Elevator of Doom - Postmortem

Mar 6, 2017

With the 1 Room RPG game jam over, I’ve decided to write up some thoughts about my submission for it - Elevator of Doom. It’s a small action RPG that features a one room and some enemies for the player to fight.

You can check out Elevator of Doom on Itch.io in it’s current state.

I’m pretty satisfied with what I got, enough for me to really consider keeping working on it and maybe converting it from a rushed game jam prototype into a proper game that I can release to the world.

Tools

Just a simple write-up here, because there’s nothing really innovative about this.

  • Unity

    The game was written in Unity from scratch - I have been a bit rusty with it and this was a good opportunity to refresh my knowledge of it. I haven’t used any plugins apart from…

  • Tiled2Unity

    Since I used Tiled for putting my graphics together into a level, this was an obvious choice. It works pretty well, though the workflow could be a bit more automated. On the other hand I could automate it further, but I only have one level in this game, so whatever. I’ve tried out other free assets from the Asset Store, but they were overall pretty bad and I already know how to use Tiled.

  • Tiled

    Want to make a level out of tiles? This is the tool. Has its quirks of course, but nothing too annoying - apart from assigning collisions to tilesets, which is just so tedious.

  • Pyxel Edit

    For making graphics I’m using this little program I bought few years ago. It’s an early version and its creator works on it in his spare time, so it’s not really getting updates as much as I’d like, but it’s enough for me.

Brainstorming

To help me with the brainstorming and developement, I’ve set up a Trello board for the game. It looks something like this:

Trello board

It’s a pretty common board setup for software developement that I’m also used to in my day job. The “Todo”, “In Progress” and “Done” lists are used during developement to help me focus, and the “Ideas” and “Info” lists are just general lists of things that I’d like to have in the game.

Trello gameplay mechanics

Basically I didn’t send too much time on this part. I came up with the elevator idea during work, and I just thought it would be an appropriate theme for the game jam. Other than the few general lists in Trello like the one above I didn’t have any sort of a game design document prepared. This was pretty much fine as I had the general idea figured out and during developement I’ve just drilled it down into manageable chunks.

Process

I don’t really have any screenshots for this part - I have to remember taking them next time, because it would make it much more interesting to have some.

Anyway… I’ve spent a good amount of time researching and trying to find some decent graphics that I could use.

I was able to find a RPG Maker character generator, so the hardest thing for me - the animated player sprite - was pretty much done. It also had some attack animations, but I’ve dropped it and replaced it with an animated sword sprite as a separate object. That allowed me to make dealing damage easier as I didn’t have to have any states on the player, and just get the weapon to collide with enemies. Putting the animations into Unity was a bit tricky (especially for adding the attack animation to walking animation), but I managed to do it right by using Blend Trees and Animation Layers properly.

The level and tileset design was pretty easy - I got a screenshot from the Binding of Isaac to help me with the perspective and tile sizes, and I’ve just painted my elevator over it in Pyxel Edit. Binding of Isaac (and of course its inspiration, the Legend of Zelda games) had this specific wierd fish eye perspective, which is pretty appropriate for having only one room on the screen rather than the usual RPG Maker perspective, which cuts off the bottom tiles. I’ve imported it from Tiled into Unity, and had the collisions working out of the box. This later required some tweaking so that I could make the enemies walk through the door, but overall it was pretty easy as well.

The programming part it was all pretty easy, with just a matter of me being rusty and having to find out answers to a lot of things I should actually know how to do. I don’t really remember having any problems with anything in the game code.

A couple of interesting points after finishing the game - I’ve been putting some screenshots on twitter and reddit for the game once in a while. Most of the views and downloads I can see on its Itch dashboard are coming from reddit’s Feedback Friday thread I posted to. I got some really good comments out of it as well. The game jam’s page itself doesn’t really produce any traffic, but on the other hand it was a pretty small jam without any prizes or a large community, so that’s to be expected. I do feel kinda bad about it, because everyone likes to see when people recognize your game, but on the other hand I know it’s just a small prototype with mostly programmer art, so it won’t be a hit overnight anyway. Still, not the best feeling in the world, whatever. Maybe the next version will generate some more interest.

What Went Well

  1. I’ve finished on time.

    This might not seem like much, but I think it’s actually the most important thing. I got it finished in time before the game jam’s deadline and some people (not many, of course) played it. I have no idea if they actually liked it, but that’s really secondary at this point.

  2. I like the idea of restricting the player to a limited space.

    This means I don’t have to come up with a lot of level graphics or level design, which is a pretty good thing considering my level of art skills. ;) It’s also a nice challenge from a game design perspective - I have to get creative with the events to make the game not boring. It also keeps me from bloating the scope of the game - it’s hard to add yet another village, another city, another dungeon if all you really have is one room that the player is in.

What Didn’t Went Well

  1. I didn’t get to include all the events I thought of.

    I wanted to include a few more events, especially ones that aren’t combat oriented, like NPC shopkeepers so collecting gold has a purpose in the game. I simply didn’t have time to do so, because the game jam was ending on Tuesday morning and I still have a day job, so my deadline was Monday evening. It’s a shame, because it would make the prototype much more interesting to play.

  2. Controls are pretty awful.

    I made the decision pretty early in the developement process to use one button to both attack and use items. This turned out to be more of a pain that I thought - specifically, it made fighting near usable objects (like the up/down button panel on the wall) annoying. I should probably get rid of this behaviour and just use different buttons for both actions.

  3. The graphics are pretty awful too.

    Well, this I can’t help much as I’m developing this myself and I don’t really have any money to spare on an artist. And since I do know how much work it is, I don’t really want to go ask anyone to do it for free. Now that I have no deadline though, I can work on it on my own pace and it should keep improving.

    I’d really like to do something about the player sprite though - the one I generated is from some kind of RPG Maker character generator and while it works, I don’t like it that much.

  4. The game has no polish.

    The only extra thing I’ve added is the small camera shake to indicate that the elevator is moving to another floor. This is another case of me not having enough time due to my day job, but as before - since I no longer have a deadline, I can now add some effects here and there. Obviously this includes sounds and music, which the game also lacks.

What’s Next

I’ve got some decent feedback from the reddit’s r/gamedev community, so I’m pretty set on turning Elevator of Doom into a proper game. That’s of course a goal for the future, but I have some more immediate ones.

  • More events

    It’s a pretty boring game if all you have to do in it is fight slimes that barely fight back. I was planning on having multiple events, both combat and NPC oriented, so I should work on actually putting them in.

  • UI overhaul

    It needs it pretty badly and I should be able to come up with something better now that I’m not so time restricted. I also don’t have any pause or option screens, and since I want the game to feature permadeath, I should put up some sort of score and saving system as well.

  • Controls overhaul

    One of the common feedback items was the clunkiness of using the same button for attack as for using objects. Apparently it’s not as good an idea as I thought it was, but it’s an easy thing to fix as well.

  • General polish

    This includes adding sounds and replacing some uglier graphics (I’ll still be working on it alone, so don’t expect anything much). I think it should also involve changing the name of the game - “Elevator of Doom” is a bit generic and with some more creativity (and use of fantasy name generators) I can come up with something better or at least more unique (and more searchable).

As for the plans for some later time, there’s still one thing I haven’t really come up with, and that’s “how to actually win this game”. I don’t have a good idea for a win condition yet, though I hope that with more NPC events I can figure something out.