Whale of a Retrospective! Whales And Games History through Ludum Dares!

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 43Super 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! ?

Fun Time with Fun Facts of Super Sellout. For Fun!

Hey you. Yes you. I see you browsing the Ludum Dare front page looking for treasure. We’ve got goods in the form of fun facts of our sponsored-fueled avarice marathon of a game, Super Sellout.

Stick around, for this ought to be interesting, and insight about how a team of five can somehow crunch a game in 72-hours while barely clinging to anything that loosely resembles a spec of sanity. Here we go!

Chin-Scratching Inspirations

After our long back-and-forth brainstorming session we settled on a superhero theme. As such, we wanted a protagonist that looked heroic but somewhat goofy in line of our previous characters. Our inspirations, for an early concept, included Crimson Chin from Fairly Odd Parents and Captain Qwark from Ratchet & Clank.

We didn’t truly like the cyan colored suit for the protagonist, so we kinda took Crimson Chin as an inspiration, making him red and black. However, we also gave it a logo of a white triangle on the chest. Since someone jokingly said he looked like a YouTube inspired hero, we ended up calling him Monetization Man, the hero who “demonetizes crime”.

Grandmas? On trees? On my rooftop? More likely than you think!

Early in development, Moski made grass assets for walking around, fire hydrants and an old lady stuck on a tree. However, since the programmers thought a runner-type game would benefit from jumping, the park got replaced for rooftops, inspired by another piece of trivia in this post. That’s how we got stuck with grandmas stuck on trees stuck on rooftops.

At that point, we threw common sense out of the window (like we normally do as a team) and added dogs, a bunny-suited bunny-girl and a lot of ice cream, beyond the added-in cosmetics that Monetization Man gets when different sponsors are equipped.

Incredibly Paper Inspired

While we were discussing the superhero thematics and were starting to turn the game into a runner, one piece of oddware that was brought up as an inspiration was The Incredibles (yes, the animated picture) video game adaptation for the Gameboy Advance.

While the theming and actions you can perform in that game are vastly different from the ones you can perform in Super Sellout, the game did provide some inspiration as to how to tackle the gameplay perspective and ultimately, how we should design and implement the different rooftops.

And of course, two looks at the game’s style, remove half of the halftone we put on top of everything and you can also see some direct inspirations for the comic-book art style not only from comic books themselves but also from the likes of Paper Mario, with the characters outline with the white outlines and soft shading.

Overbearing Whales And Games References and Internal Jokes

If we were able to give teams human traits, then our team at Whales And Games would be guilty of not having any self-awareness at all. In similar fashion to our previous projects, we cramped our game full of internal jokes and references. Of course, we don’t think anyone will really be able to name them all, but we keep putting those jokes in for self-amusement. Guess we’re the true super sellouts in the end, eh? ?

As an example, Dapperfish is a recurrent character in our games and conversations. You can see a muggler with a Dapperfish mask, and he even appears in his own panel in the main menu. You can even click on him there for a goofy surprise. ?

Of course, the self-referential fun doesn’t end there either as there’s plenty of other situations where we took the opportunity and cramped even more self-love into it!

  • On the main menu, beyond Dapperfish in his own tile, there’s also Whalechan, one of our main mascots, in the credits panel.
  • All of the billboards you can find when you activate the Whales And Games modifier, are as expected, mostly Whales And Games references, including three of them to previous Ludum Dare projects, Colossorama (namely how the 1.3 update has been in development for a while), Petty Puny Planet and Jazzy Beats.
  • Other billboards also have other miscellaneous references, with Maid Dragon parodies and Egg.
  • While you might think that Rob Boss is simply a direct reference to Bob Ross, they have actually appeared in Colossorama, as a playable character. We decided to throw in a reference to the character in Super Sellout as we thought it’d make for an interesting sponsor.
  • And last but not least, there’s also a sticker in reference of Wool Pit which despite not being a Whales And Games project, was Moski’s saving grace from whatever happened during Ludum Dare 42.

A Design as Crazy as a Goat

When the “Sacrifice” theme was announced, each member of the team brainstormed ideas for what to make the game about. And we brainstormed a lot. One of the most popular ideas among us was to make the game about a dating game show, where contestants would get sacrificed if they were not selected for a date.

While that idea never came to be, one of the things that remained as a left over was having a sick goat with a sick goatee as the host, which we later wanted to repurpose to serve as a sort of tutorial for the players in Super Sellout and even interrupt the player based on some sponsors.

Unfortunately, wiring out text-systems into the game were quickly ruled as being too out of scope for the time we had in the jam, and instead we kept the goat as one of the rescuers as a callback to our original idea. Mayhaps the day will still come where he will actually get to be the host.

And that’s your fun time fun facts trivia of today for Super Sellout! We always have a stupid amount of fun working on our games despite the occasional hiccup that happens here and there. In fact, we actually left our development text and voice channels for the game completely open for public-reading over at our at our team’s Discord server!. We’d love to see you (and your games) there!

If you haven’t tried Super Sellout yet, we’d love for you to give it a try and tell us what you think!. We’re still going around and playing as many as we can, and would love to check yours out! Make sure to share it with us, and we’ll get to them first opportunity! Cheers! ?

A Knight in a Wizard’s Snooker Game

D’oh no, I said Wizsnooks. That’s how I call Wizard Snooker.

So you call it Wizsnooks despite the fact this is obviously a knight.


Okay, this is time for a more abstract post. We’ve made some posts before about Wizsnooks, our roguelike loot plundering pool hybrid, but we haven’t touched the idea of the setting yet. That we waited too long to get to it reflects how it happened in the development cycle: We pretty much left the title and setting development to the end.

On the first night, we brainstormed like crazy, with the idea of a pool game with enemies and loot being the outstanding one. With that in mind, I made the cue ball, a sword, the enemies, and we went from there. The first weapons were all swords.

During the last day, I had the duty to make the logo of the game. The problem was that we still had no name for it. The brainstorming began shortly, with names like Medieballs (because of the setting of fantasy enemies and weapons). To add more flavor to the game, I was asked to make some hands for the cue ball, with armored gloves to further reflect the setting of the game. However, Robin told me that, since the hit sounds were lightning bolts, it’d make more sense if the hands were wizard gloves instead.

That’s when it hit us: The actual setting of the game. Our game would be about wizards meeting at a tavern to play a magical game of pool. Hence, the fire pits, enemies and loot. It sounded fantastic. But we still needed a name. We actually ended up with a lot of them. Here’s a list, including some that didn’t even have anything to do with wizards:

  • Bil Liard in Pool Land
  • Lord of the Orbs
  • The Elder Snooks
  • Tavern of Sorcery and Snookery
  • White Orbs Tavern
  • Poolgeons and Dragorbs
  • Billiard Dweller
  • Snook&Pool’s Tavern
  • Wizorbs Tavern of Potions and Billiards (Quickly rejected because Wizorb is an actual game)
  • Witchery, Poolery, Adventurly
  • Magic-8 Lounge
  • Witchcraft Inn
  • Orb of the Pool
  • Snorb & Bilial’s Tavern
  • Mana Snooker
  • Tavern for Magic Cats who play Magic Pool
  • Wizsnooks (Which kinda sounds like a cat’s name, but we still went with it)

The list is… not complete. There’s many variations and even some that didn’t have to do with wizards at all. The story of this development is not necessarily complete. But one way or another, we finally had a name.

That pretty much covers up the story behind the name. I quickly made up more things like wizard hats, more variety of weapons, and so on. There wasn’t much time left to go full wizard, but we still managed.


It this read got you interested in, Wizsnooks, click here to play! It’s available on your browser and downloadable for Windows, Mac and Linux. If you want to chat, this Discord server is where it’s at. And last but not least, here’s the Whales and Games Twitter, so you can keep in contact with us.

There’s lots of games being shared in the main page. Keep reviewing! Lots of people need the ratings! We’ll continue to check more games as well! Let’s keep pushing! Cheers! ?

Getting the Ball Rolling in Wizsnooks • A Success Story

This has been my favorite LD so far, I had the opportunity to work with great teammates: Moski arting (he’s who drew Skeletorb, seen above), Robin sounding and me coding, and debuting as part of Whales and Games. I had partnered with @Moski earlier, in LD39, and sticked around their Discord annoying everyone until stockholm syndrome hit them again and we decided going for LD41.

Our entry is Wizsnooks, a billiards dungeon crawler!


This is a telling of the Jam’s events through my eyes, but not the game’s post mortem! Not yet at least. Stay tuned for that one some-when this week!

Day One

Our team decided quite early on on the Snooker RPG idea, so I immediately started working on a prototype for snooker physics so the artist’s eyes bled and gave him motivation so we could see with our own eyes.

Then we got the first batch of sprites and I started working on some animations and flair. This will be a repeating theme within this post: make a base mechanic, then fluff it up so it looks good before moving on to the next.

After that, we knew that an RPG needed an inventory, naturally. At the time we thought it would be nice if we had attack and defense stats that would affect how balls respond to collision:

  • A higher Defense stat would increase ball stability after bouncing on enemies, effectively a “knockforward” on hit;
  • As for Attack, it would increase the knock that the enemy ball takes, so a wielder of a strong weapon would need only small nudges to send enemies flying.

I had a lot of time while the artist worked on a crapton of equipment sprites, so I spent a lot of the time writing up a very flexible attribute system based on ScriptableObjects (more on that later) and making the inventory UI with stat comparisons.

Day the Second

After spending a million years perfecting a satisfying loot animation, I bodged together some more code to drop items based on a percent chance. And sneakily, I inserted a new requirement for the code: item rarities! No idea how would they matter, but I wanted colors so I put them in.

We decided going more RPG and less Snooks so we added health and made attack and defense stats affect that.

Oh, and also, the initial tileset was in so I had to learn how to use Unity’s tilemap in 30 minutes. I sorta did, but the repercussions are visible to this day.

Now, obviously, the priority was adding disembodied hands to the game, like any sane person would naturally choose to do.

Had to add events to every possible situation in the universe so soundman could add sounds to them.

Doomsday

Day One’s meneacing seemed to have worked, the artist was quite motivated. All menu sprites were done even faster than I could see them being pushed to the git repository. Tilesets flooded the Assets folder.

I also reused the drop animation’s sprites for a death screen, and burdened myself with the tiny visual detail that the death screen’s sprites are actually the player’s currently-equipped items.

The rest of the time was spent fixing bugs and polishing mechanics, while artman drew more items and soundman made more maps, and balanced artman’s items.

We hit publish, having needed the holy Submission Hour, with the game clocked at 19 items, 4 rarities, 4 monsters and 13 levels. Turns out a lot of items hadn’t been balanced and added to the loot tables (I mean, poor soundman having to do everything today, but such is life), otherwise we’d have 23!

Day the After-th

I spent this day using my webdevguy skills to polish the fuck out of the Itch game page, while secondary platforms were built (Win32, Linux, OSX). I mean, just look at it! So pretty!

Thuswhile

I think this was a fantastic jam, finally with a Theme That Didn’t Suck, awesome teammates and no social interruptions (for once)!

So many great games! Now goodbye while I go hunt for some more entries!

Jazzy Beats’ Fun Facts!

The reception we’ve gotten for Jazzy Beats has been fantastic, and it’s been fun to reply to them and to check out your games as well. But there’s some things that are still yet to be said about the game, so we decided to make a list of some interesting tidbits about the game’s development, references and so on. Here we go!

1. Lava Lamps saved the Game

After 4 hours of brainstorming, we still had no idea of what to make for the Jam. For some reason, we got stuck with Idols as our theme. Eventually, Jorge suggested Lavachan, and it all started to take form after that. I made some sketches, and eventually, she became the first finished sprite, which then we ended up calling Lavasama instead. However, we opted from using her as a protagonist, and she was too cool to be an antagonist, so now she’s just a cameo on the background. Still, if it weren’t for her, who knows what we would have done instead.

We originally wanted a comic/noir feeling to the game. To contrast with a darker world, I made Jazzchan because she’d be yellow, and instruments like trumpets and saxophones are common in noir media. For her rival, we made Bluessom, since her colors would contrast, and Blues seemed like the perfect enemy of Jazz. While her name’s not as catchy, Bluessom is also a play on words on Blues and Blossom, because of her outstanding flower.

2. The World Ends With Skullgirls

We’ve been told that our game resembles TWEWY and Skullgirls. It’s not by accident, as both games were visual and mechanic inspirations for the game (and so was Dynasty Warriors). Because we had girl idols fighting, and we wanted to put it on a Shibuya-like street, we kinda merged them both. Since originally the gameplay wasn’t as spectacular, we eventually made it so there were a lot of enemies on the screen at once, like in Warriors games.

I already mentioned that I made Jazzchan yellow to contrast with the world (which, in my mind, was far more red and dark than the final product). The color came first, and then the theme, which was a result of playing too much Skullgirls. So, she is heavily inspired on that game’s Big Band.

3. Do you like Anime?

We love anime, manga and japanese games, so we put some references here and there. Specifically, Jorge wanted to make a pun about that Dragon Maid one. The 140 is both a reference to the Shibuya 109 building and TWEWY’s 104 homage. It’s a 140 now because Jorge wanted to make it a reference to Ludum Dare 40. Boom! 3 references in one! And finally, because Steins;Gate is a recurring joke of us since I promised to watch it 2 years ago, I just put the satellite crashed into a building.

While not anime and not necessarily a reference, I made the lamp posts while thinking about The Beginner’s Guide. Just a nod, unless you want to give it a deeper meaning.

4. Whales and Games’ References and Inside Jokes

I also drew a bunch of things to reference other projects from Whales and Games, including released and unreleased ones. Let’s be honest: There’s pretty much no way that anyone playing on the LDJam would have gotten them. You should still go play the rest of our games though.

I also drew a bunch of things to reference other projects from Whales and Games, including released and unreleased ones. Let’s be honest: There’s pretty much no way that anyone playing on the LD Jam would have gotten them. You should still go play the rest of our games though.

A quick round up of them:

  • Dapper Sushi’s fish is a reference to an aquarium game we never actually made, but the character is just so funny to me I reference it on every opportunity.
  • Gladiator balloon and Petty Puny Pizza signs are references of older LD games. Blatant pitch for you to check them out
  • Shockwave Cereal, seagull, missing poster and everything on Empire’s Springs are references to projects currently in development or missing in action. You can find more of them by following us on Twitter.

5. It’s about artistic liberties

Jorge showcased some gameplay to friends who said that the street looked weird. I’m never been good at perspective or buildings, and it was too late to fix anything, as we were approaching the end of the game. So, pretty much just for kicks, I added a nod to the whole situation. It’s about integrity, okay?

Wrapping Up

I hope that you liked having a bit more of insight about how Jazzy Beats came to be. We’re just some guys trying to make games while having stupid fun while we’re at it. Here’s a link to check it out again, in case you haven’t tried it already. We’ve had a blast reading your comments and playing your games. It’s been fantastic! If you also want to chat and hangout, you’re more than invited to our Discord Server.

That’s pretty much it for now. Have a whale of a weekend! ?