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This is the first Ludum Dare where I’ve had a “full-time” partner through the entire weekend. My brother Spencer was able to work entirely on the art while I focused entirely on the programming. Clark Aboud was also able to contribute some amazing music as he has done in my previous entries like TIMEframe.

We wanted to do something a little outside the box with the theme of “Entire game on one screen” so we took it literally and decided to have the game revolve around an actual TV screen. So, how do you make a game mechanic out of that? How about trying to keep your family happy by finding something to watch.

We set off in this direction with a goal of getting high marks in the Humor category by having lots of really funny little micro-parody shows on the television with unique art and audio. This idea was ambitious to say the least. With a family of four we settled on 16 unique channels and 64 unique shows.

This was probably our biggest mistake setting out. We could have managed to get largely the same gameplay out of a much smaller set of possible shows and it would have saved us tons of time. On the programming side it took me countless hours developing a system to randomize the various channels and shows to have a unique experience every playthrough. On the art and audio side it became obvious that we could not craft each and every show by hand. We settled by creating unique music for about 17 shows and unique art for the channel logos and commercials. The rest of the show images were grabbed and filtered from actual shows and the rest of the audio was done “Charlie Brown Adult”-style with Spencer mumbling hilarious parody versions of all the remaining shows. In the end we were extremely satisfied with the humor we managed to squeak out of concept, but we certainly could have done much more with a smaller selection of shows from the start.

On the plus side I did learn a ton about randomization of game elements. This should really come in handy for some things I would like to do in our professional project, Lacuna Passage. I’m also quite happy with the art style we came up with for the living room and family members. The cel-shaded style lends itself well to the comic-nature of the game and it was extremely fast to create without needing to worry about textures.

The actual scoring mechanic is something that we didn’t actually add into the game until the last 2 hours before the deadline. This was a bit scary not knowing if the game would actually be fun to play, but thankfully we had a pretty solid base built up for tracking which characters liked which shows and a scoring mechanic came from that pretty naturally. The only thing I think feels a bit off is the fact that you are playing as one of the characters that you must also keep happy. That perspective is not the most intuitive when needing to display the scores for each family member. Your score (the father’s) is placed down towards the bottom of the screen which is difficult to quickly compare to the scores of your other family members at the top left of the screen. Ultimately this is a minor issue and with some additional time I think it could be adjusted to make more sense.

I’m extremely happy with what we managed to put together in such a short time and that is in no small part due to the fact that I had a more dedicated team for this jam. I’m looking forward to the next Ludum Dare so that we can apply everything that we’ve learned to a new entry!