Rumours say that when we saw the 5th place slapped on the rankings, a collective part of our team screamed on the inside right in the middle of new year celebrations. To get 5th with a 4.6 in Graphics is a really outstanding surprise and one that completely caught-us off left-field. Getting 39th in Audio and 44th in Humor is also heart-warming and validating for each correspondent team member.
However, not all is perfect, and clearly aware that there were both Innovation and Fun problems on our game as we released it, and the feedback and ratings we have received definitely tell us that there’s still stuff we got to tweak and polish further.
Like always, this wouldn’t be possible without the effort of all of our team. If you’ve read our post-mortem, you might already know that the goal we set out for this jam was to test our synergy as a team. While we will be having to adapt a better labour structure in the future and will have to tone down on desk fisting, we’d still like to thank our team, and, completely agnostic to who was chosen to make this post, thank Moski for his incredible work with the graphics that gave him the so deserved rank, Zak for joining us again handling the game’s on-the-spot audio, Kroltan for his patience and programming expertise, Jorge for wrapping together the project into a fantastic amalgamate, and last-but-not-least Poncho for his support at always being available to take up a task if it needed to be done. And of course, Robin which unfortunately was unable to join us this time around, but still asked if there was any way he could help around.
Thank you for this great end-of-the-year final and for playing Super Sellout. We look forward to seeing more from everyone in the future! If you’d like to come to chat and discuss your results or ratings, we’ve got a Discord server open 24/7, and, of course, if you’d like to keep up with us for future editions, we also have a Twitterand Facebookpages you can follow!
2019 will be our waggy-iest year yet, and we got a whole sea of fun planned in advance! Cheers! ??
Happy New Year everyone! 2018 has come and gone, and we’re ready to make 2019 the waggy-ist year of Whales And Games yet! You might have seen some stuff coming from us last year, but we got a whole sea of stuff planned ahead for you! Prepare for a whale of a time! ??
As we leave the year behind and as the jam ends, as per tradition, we’ve got our largest piece of insight with the post-mortem of our very own superhero themed runner Super Sellout! Sit back and relax, as we take you through our journey to sacrifice integrity for the sake of profit!
Super Sellout is a high-score based runner game where, at the start of the game, the player gets to select as many sponsors as they want. While in game, the playable character has to jump from building to building, as to avoid falling in any gaps in-between, all-in-all while interacting with people who need rescuing as to get a higher score and extra time as to continue saving people and ranking sponsor money.
Each sponsor selected at the beginning of a game affects the playthrough in a variety of ways, such as by adding obstacles, slowing down the player or distorting the screen. Sponsors, however, also add score multipliers, forcing the player to sacrifice mobility for a chance at a higher score. Or, as we like to call it, sacrificing integrity for profit!
As a variation to our previous team structures, one of the goals for this edition of the game jam was to perform an exercise with as many team members of the Whales And Games group as possible. Instead of relying on our old tested formula of only having three team members, all with different roles, we instead wanted to brute-test our synergy as a full team and understand how having more than one person in the same role would affect our workflow.
That being said, our formation ended up involving five out of the six members of the Whales And Games team, being structured as following:
Moski was, again, the game’s artist, handling all the assets and the graphical direction.
Jorge took his role once again as a programmer, after having skipped the last Ludum Dare edition the team participated on.
Kroltan reprised his role as a programmer as well, making it their second jam together with the WAG team.
Zak joined us once again as the audio’s composer and handled the different music and sound effect tracks for the game.
Poncho aided us with overall support, aiding us when necessary, such as in adding more level variations and improving in-game animations.
Super Sellout, in similarity to its predecessors, was also created and developed with the field-tested trusty tools and programs that the Whales And Games team uses in day-to-day development. Some of these programs, in case of the engine and programming side, also utilize plugins in order to smooth-out rough corners in development. The list is quite extensive and is as following:
Unity, returns once again as our engine of choice. This time around we decided to use the 2018.3 beta (which has since been released as a stable version) as we wanted to learn and utilize the newly added nested prefabs workflows in a real development scenario for the first time.
Rewired, a Unity editor extension that considerably improves Unity’s input systems and management by allowing actions to be easily binded to a variety of input methods, including game-pads, out of the box.
Visual Studio, the generation-long development environment, for writing all of the game’s programming.
ReSharper, Kroltan’s favorite Visual Studio extension that aids in a multitude of programming tasks, most notably refactoring code. In his words, its “Visual Studio’s equivalent of Word’s Clippy.”
Git, for hosting and sharing the project files between the various team members and allowing for easy version control. It gets its own mention in this command list because Kroltan is hipster enough to use only raw Git Command Line.
SourceTree and GitKraken, two different graphical interfaces for Git used depending on each team member’s preference. They make managing commits and performing commit merges an easy-peasy task.
Krita, the open-source and free-to-use digital art program, used for creating and designing all of the game’s art assets and handsome chins.
FL-Studio, for handling sound and audio composition and editing. For most of the team members other than the audio composer, the actual way to handle this program is a mystery to them.
Google Office Suite, which is likely the most standard and less-beefy tech of this tool list, but yet, our team has a lot to thank for it given how much we use Docs and Drive day-to-day. In fact, this whole post-mortem was written in co-op using Docs!
In addition to these existing tools, we also experimented on using our internal Whales And Games toolset, Shipyard, during the development of the jam. These include a variety of different utilities that aid us with mostly the deployment of the game, such as being able to build and upload multiple game versions directly to itch.io directly from the Unity editor, as well as pre-setup site-locking systems for the web versions (which were re-hosted on unauthorized sites almost immediately after the game went up). We are planning to release this toolchain as an open-source package at a later date.
Game Idea and Design
As a team of five, we wanted to approach brainstorming in a way where everyone could pitch in, discuss their ideas, and then opt for the best ones to implement into a game. When the theme of Sacrifice was announced, we made a document – visible to all of us – and started writing our ideas on different pages. After all of us felt we had a decent dosage of ideas down, we started to discuss them pretty much one by one.
Oddly enough, we ended up going with a Superhero theme despite it not having been originally suggested or written by anyone in the brainstorming document. There were some ideas of the likes of “save someone over another one” (including one where it’d involve Animal Crossing-esque animals), but we also expected a lot of the entries to be serious and outright macabre. As such we opted for a more light-hearted setting, with vibrant colours and funny characters.
When we settled with the superhero setting, we spent some-time testing implementations, attempting to create a cohesive design. We needed to think of how gameplay, art direction and audio would all tie together. Some of the early aspects of the game involved a hero with an extremely big chin, rescuing grandmas from a tree on a park and jumping over fences, as well as the overall idea of “sacrificing mobility for more rewards”.
After going back and forth with more ideas, we ended up with a similar yet practically different concept. A timed runner that took place over rooftops, where the player would be incentivized to make the game harder for themselves in exchange for the chance at a higher score.
The Best Parts of Development
Early Playtesting and Feedback Involvement
As part of an ongoing effort to improve the quality of our games and making sure we tackle the most important issues of their design, a few months prior to the jam, we set up a community programme seeking for community playtesters to join us and give us feedback about certain points we could improve on our projects to ensure they feel tighter and more rewarding.
One of the aspects we always found lacking in our previous jams was the lack of practical feedback during the development of the game that we could immediately sort out and improve on the moment. While feedback during the judging phase is helpful to figure out aspects that we could improve in the game at a later point, feedback from playtesters during the jam allow us to improve situations and work on issues that would certainly be deteriorating for first impressions of the game during its judging phase, where the game is exposed to the majority of players that will play it during its lifetime.
Thanks to our playtesters, we were able to iron out several aspects of Super Sellout that needed refinement. Some of these tweaks, obtained through their feedback, included communicating what the different sponsors do during the sponsor selection screen, improving the overall readability of menus, and making the impact of certain hazards and sound cues more clear and noticeable to the player.
We also need to take this occasion to thank our existing community playtesters for all the feedback and helping us making the game better!
Team Preparation and Project Control
Since Ludum Dare is an event with very limited time, it’s necessary to find ways to save it during the actual event and during the game’s development. While the actual labour division was not exactly perfect, the preparation of the team and the way we’ve got our tools sorted out prior to the jam allowed each team member to quickly jump into development and catch-up at any time.
Previous methods of project collaboration involved each of the roles sending their files back and forth, working separately and leaving the task to the programmer to combine all of the files alone. While this may have worked in the past with smaller projects and teams, it was not efficient.
Starting with Jazzy Beats last year and carrying it on to future editions, the non-technical team members have been practicing working on Unity, while at the same time getting the hang of committing, pushing and pulling their own project updates, allowing every individual team member to work in almost real-time on the project. Through enough coordination, the process of making and receiving files, giving feedback and tweaking on the go has speed up significantly, and each member has been learning more and more about how to bridge their work with the others.
In addition to standard Git management, there’s also other workflows that we’ve already long embedded into our team, including using Discord to voice chat during the jam and using the aforementioned Google Office Suite for sharing brainstorming and design documents. Finally, there’s also the previously mentioned Shipyard toolchain that has been in-development in parallel with another project of ours that we’re developing an update for, and which proved to be a crucial helper during the game’s deployment.
What Experience and Feedback Taught Us
Team Management and Labour Structure
Like with all of our previous jam entries, our team was divided into the usual roles of programmers, artists and audio composers. While that was all great in theory, the actual practice made it clear that the lines of what each had to do ended up being blurrier than what they originally seemed to be. The programmers had their own styles and methods to approach situations which sometimes lead to stun-locks at times where another programmer was unable to continue their task as it depended on another programmer’s tasks. On the other hand, there were some ideas about design and art were sometimes not properly communicated or discussed beforehand.
One situation where we ended up feeling this the most was during the early phases of brainstorming, where we spent several hours throwing several ideas and concepts attempting to find an idea that everyone was comfortable to begin development with. Unfortunately, because this was a larger team, this led to an never-ending loop of conversation trying to figure out where we were headed. In the end, we went with an idea that was not in the list of anyone, but rather, was made on the spot.
However, even with an established idea, we were too quick to judge it, and with some programmers starting their day earlier than others, it became apparent that the tasks and mechanics that need to be added in weren’t properly made clear between team members, with several gaps of the original idea not filled in with clear mechanics.
One way to improve this aspect in a future edition of the jam would be to clearly elect one or more team members to hold the role of game designers and making sure the whole systematic design of the game is done in advance, or, alternatively, to only allow each team member to pitch-in a limited set of ideas and then refine those until proper systems are achieved.
Not having proper mechanics written down also lead to initiative-related problems, where a team member, unknowing of the tasks that needed to be achieved next, would experiment with different implementations, leading to some conflicts in terms of coding and even overlapping tasks.
The Usual Scope and Unexplored Mechanics Issue
Although we might have been able to make the game seem like it features a multitude of sponsors due to the different modifiers that provide similar situations, one point that several jammers have featured in their feedback was the how the sponsor selection felt lacking in regard to the different modifiers that can be equipped.
In our original game design ideas for the game, there were several concepts for sponsors that weren’t able to make the cut into the game, including sponsors that would invert the player’s controls, add more overlays on top of the game, between many others that unfortunately met the cutting room floor, as described in an earlier development insight.
While it has certainly became an internal joke given that all of our post-mortems mention this one issue in our games, it is one that is likely bound to repeat itself every time we experiment with a different genre or try a different team setup. Trying a new genre whilst trying to achieve the same polish that the team always aims for has proven to be a tough challenge, and normally results in the actual juice of the game to feel underwhelming as we try to figure out what makes those games enjoyable.
However, experimenting with different genres isn’t really a passable excuse. Instead, getting the scope and mechanics right is something that we will keep training as we continue to develop games (and update them, given the chance). In this jam, we have underestimated the time that it’d take to develop the different systems for the different mechanics, both due the given work stack, as well as a result of labour structure issues mentioned in the previous points.
Given the status of our previous entries that got updated or refined designs, it’s possible that all our entries will only really meet their full potential when given a second look, when more feedback has been taken into consideration, and when the development of the systems has reached a point where we are comfortable and fast in iterating them. We hope to get the chance in a future jam to tackle a simpler design we can get more mechanics into.
Closing Remarks. What Could we Improve on?
Despite the fact that Super Sellout had a rocky development at time, it was still very well received by both the Ludum Dare and Whales And Games communities. However, for us internally as a team, it taught us several lessons that we must take attention too when developing our next projects, most notably, when it comes to team management and working with larger teams.
Like previous team exercises, there are several takeaways and lessons we can make from our overall experience during the jam, that we’ll be taking into consideration not only on future editions, but that we hope are also useful and for the benefit of other jammers:
While it appears obvious, it needs to be clear at all times that, for proper teamwork, there needs to be a lot more communication. For synergy, initiative, coordination and progress, asking doubts when they arise and achieving agreements when situations arise will keep it all knit together.
Although it is a good idea to hear what everyone has to say, when working with bigger teams, it might be necessary to assign one or two people to design the core of the game with the rest of the people working to fill-in any gaps or missing pieces.
There’s a time and place for everything. Ludum Dare is a fantastic opportunity to learn and experiment, but the time is also a great constrain if your objective is to learn stuff from scratch. Learning the skills should be better done at one’s leisure.
Preparing to work on a project may be as important as actually developing the project. Get the team to set realistic expectations, talk beforehand about the tools of the trade, the limits of the responsibilities, and set up working times. This last bit is especially important when working with international teams.
Do not panic. Odds are that things will break down. Keep your cool, and even consider sacrificing scope for the sake of fixing things. Good polish can compensate for having a lot of fun mechanics that crash or bug out half of the time.
If you’re participating with a team, make sure that the workflows and file sharing are setup and that all of the members are able to quickly access project files and all the information that is needed. This builds up team independence and allows the different members to implement the parts of the project they’re responsible for.
Beyond the actual lessons of development, we have also received several cues of feedback about how we could improve the game if we were to pick on it again and iterate on it. Some of the things we could think off to improve include the following:
Introduce new sponsors and reuse some of the ideas that stayed on the cutting room floor as to introduce more diversity to the game through new sponsors that would behave considerably different from the existing ones.
Reconsider the way movement is handled on the game and make it more responsive and tighter to the player. The main aspect that needs to be refined is the player’s jumping, making it feel more responsive, less floaty, and improve its collisions with the rest of the game elements.
Balance and improve the game’s scrolling, making it so that the latter half of the run doesn’t feel like a punishment to the player, and that they are able to stay at the centre of the screen most of the time despite the increasing screen velocity.
Introduce additional keyboard controls, as some players would have certainly preferred an Arrow and ZX key combo rather than the existing WASD and F key setup. Additionally, potentially introduce more keys to perform the same actions in the same set, so the E key could also be used in alternative to F while using WASD controls.
Include more visual diversity in terms of the scenery. Like pointed out earlier, several assets were created expecting a park-like setting, which lead to concepts such as grassy-rooftops. While not necessarily out of the realm of the Whaleverse, it’d be interesting to include different types of architecture.
While we still don’t have any specific plans to develop or create a new content update for the game as it is, we are planning to start an internal programme next year focused on revisiting and updating some of our older games, namely Ludum Dare entries that haven’t really gotten much attention outside of the time-frame they were developed at. Given that we will be deciding which entries to update based on public voting, there’s a likelihood that Super Sellout will be revisited sooner than we expected!
We also want to start working towards longer-term projects with the turn of the year focusing on delivering games that can easily be iterated on with regular content and meant for expansion over time. We are planning to work on one of these projects starting early next year and we think that it’s going to be a doozy!
And that pretty much wraps everything up, doesn’t it? Super Sellout, Ludum Dare 43 and even the freakin’ year, comrades. 2018 surely went fast, and the next year seems oh so very bright. If you want to sail with us on 2019, you’re welcome to board our Discord Server or if you prefer somewhere more quiet, on Twitter! And hang tight, because as you’ve read earlier, we’re planning on going places!
Get the kazoos, heat the chocolate, wear your best suit, and toast! For a new and bigger year for game development! ??
With the end of the year coming up, television and news sites are flooding with yearly retrospectives and the most marking events of the year, highlighting both the positives and negatives of the past months and what’s bound to be remember of this year for history.
With the end of judging for this Ludum Dare coming up, we thought to do something similar, only instead of it being just about the year, we’re looking at the history of our past Ludum Dare entries from our latest game Super Sellout all the way back to Colossorama! Sit comfortably on your chair (unless you have a standing desk in which case just stand there) and prepare for the history of our Whales And Games team through Ludum Dare editions, how it shaped us, and what we learned from each edition respectively! Leggo! ??
Ludum Dare 36 – Colossorama
If there’s a game that we have to thank for and which was the reason why our team exists nowdays, it is Colossorama. Created for Ludum Dare 36 (August 2016), Colossorama was a simple hack-and-slash sidescroller where you were forced to swap weapons every round to defeat as many enemies as you can while attempting to stay alive on your own.
Colossorama broke what was essentially a two-year-long creative-block towards games for me and Moski, and has since evolved tremendously receiving multiple updates since it’s original debut, being showcased in multiple events, and even gaining a following of its own. In fact, a third major expansion to it is planned to come out early next year, and we are already looking at some other plans we have ready in-mind for beyond that!
Ludum Dare 37 – Hyper Holomayhem
While we ocassionaly make the joke that it’s the game that should not-be-mentioned, Hyper Holomayhem taught us some hard lessons regarding how we should tackle future Ludum Dare editions after Ludum Dare 37 (December 2016). In essence, the game was also a side-scroller free-roaming shooter, where you’d have to tear-away levels by shooting at it’s tiles in order to collect gears that would power the room and regenerate again.
The game, while it obtained good judging scores, taught us a few things regarding how we should tackle scope and design decisions. Always make sure you come up with a pre-set idea as you come out of the brainstorming phase and make sure mechanics are well established so they can be quickly ironed out and improved during the jamming time. Unfortunately, there’s still some one or two-offs where we fall on the same trappings, but overall, it taught us a lot about how to handle things going forward.
Ludum Dare 38 – Petty Puny Planet
With the hard-swallowed lessons from Hyper Holomayhem, our next entry, Petty Puny Planet for Ludum Dare 38 (April 2017) was a complete turnaround of what had happened during the previous game’s development, and, in the opinion of many of our team, might be our best take-away from Ludum Dare so far. Petty Puny Planet was a pick-your-own-adventure type of game where you’d pick different actions to determine a planet’s development, and be faced with random-consequence events that could undermine (or be undermined by) your previous choices.
Rather than teaching us harsh-lessons, Petty Puny Planet instead served as a confirmation of many things we had done right this time around. Keep the scope conformable and well-defined, allowing you to focus immediately on what’s important and establish mock-ups and mechanics so that the rest of the team is able to immediately know where the game is headed. Samurai Jack was also airing at the time, which probably helped the team mood a lot.
It’s also noteworthy that Ludum Dare 38 was the point we officially founded our team under the name Whales And Games which we’ve been using since! ?
Ludum Dare 39 – JouleThief: Charge Your Phone
JouleThief: Charge Your Phone is an odd-one-out when it comes to this retrospective, being the only game in this list that wasn’t originally planned as a Whales And Games title. Rather, the game was originally developed during Ludum Dare 39 (August 2017) as an attempt for Moski to work with a different team while other members of WAG were busy at the time. Taking the role as Joulethief, you’d go around attempting to charge your phone as much as possible while avoiding guards attempting to arrest you for disturbance.
The game noticeably has it’s own noticeable quirks, utilizing 3D physics in a 2D game and even featuring an unfinished level editor. Later on, Kroltan, the game’s programmer, would end up joining the Whales And Games team and has since collaborated with us on two other projects featured on this retrospective. After some recent internal talks, we have finally decided to crown JouleThief as being an official part of the Whales And Games collection and hope for one day to be able to put the game on the limelight it deserves!
Ludum Dare 40 – Jazzy Beats
Following the momentum and good spirits of the original team preserved since Petty Puny Planet, the next game to come out of the team would be Jazzy Beats, an indirect beat-em-up where you brawl against an opposing idol’s fans to convert them to your own, created during Ludum Dare 40 (December 2017).
The game extended on the lessons learned through a Petty Puny Planet, continuing on with the trend of defining the games vision right on the first hours, increasing the project’s scope to involve more mechanics, and allowing team members to experiment and implement their part directly on top of the project files (while previously, all the project setup on the engine side was made by the programmer).
Jazzy Beats was also noticeably our best performance in a judging phase as of yet, both in terms of how many games we’ve rated as well as how many ratings we have received. It has since become our staple goal of what we want to achieve with each consequent judging phase and edition.
Ludum Dare 41 – Wizsnooks
With a new Whales And Games setup and the core team growing, the torch started being passed around the different team members depending on the occasion and availability of the team. The first project to test having different team members on the lead instead of the usual suspects happened with Wizsnooks during Ludum Dare 41 (April 2018). Mixing two incompatible genres, Wizsnooks was pool meets RPG, creating a pool game where you’d have to defeat enemies either using your gear or pushing them into pits.
Wizsnooks turned out to be a nice revelation, being surprisingly innovative with its mechanics mixing both the genres, making it one of the games we have considered giving a revamp too for the longest time, especially considered the different ways the game could be expanded. Overall, it served as a perfect example of the capability of the team to adapt to different team setups and how they can affect the ideas behind a specific game.
However, it still followed the typical three-people team formula we had been using during the previous jams, and that was something we wanted to break with the next edition.
Ludum Dare 43 – Super Sellout
After skipping Ludum Dare 42 as a team (not so much for Moski which had a catastrophic experience instead) we finally reach the current live edition with Super Sellout being developed for the current Ludum Dare 43. Super Selloutpitches a runner-game with having to sacrifice mobility and visibility by choosing sponsors as to achieve an higher highscore.
Super Sellout‘s development was somewhat similar to the development of Hyper Holomayhem, with it’s own sets of ups and downs, but at the same time, it was somewhat expected in advance. The jam was the first time we experimented with having most of the team (that’s five out of six people) in a single jam, rather than going with usual three-people model. In essence, it was a team exercise, and we have certainly gotten some good pointers about how to manage future editions and projects when they involve more people than usual.
While we could go into more detail regarding the lessons we learned, we still have our usual post-mortem coming up in the following days detailing both what went right and what feedback and experiment taught us.
And that wraps it up! While the judging of Super Sellout is still going on, it’s always a nice lesson to go back and retrospect through our history as a team and jammers, realizing the different lessons we learned throughout the different editions. We believe that the next jams will continue evolving us as a team as we tackle different genres and experiment with different ideas and as we keep refining our formula and identity. ?
As the year comes to a close, we have a bunch of new ideas and experiments we want to make, but we’re yet to see how our team evolves. From adopting a new roadmap, to attempting to build a more complete experience, we’re sure the time between this and the next edition of Ludum Dare is going to be surprising. It’s quite sad to see the event reduced to only two editions a year, but we’ve already got our scopes sighted for other events we’d love to join!
If you’d like to keep up and join us in the wild ride the next year is going to be, we totally recommend you to follow us on Twitter and join us on Discord where we’ve got an active community of developers, artists and even just traditional gaming peps. You’re also obviously free to share your Ludum Dare games over there! ?
Happy Holidays, everyone! Season’s greetings from all of us at Whales And Games! While they’re almost over already, we hope they were as snow-white as Whalechan’s hair and we wish you had or are having a fantastic time with yourself, your friends, family and/or loved ones! ??
While the banner is the same as the one we posted last year to celebrate the occasion, we have updated it with a fresh coat-of-paint and made a handful of tweaks. Similar to last year, the banner features characters from previous Ludum Dare entries such as Colossorama, Petty Puny Planet and Jazzy Beats, together with other games we have in development or that were part of our story as a team. Of course, Whalechan and Polite Whale are also present together with other minor characters that make part of our vast array of mascots.
However, if you look closely, we are also added and featured some-brand new characters, most notably, Monetization Man from Super Sellout which was our game for this Ludum Dare! If you feel like giving the gift of saving civilians from an array of different situations, we’d suggest you give it a try! Of course, you might also need to get some sponsors in order to pay-off the bills of the presents you bought yourself…
And that’s really it! We’re hope that you continue to enjoy the upcoming days as we get ready to close off the year! There’s only a few more days until judging ends and we will be replying to everyone that has left us a comment in the game and continue to push through judging and cover as many games as possible. If you’d like to celebrate the holiday mood with some strangers and share your game, you can also do so at our Discord server! Everyone is welcome to join and we’d love to see you there! ❤??