of winning. But still think we have an outside chance, and I think at least our trailer is one of the better ones.  Despite this we learnt a lot in this jam and still had a good time, and we might take the game further if we get a good response.  Doing an extended jam (with prizes!) was a great change and I hope there are more of these in the future - we'd definitely like to compete again. It was great being part of something new and exciting and I'm looking forward to the future of the Ouya.  

Thanks for reading!


  1. Is there any new news about this game? It's been over a month since the last post, so I'm just curious to see what's happening ^^;

    1. Hey! We are currently fully focused on our other game, Broforce, and not working on Murder Island.