Literacy Damacy – Postmortem

October 27, 2009

Literacy Damacy

This past weekend I participated in my second Mini Ludum Dare 48 hour Game “Competition”. The topic announced for this month was “It’s Educational!” A different element for this month was that the game could be developed over any 48hr period during the month.

Concept Discovery

At first I couldn’t really think of what I could do so I didn’t immediately consider entering the competition.

On Thursday October 8th at the Final Fantasy symphony Melinda asked me if I could make her a game for work. Melinda works for Literacy BC, a non-profit promoting and supporting literacy and lifelong learning in British Columbia. Her idea was a simple game that would have the player “grow” as they absorbed “literacy strength”. An advanced version would allow for levels to be built for various cities in BC with the game reflecting the amount of Literacy Support Resources in those communities.

I thought about it for a moment and explained to her the Katamari Damacy game dynamic. We thought it was a reasonable fit so I told her I’d build the prototype for Mini-LD48 this month.

Technology

From a technology perspective Literacy Damacy was far easier than WikiInvaders. I never got stuck on major bugs since most of the code was stuff I’ve done many times before. With that said I made a few really poor coding decisions early on. I wasn’t actually programming around “Stages” until day two. This meant that very late in development when I started building the levels I had a lot of clean-up (and crude hacking) to do.

Material

Much of the content came from Melinda and the Literacy BC website. The idea of 5 stages of Literacy was directly pulled from this document. Melinda came up with “Objects” for each literacy stage as well as the “Learning Resources”. This content is very flexible and can be updated later.

The idea of a narrative was kinda organic as I wrote each of the Stage Intro panels.

User Experience

I really wanted to capture how limited individuals with Level 1 or 2 literacy are. These stages are almost entirely red with the learning resources really looking like a shining light in a grim night. For reference, you need Level 3 literacy or better to play this game.

What I Did Right

  • I had lots of time to think about the game concept and was able to boil it down to it’s simplest form before writing a single line of code.
  • Keep it simple stupid. I didn’t try to raise the bar with anything on this project. Everything that I did was a known quantity. If my imagination started going off on a tangent I re-focused it on the core immediately.

What I Did Wrong

  • While I dictated my start time, I did not properly setup my weekend to be distraction free.
  • Saturday was mostly a wash. After completing  only 4 hours of work on Saturday I called it quits. I was tired/lazy/whatever. This meant I was scrambling on Sunday.
  • By bed-time on Sunday I still had a couple of hours of work to do. This poor time management meant my official “48hr window” submission only had levels 1 & 2. I added the remaining levels the following night.
  • Really really bad code. Seriously. At the end I was copy and pasting page long functions and hard coding each stage initialization. I was able to get away with this because there were only 4 stages, but still – this was just bad form.

Overall

My goal was to build a prototype that accurately shows the game concept Melinda and I thought through. From this standpoint I was successful. Is the game fun? A little. Is it polished? Heck no. But it’s a fully realized concept that was hacked together in 14 hours. This one may get further development treatment.

I’m really really enjoying these LD48 weekends. I’m hoping to do the Mini-LD in November to fully prepare myself for the full-blown LD48 compo in December.

Play Literacy Damacy

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