I had a little free time this evening after work, and since the Ludum Dare game jam just finished this weekend I decided to give back a little since my LD30 was a pretty big failure. On the #ludumdare irc channel, I asked for a game to review, I can’t actually rate the games, but hopefully this will be better than any ratings received, I know I always appreciate the feedback and comments more than the ratings themselves.
This is the first screen and primary menu you get as a player with calming background music playing in the background, seriously, the sort of music you’d find in a hotel lobby or elevator. The music is very well done and remaining on the menu for a few moments pull me into the mood of the game. The first time player is left a bit confused, since the natural reaction is to click play.
From there you jump into what seems to be a tutorial, but watch out things are coming at you and shooting you before you have time to read the text that just disappeared. Who needs to read anyways? It was obvious the mouse was used for controlling the player character, simply by clicking play and starting to ready caused the movement that explained this, so naturally a click of the mouse button and I learned that I can shoot back!
But I didn’t last very long, actually I died before I noticed what happened. The game resets itself with slightly different text, still difficult to read while trying to play at the same time, but hey I already know how to move and shoot – how difficult can this be? The confusion starts when my score drops for every bullet that makes contact so I immediately cease fire! Run away from the things chasing me. But if I have weapons, they must be useful?
I start exploring and quickly find myself reaching the bounds of the world while attempting to, unsuccessfully, dodge the obstacles. I die several times and the game is over. So I try again, this time I get to read a little more, and learn that there are 5 levels or dreams to progress through, but still don’t understand why shooting is negatively effecting my score. Restarting I read further and finally understand that the similar objects are very slightly different.
This is certainly a game to try a few times, and give it a fair chance because it is actually fun to have that “aha” moment when you figure out what is going on. Besides, protecting some kid, or even your own mind, from having nightmares seems like a good thing to do! That fun doesn’t last very long, but for a game made in 48 hours, it is worth trying.
Tips for the Developer
Making games is hard work. I’ve been doing it for more than fifteen years, professionally for over five. This weekend, as I mentioned above, was a bit of a failure for me, and a wake-up call. I will give back as much knowledge as I can and take a more proactive approach to work out my own game development skills. I give the following tips as pure advice, there is no right or wrong way to make games.
The background of the menu is deceptively simple, a grey background with very translucent white circles that at first glance seem to move. I looked closer and this is was just a trick invented by my mind. There are a few spinning particles behind the title, Drempt, and I think that motion creates an effect for the rest of the screen. While it is simple, the background being less static with moving circles, especially slowly, would fit the music perfectly.
The menu has a slight mouse over effect that could be embellished, perhaps by using those particles near the title when hovering over an option. The input of the mouse click brings the player to the next seen on ‘down’, and this could have happened when the player releases the button that way if the player clicked on “Play” but then decided they wanted the “Instructions” instead they could still move the mouse.
Of course in 48 hours there are only so many things to get done, and polishing is certainly an art of tweaking until things are just right, but a few things that could bring the player deeper in would be feedback like a small camera shake when a projectile collides with one of the entities, or a sound effect with a bit more oomph behind it. Having different sound effects for the different manifestations may have helped with my problem of not noticing there were two different types.
The aura was noticeable only after playing a handful of times. For the first dream level, this might want to be cranked way up, and be almost blinking and in the players face. Drempt does a great job at fading this out over the next few levels, but the tell is not apparent for the new player. Of course this is extending the gameplay to keep trying!
It is a little odd that the safe manifestations shoot you, this made me want to keep shooting them. Perhaps this could be one of the tells. The safe ones still providing a challenging obstacle to dodge though. In the store there should be a satisfying sound when upgrading. I just got something AWESOME! Or did I?
This list is by no means complete, I’m sure the developer of Drempt already had plans for this and much more content, but from one developer to another, keep at it.