WikiInvaders – Post Mortem

September 14, 2009

WikiInvaders

I casually played with the idea of participating in Mini-LD #12 last week but never actually made up my mind. When the theme was announced I decided to give it a bit more thought.

Theme: Wikipedia  Bonus-Theme: Duke Nukem Forever

Over dinner and drinks Friday night a game idea came to me. A Space Invaders inspired typing game that used Wikipedia as a content source. I slept on the idea and over breakfast with Melinda got permission to participate (I firmly believe that crunch projects go smoother if you get your significant other’s blessing ahead of time). A napkin sketch of the game was created over that same breakfast.

Getting to a Playable State
I started with a blank Flash document at 12 noon on Saturday – 19 hours into the 48 hour event. Within 2 hours I had a prototype that was roughly parsing Wikipedia XML dumps and showing a good approximation of my core game screen. Another 2 hours later and the game was playable.

Resolving Major Issues First
I published a .swf to my site to start showing other people. This quickly showed that Flash did not like the way I was handling queries to Wikipedia. Security settings in Flash Player prevent it from loading content from other domains, a huge blocking issue considering the theme of this event. I was logged into the #ludumdare IRC channel at the time and folks were able to help me pinpoint the issue. With their help I was able to build a PHP pass-through file to get around the Flash limitation. This major issue took an hour out of my time but resolved the only major “ship-blocking” issue.

Tweaks and Polish
With core gameplay functional and the theme criteria met, everything else was gravy. I spent another 4 hours Saturday adding animation, title screen art and the loading text that fulfilled the “bonus theme” criteria. Sunday morning was a final 3 hours of polish where I focused on improving the .xml parser to reduce the likelihood of “crappy levels” as well as a GameOver screen and scoring system.

Testing
I had time to let Melinda try the game a few times throughout development. She provided a great “non-gamer” viewpoint that I was able to use to make adjustments to game speed and other minor elements. Other folks on IRC also played the game a few times during development to give me some live feedback.

What I Did Right

  • Thinking before starting: Taking the time to have dinner allowed me to fully digest the theme and come up with a game concept.
  • Getting to a “game” quickly: Quickly getting to that working prototype provided an ever evolving foundation that was good enough to submit at any time if I had to walk away. This took a lot of stress away.
  • Focusing on polish of the core feature: I had another feature in my back pocket but didn’t invest the time to put it in this game. Instead I took the time to better polish what I had. It’s possible that the additional feature would have taken an additional 6 hours to bring to the same quality as the current game.
  • Crappy Code: My code was written really really really fast. It’s crap to read, but I didn’t waste time worrying about structure.
  • Quiet work area & IRC: My home was quiet for most of Saturday. This allowed me to focus. Joining the #ludumdare channel on IRC gave me a link to others in the same mindset. This avoided the whole “working in isolation” problem.

Things I Did Wrong:

  • Started Late: Starting 19 hours in meant almost half of the event was over before I got started. Next time I’ll allocate more time on the Friday night and Saturday morning. This should allow me to increase my development time from 12 hours to 20 hours.
  • Crappy Code: My code was a mess and it continually got worse as the weekend progressed. This created a lot of extra bugs. I think the more practice I have with this rapid development the better my default coding will be.

Overall

I’m quite pleased with the game. It’s buggy. It’s lame. But it’s a complete product that was only put together in 12 hours.

I had an excellent time participating in Mini-LD #12. It was an exhilarating experience that really pushed me. My personality type thrives with tight deadlines so this was just the sort of rush I needed to get something tangible done. I fully plan to take part in future Mini and “Proper” LDs if only as an exercise in keeping my mind sharp.

Play WikiInvaders Here

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Luke Alexander October 1, 2009 at 7:38 am

Thanks! This is another cool game I could add on my lists. Been looking for more and found your site.

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kaylasara October 1, 2009 at 11:16 am

Thanks. You’ll have difficulty pulling the .swf and loading it on an alternate site due to the reliance on a PHP pass-through.

Reply

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