Panspermia: postmortem

If the game's too hard or it crashed and you don't want to redo the whole thing, press 1 through 6 on the title screen to skip to that level!

Final version (unless someone posts a bug) here.

I went all out from Friday evening up through the deadline, not even pausing to make a diary entry. I really burned the candle on both ends this time. Without taking time off from work, I still spent at least 6 hours on it every night. I've been getting about 4 hours of sleep a night.

Also, I don't think I could possibly have done it any faster. I never changed my mind about where the project was going or had to roll back any ideas. (I refactored the first half of my code, but I think this is essential in order to write the second half.) The only thing I wound up not using is this vegetable-looking thing. So a lot of work went into this. My gamelib directory is 74kb, and I pretty much wrote every single word of it.

Does that make for a good game? Well....

Lesson #1: It is hard to level design for real-time strategy. Good design is hard for all games, of course! But for a platformer or an adventure game or a puzzle game, you can draw the level and see what it looks like. For an RTS, the "design" is all in the units' stats. It's very abstract, and there's no way to anticipate what it'll all be like without actually playing it. And if there's any randomness, you need to play it multiple times. And there aren't even any enemies until level 4! I can't imagine what it's like with a wide variety of enemies.

You also need to test out different strategies, to make sure a really dumb simple strategy doesn't work. I think my game probably has this flaw. For this reason, I think it's particularly hard to make a "fun" RTS in a week, working by yourself. You can make reasonably good game mechanics, and I'm happy with mine, but the fun probably won't be there. I'm in this for the fun, so maybe next time I'll try a different genre.

In Pyweek 6, if you look at the rankings by category, I got something like 3rd on fun, 4th on innovation, and 20th on production. I hope this time I get a big step up in production, though I may take a hit on the other two.

One surprisingly frustrating thing is that the game looked almost exactly the same from 8 hours in (when I took my first screenshot) up through the final version. This is because I chose a visual style that I liked at the beginning and I just stuck with it, but I kept hoping the visuals would evolve along with the mechanics.

This entry wouldn't have been ambitious for everyone, but it was ambitious for me. I find that this really inspires me during the competition. The danger, of course, is not finishing, so ideally you want something ambitious that can be shortened without DNFing.

Oh yeah, one more thing is that I didn't have a consistent mood. The subject matter is really serious and humorless, but the acorns running around is just too funny. I liked them both, but I don't think they work so great together.

Well, I'm sure nobody's read this far.

Thanks for another fun contest, richard!

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You're welcome and I agree that strategy games are quite hard to get well-balanced in one week. Great writeup!
I do not think the cuteness and the seriousness work against each other. I've just finished it and the mood was really well built up to the ending! Thanks for the game!
I've just noticed how the toolbar icons are animated when you select/unselect kernels :). Nice touch!
We've done strategy games 4 or 5 times now, and only one other type - and I gotta agree, they are probably one of the toughest game types to do - we've kept doing them simply because we love them, and because we wanted to actually finish one really well :P

On our game, we had a similar problem to you, because we had a whole bunch of different kinds of units that did different things, I think we ended up with about an hour a day of balancing at least, and more for play-testing, so it was quite a lot :S
Haven't played yet, but it looks great, and I definitely think you will have a higher production score than 20th ;)