Art Fight 2020 Post Mortem – A Spicy Art-Sharing Duel!

Hey there! It’s hard to believe that this year passed so fast that we have already participated in an Art Fight event again!

Just like last year, we want to offer some artist insight, and since I, Moski, am the lead artist that’s in charge of the art-side of things around here. I’ll be telling you all about Whales And Games’ participation in Art Fight 2020!

In last year’s post-mortem, we explained what the Art Fight event is, our reasoning to participate and our overall experience taking part in it. But things changed a lot with Whales And Games since last year, which in turn affected how spicy things got this past July! Let’s get into it and see, shall we?

Moski Profile in Art Fight

Starting from the top and recapping from last year, Art Fight is an event where artists get selected into one of two different teams, submit their own original characters and score points for their team by drawing characters belonging to artists from the rival team. It’s two teams drawing characters from each other for a whole month, which results in one of the most wholesome art-trading wars that you can participate in on the internet!

Clip Studio Paint open in an Attack
‘Y2K’ by Akumanorobin

This time around, since we wanted to take the opportunity to wrap up some of the ideas from Whales And Games and Bunny Copulation, we decided to participate in the event by updating our character sheets as well as creating some new ones for characters from both brands. I also wanted to improve my skill on my new drawing program of choice, Clip Studio Paint, which I had recently switched to from Krita for both promotional and game artwork. 

At some point, we thought about a twist to wrap up the event and, well, things went off the rails in the best way possible, merging both our artwork and game development prowess together!

Art Fight Duel Gameplay Screenshot

In this year’s edition of Art Fight, the teams to choose from were between Sugar and Spice. I opted to draw under the flag of Spice out of preference, and, before I knew it, I was creating art left and right!

Art Fight Teams for 2020 Sugar and Spice

Character Sheets and Artwork! Just the usual…?

For Art Fight 2020, we wanted to update a lot of our characters to properly reflect how we’ve evolved since our first participation. Last year, we had plenty of sheets for people to draw built from previous promotional and game art, but we hid them all at the beginning of the event to make new versions of them. 

These new versions, featuring completely original new art created just for these sheets, took a lot longer than expected, eating away the first two weeks of the event. However, despite the delay, they allowed us to introduce some brand new and freshened up designs for several of our mascot characters! Whalechan and Dapperchan are now officially looking nicer and dapper than ever!

Once we finished the character sheets, it was finally time for me to create some awesome art. Since we needed to make up for the time lost, we decided to start strong, picking characters from pending revenges from last year and bookmarks (found by randomly hopping around users) that we thought looked striking. My first piece of art featured an animated background, and as soon as we uploaded the attack, we started getting attacked as well, which was great! We liked the final result of the first attack so much, we made it a goal to animate every attack from there on out. 

Showcase of Attacks for Art Fight 2020
‘Y2K’ by Akumanorobin, ‘Mr. Crow’ by Kun (Ceshoh), ‘Prisma’ by Greteh and ‘Ahvi’ by Wearepopcandies

Halfway through the event, we had finished 6 attacks. We roughly had around 15 by the same time in the previous year. I originally intended to continue making standalone artwork until we were done, but then, we had a wild idea.

Art Fight Duel Gameplay Screenshot

Art Fight Duel, an actual playable game?!

As we were midway through the event, we conceptualized an actual playable card game based on Art Fight. Art Fight Duel, with a pitch document written and all.

I didn’t sleep that night. It was just the perfect mix of, well, everything! We’re game developers and artists, it was a game that involved both Art and Fighting, it could feature over a dozen artists, put some of our own characters into a new game, and it could be just the thing we needed to reignite our game development spirit!

Art Fight Duel Title Screen

From the moment we had the concept down, we decided to make the game rather than to continue making artwork for several reasons:

  • A game jam sounded like a very innovative idea for the event, since it’s usually reserved for finite pieces of artwork. Turns out, it was very novel, since more people made games about Art Fight this year too.
  • The game pitched card game mechanics mixed with auto-battler mechanics. This resulted in the possibility to add as many characters as we could and putting them in a setting where they were actually fighting. Thematically, it made perfect sense with the event.
  • It made use of a lot of concepts from the history of the event. Art Fight Duel is team based, just like its namesake. We also added affinities based on previous event themes and a few nods to things that are well known by the event’s community and past participants.
  • We had the opportunity to put some of our new character sheets to use. Finally, we were able to give Whalechan (and Dapperchan) a proper participation in a game!
Showcase of Sprites for Art Fight Duel
‘Dapperchan’ by WhalesAndGames, ‘Ricketby Nights2Dreams and ‘Penny by CuckyUncle

The execution of the development didn’t go flawlessly, but the result speaks for itself. By spending every single day of what was left of the event in developing the game, we managed to feature 20 artists, with animated sprites for all the 24 featured characters. We took heavily into consideration their designs and bios when creating their sprites, attacks and stats.

We submitted the first version of the game in the last two minutes before Art Fight was over. No stress! After the event, we spent some extra weeks tweaking and adding in audio, a proper title screen and our usual settings and credits, bringing the game right up to our jam-standard!

Art Fight Duel Gameplay Screenshot

Art Insight, Learning and Results

We wrapped up Art Fight, and I was finally convinced that switching from one drawing program (Krita) to another (Clip Studio Paint) was the best thing to do at this point in my artist career. 

Clip Studio Paint open in an Attack
‘Hoshiri’, ‘Jax’ and ‘Makuru’ by PurplePlatypus73

While I didn’t learn as much as last year, I still tried to innovate in my style in some aspects:

  • Layer Clipping – There are many methods to mask and group across different drawing programs. Due to the limited time, I needed one that could be easily organized and managed quickly. In Krita, I used Alpha Inheritance to create shadows, but it required pesky layer management. In Clip Studio Paint, Layer Clipping does similar results in a more simple fashion.
  • Airbrushing I had practised with airbrushes before, but I wanted to experiment with it here too, with great results. Turns out they get along great with Layer Clipping and help give a nice-finish oomph to my pieces!
  • CSP’s Asset Library – My new drawing program comes with a community-driven marketplace where people can create tools and assets. In a few situations, I wanted to make use of some brushes from there, and so I learned how to properly download and install them.
  • Masking – Similar to Alpha Inheritance and Layer Clipping, Masking allowed me to work with each artwork in non-destructive ways, delimiting the areas where some layers could be visible. While one would think that they’re all just different ways of doing the same thing, it turns out that combining either of the two with Masking allows for fantastic results.
  • Special Layers – For some pieces, I needed to experiment with things that I could easily do in Krita which I had not been able to replicate on CSP yet. 
    • One of those was halftones. While not the same, I found out that CSP has full functionality for Tone Layers, which allows making layers filled with simple patterns and which helped me create some fancy effects. 
    • I also learned about Object Layers, which are like Photoshop’s equivalent to Smart Objects. These allowed me to put files in a layer and be able to resize them without destroying their properties.
Clip Studio Paint open in an Attack
‘Mr. Crow’ by Kun (Ceshoh)

Beyond Art into Game Development!

Beyond the standalone artworks, Art Fight Duel represented equal opportunities to learn differently. It helped me understand things I could do better on Krita before, like the character sprites and the use of mirroring tools. However, I did end up using pretty much the same techniques for the duration of the development, as there were not as many opportunities to try new styles.

Clip Studio Paint open in the Art Fight Duel background

Aside from its artistic point of view, there are some takeaways to explore too when it comes to the development of the game. While we had previously discussed considering making a game for Art Fight, it didn’t become a serious consideration until late into the event. Yet, once we got started, we couldn’t stop.

We did as much good to Art Fight Duel as it did to us. It had been a long time since we last made a short self-contained game, and it felt fresh to go back to that. We chose a genre we have never challenged and went with mechanics we had never used. Since Art Fight is an endless ocean of characters, designs and concepts, we rarely had troubles in finding any particular thing that could fit any of our design’s needs.

Art Fight Duel Gameplay Screenshot

As a result, Art Fight Duel became one of our most ambitious games, mixing strategy, fast-based mechanics, a distinctive style, and plenty of cards. Plenty of the people who had their character featured in the game have been pleasantly surprised. Given the circumstances, we’d say that the game was quite popular among the social circle it was made for, and it has plenty of opportunities to grow!

However, since it had been a while since we last developed a short self-contained game, we heavily under-estimated the implementation of some features. As a result, we had to spend some extra weeks following the end of Art Fight implementing quality-of-life inclusions such as settings and audio without otherwise would make the game feel lackluster.

Art Fight Duel Settings Screenshot

With us participating in Ludum Dare 47 in the coming week, and with Bunny Splash Casino resuming development, it’s important we take these short-comings into consideration, and make sure we prepare in advance. For example, features such as re-usable settings menus can be prepared ahead of time of the event to avoid spending precious jam time adding basic quality-of-life features.

Art Fight Duel Gameplay Screenshot

Numerical Feels-Good

Spending so long in making character sheets and changing gears from making artwork to making a game jeopardized our opportunity to receive cool artwork a bit, and ended up receiving less artwork than last year. However, the game was fantastically received to the point that it even got featured! 

Art Fight Duel featured in the Art Fight Website

Aside from that, and just like last year, there are still numerical results we’d like to evaluate, and which help us gauge our participation and performance in the event:

  • My account has 1124 followers at the time of this post. It had 401 last year, so that’s a massive leap! It helps that this year we knew about the event in advance, which allowed us to network ahead of time.
  • This year, I made 6 drawings and one Mass Attack in the form of Art Fight Duel. Last year, I made 26 drawings. While I had less to show than last year, all of it was animated, and the game was a great success!
  • We updated 6 of our 12 character sheets from last year. Aside from that, we finally closed-off Whalechan’s new design, formalized Dapperchan and showcased a bunch of new Bunny Copulation designs!
  • We received 42 defences. That’s lower than last year’s 60. This is the result of roughly being “active” for a lot less than last year, since we were busy with the character sheets and the game. But the notoriety of making the game should cause some interest in 2021!
    • Of those 42 defences, the Whalechan redesign was the most popular, getting 15 defences, with Buns Buns following second at 11 defenses.
    • Bluessom triumphed over Jazzy this year, with 5 versus 3 defenses.
    • While other participants were quick to fall-to-love with Whalechan’s ​new design, Dapperchan still needs to warm up to people, as she only got 3 defenses overall.
    • Some characters which we didn’t even do new sheets for, such as Caffie and Mr. Woofman, got 1 defense too!
Showcase of Defenses from Art Fight 2020
‘Dapperchan’ by Orange-Kiwi, ‘Whalechan’ by Tianmasaki, ‘Buns Buns’ by Minimep, Cheqmate’ by Reinsroom, ‘Autumn Whalechan’ by Amuerion, ‘Cheqmate’ by Sosha, ‘Whalechan’ by Akumanorobin and ‘Jazzy’ by Sckookum

Feelings and Emotions

While the experience overall was fantastic, Art Fight occurred in a very tumultuous moment for us. At times, it was difficult to grasp that the expectations and the reality didn’t match up perfectly. However, it was also proof that some of the best things in life are not really planned, and that even when plans don’t match expectations, one can have a great time.

Clip Studio Paint open in an Attack
‘Prisma’ by Wearepopcandies

Last year, I came to the conclusion that I really enjoyed drawing characters. And I still do, perhaps even more, but the experience came around with the idea that I’ve also got to grow in maturity. The novelty of having this brand-new event was gone, and we needed to up the ante. This resulted in us participating in the event as if it was a self-imposed opportunity, and wanting to make the most out of it across character sheets, thumbnails, animation and even a game. Rather than treating Art Fight as a leisure, as we probably should have, we ended up feeling fatigued as the days went by.

However, doing art leisurely or for the sake of improvement are not necessarily contradictory statements. The saying says “find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life”. I’d say that’s partially true, but one has to also cope with things like health and fatigue, and adjust accordingly. But even when things go dire, I really do like drawing. I may be older than the average participant and have been doing art since my teens, but drawing fun, interesting characters is still part of my DNA.

Showcase of Attacks from both 2019 and 2020

Final Remarks

Applying my artistic skills to make an actual game really opened up the possibilities of what I, and we can do during Art Fight. Regardless of making regular artwork, animations or even games, it’s important to play to one’s strengths at times, but also to take risks in others. I don’t feel so bad about having missed out on doing more character artwork when I see that people really enjoyed playing the game.

Unity open in an Attack
‘Ahvi’ by Greteh

We have evaluated the possibility of making it a tradition to update Art Fight Duel every year, with new mechanics, adding content to match the new themes, and, of course, even more characters from more artists! We still need to make more character sheets, and, if things go right, we’ll be plenty busy with Bunny Splash Casino alongside it. For now, we’ll wait and see, but it’d be a fantastic time to update it going forward!

Showcase of Defenses from Art Fight 2020
‘Whalechan and Polite Whale’ by Sweetkooky, ‘Bluessom’ by Mantiskin, ‘Buns Buns’ by HammyandFriends and ‘Whalechan’ by Esmahasakazoo

For the time being, I’ve got a whole year ahead of me to further polish my skills so that, if I do join Art Fight next year, I am even better than I was this year! Even if fatigue or personal worries get in the way, I still see myself creating artwork for the foreseeable future and I’ll do my best to enjoy it.

That will be something to look forward to! For now however, we have to prepare for Ludum Dare 47, and the challenges our new commercial projects bring us! Thank you for reading and I hope you join us along for the ride! Cheers! 🐳

Art Fight Post Mortem – Artistic Wholesome Warfare

While Whales and Games has been primarily a game development studio, during July and early August, we took a small detour to get into an art-oriented endeavor. Invited by a community member, Moski (that’s me, hello!), the lead artist of the team, participated in an event known as Art Fight, with the purpose of learning new techniques and push the boundaries of what Whales and Games can do at an artwork level!

Art Fight Website

The event, Art Fight, is an annual art game where people of all skill levels are split into two teams. Participants upload their original characters and “attack” the opposing team by drawing their opponent’s characters! Fighting by gifting! The more you draw, the more likely you are of receiving revenge attacks (that means, being attacked by someone you’ve attacked before)!

While this was my first Art Fight participation, I made it my goal to try something new on every piece of artwork I’d make. Be it a new style, or a new technique, I wanted to take the event as a self-improvement activity, with plans to put what was learned to work for our games and social media in the future.

‘Crab-chan’ by nyancatimusprime

Before I go into the innards of the experience, I’d like to say that everything that I created in the Art Fight was made with the free open source digital painting program Krita. I assure you I’m not sponsored or anything, but I highly recommend it to people who want a sturdy and flexible drawing tool without having to pay for it.

Other members of the team helped me through feedback, suggestions and even by animating some of my creations using the game-engine Unity using their new animation package for skeletal animation. Again, not sponsored, although that would definitely be cool.

‘Molly’ and ‘Ru’ by MDLune

Considerations About our Approach

Doing an Art Fight attack for a person I’ve never met before resulted in a lot of thoughts for me early on. Should I select characters I would like to draw, or something that would challenge me? Should I do as many attacks as possible, or take my time and make stronger drawings? What style should I use? Should I make revenge attacks, or attack people who are more likely to revenge-attack me?

Art Fight Characters

While I can’t say for certain that I ended up following a set pattern, I came to some conclusions while making this search:

  • We joined the Art Fight as newcomers and strangers. If we wanted people to attack us, we needed to be known around, commenting on people and networking.
  • Early on, without any submitted drawings, people that wanted Revenge-attacks may not attack people who have not done attacks before.
  • A marketing staple – First impressions are everything. Having a nice layout helps people feel that someone is putting effort. This includes the main profile and the quality of the attacks being submitted.
  • I donated enough to get access to modifying the CSS of my profile, giving it a better appearance that was in-line with what we normally use for our Whales And Games branding. 
Art Fight Profile

While I grew up enjoying drawing lots and lots of characters, I decided to go with a quality-over-quantity approach. On average, I’d say that I ended up dedicating a day-worth or more to each drawing. Some took less time, and others took far more. It mostly had to do with the styles and experiments done on each work.

Technical Art Insights

You may ask, though, what kind of experiments did I do? If you’ve seen my work across Whales and Games’ social media (namely on our Twitter and Facebook), you’ve probably known me for drawing cartoonish-esque characters with a cell-shaded style, this means, there’s a very strong distinction between colors and shadows – consisting of one set of shadows and one set of highlights – instead of a smooth blending.

Art Fight Attack Submissions
Credits from left to right:
‘Madoc’ by Wilderness, ‘Goo’ by mot-bot, ‘Pratlene’ by Prate-Dragon and ‘Lottie’ by Moontastic

While that still was visible in many of my attacks, some of my new tests during the event were as follows:

  • Airbrush Overlays – Digital art requires the very least a minimum of organization. By grouping the colors or even the lineart with them, there are ways to help colors pop. A simple-yet-effective way to give colored drawings a more vivid aspect was to add black and white airbrush overlays, giving the picture some light effects. However, these can disturb the background, or even other elements if not used carefully. Fortunately, Krita had something for the occasion.
  • Grouped Inherit Alpha Property – When making game assets, I had to learn a non-destructive way to make things that can be easily recolored and shaded, and I ended up using that methodology in a lot of my attacks. One of Krita’s layer properties is called Inherit Alpha, which makes the opaque content of a layer only visible where there’s opaque content in layers below that one. Applied inside groups, that allows for things like the airbrush overlays to only be displayed within the group, preserving the edges and avoiding getting in the way of the background and other objects.
  • Brush Patterns – Half-tones (usually displayed as circles of varying sizes) are a popular technique usually given to make something look retro or stylish. While they can be used as fills, Krita also allows to use them on brushes, and to modify their behavior, up to a point. This applies to other patterns as well, but, as far as I could find out, Krita is somewhat limited on them, and getting a consistent, predictable use of them is nigh impossible within the program.
  • Layer StylesPhotoshop has styles that allow for strokes, drop shadows, satins, bevels and what not. It turned out that Krita also has some of them. They’re more clunky than in Photoshop, and they seem to amp up the resources to manage the program, but it’s good to know what there’s non-destructive methods to achieve some popular effects.

Numerical Results

The numbers aren’t everything, since this event was made to help artists connect with each other, have them practice by making them draw new characters and have an overall fun time.

Art Fight Profile

That is still the case here, but because of our aggressive approach to networking and the mentality of doing quality art over quantity, I think some numbers are still worth evaluating.

  • During the event, I made 26 drawings. While the plan was to make at least one daily, sometimes I managed to make more, but situations around made it more manageable to take a slower pace than trying to crunch that much work.
  • We received 57 attacks, of which I managed to make a revenge of 12. We couldn’t have foreseen we’d get this much attention, and we’re extremely thrilled and grateful for them all! Some were also the result of attacks we did, so I’d say that the system is working as intended. We’ll be trying to answer back to all the attacks we’ve got in the next edition of the event, we hope!
  • During the event, as a result of commenting, networking, and keeping people on our tracks, we got 400 followers. That’s roughly one attack for every 8 followers!
  • I only did one friendly fire, attacking one person of our own team. It was a revenge attack. I wanted to avoid doing friendly fire attacks in the spirit of the event, but I did want to respond to some of the ones I got. Sadly, I ran out of time, and that’s as much as I could do.
  • I submitted 12 characters from the Whales and Games universe namely our mascots and Whipped and Steamy characters due to it being some of our most character-oriented designs. The 57 attacks we received were scattered among them unevenly. Worth noting, Whalechan received 12. Buns Buns got 15. Jazzy and Bluessom appeared together (meaning both characters were accounted for) in 3 different pieces. Only Princess Dom. went back to her kingdom with no attacks.  
Art Fight Defences
Credits from left to right and top to bottom:
‘Mr. Woofman’ by KiRAWRa, ‘Whalechan’ by Bright, ‘Jazzy and Bluessom’ by MDLune, ‘Glade’ by Xneovaii, ‘Cheqmate’ by UncleCucky, ‘Caffie’ by Tofumeat, ‘Buns Buns’ by PicoSheep and ‘Cheqmate, Monetizationman and Bootybeard’ by HeroicOutlaw.

Artistic Feelings

Now, for some, that might have been some very-specific artist gibberish and marketing boogaloo. But other than techniques and tools, art is also about feelings. And these past few weeks of working almost daily for hours to end have made me evaluate a lot of things about how I feel towards art.

‘Kotie’ by Glittermilk

Being able to work with many characters and many styles made me think back on the words that some of our other team members told me once. I don’t have “one style”, but rather, my “style” is still evolving, and encompassing adaptability. Adjusting to different things, instead of just drawing always in the same style with predictable characteristics. Be it soft or intense, fluffy or muscular, cute or monstrous, and the in-betweens, I always found enjoyment in what I was doing. There were some hiccups, but I’m pleased with my performance on my 26 attacks.

Working with so many new characters revitalized my love for character design as well. While I’ve been proud of my cartoonish style, I’ve had a chance to draw cute, sexy, horror, weird, and more, with varying degrees of realism or cartoonishness. I got so excited by making characters that I even sketched a bunch that I didn’t have the time to finish. Hopefully next year!

But drawing this much for so long also had some… adverse effects. Little moving around, lots of time sitting down, just drawing and drawing, nothing of that did wonders to my body. I felt a lot of fatigue at times, somewhat cranky, and I devoted so much time to doing artwork that I had little time for hobbies like gaming or going out with my friends. I got so engrossed in making artwork that almost nothing outside of it mattered for a month.

Trying to get as many attacks as possible, I continued to double, triple, quadruple and quintuple guess if I was doing things right. Was it better to spend more time in a single attack to make it the best it could be, improving as an artist? Or should I cut my losses after a while and submit something that was good enough? Should I spend more time commenting and getting to know my fellow artists, or more time doing actual drawings? The looming feeling of “I’m doing X when I should be doing Y”. Like a thought that someone has said to me before, “it’s the opposite of an art block. It’s an art overwhelm, being incapable of doing a thing because you have so many possibilities”.

While there were more frustrations as results of ongoing life affairs and some failed techniques, overall, I believe that I’ve evolved as a person and as an artist like never before. I’ve learned new techniques, how to use other tools, my workflow has been reshaped, and I ultimately feel reinvigorated, with high hopes of doing for my team what I’ve been doing for the Art Fight participants! More colors, more details, more flexibility!

Final Remarks

Art Fight Submissions
Credits from left to right:
‘Penny’ by UncleCucky, ‘Olé’ by KiRAWRa, ‘Lisbeth’ by Royalspaghetti, and ‘Yuki’ by Crazyie

Do you want to know what’s the main takeaway of the Art Fight experience? Well, if you open up a fortune cookie that reads “Practice makes perfect”, I’d say that’s the one generic statement you should keep close to heart. While it can be arduous and even seem like an impossibly steep climb, there’s no other way around it. It doesn’t really matter if you’re entry level or an expert, there’s always practice to do and things to learn. I’ve swallowed my artist pride more times than I can count, forcing me to think that I can still do more, and so far, I do feel it’s doing wonders.

On the Whales and Games front, I’ll be trying some of the new things I learned, trying to give as much care to our own characters as I did for the characters of other people during the event. The plans include a few updated designs, managing colors and palettes in a more organized fashion, and being thorough with our logos and overall branding image. Just you wait. Moski and the Whales And Games team are going to impress the socks off you!

I guess that wraps it up, nice and tidy. Am I going to be there for next year’s Art Fight? Most likely, unless my life has some massive shift. Even then, I’m willing to find time to do some attacks even if it’s far less time. Drawing is a thing that fills me with good vibes and positivity, and I’d highly recommend any fellow creatives – new or experts – to live up to the Art Fight challenge. May we meet on the battlefield, and look forward to what we at WAG have to offer! 🐳

Super Sellout Post Mortem – A Bargain Bin of Information!

Ludum Dare 43 is about to wrap up, along with year! Get cosy, comfy and cuddled up. And while the clock’s a-ticking, take a chance to rate some of the games in the danger zone. A few votes can make the whole difference and get people pumped up to receive the new year.

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.

Tools Used

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.

What’s next?

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 SelloutLudum 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! ??

Jazzy Beats Screenshot

Jazzy Beats Jazzed Out Timelapse and Post Mortem!

It’s been almost half a year since we have released Jazzy Beats, with it being our fourth project released here on itch.io. To all of those that have played and downloaded our games, and those which have posted some genuinely great videos showcasing your time with our games, thank you! We’re humbled by all your support and we’re glad most of you are having a whale of a time with our games!

Jazzy Beats was developed for Ludum Dare 40, and, whenever an edition of the event goes by, it’s not irregular for the great majority of us to get the feeling of unfinished business. From changes that could have been made to the final product, to smaller things like posts that we’d like to have written and published, most of us get the feeling there’s still so much more stuff we could have done surrounding our Ludum Dare entries. Unfortunately, sometimes life takes a toll and we find ourselves unable to clean the closet of all those things we wish we had time to invest in.

Our team been continuously haunted by one specific instance of that feeling. Back for Ludum Dare 40 (that’s December of last year!) when we developed Jazzy Beats, one of the things that was left in our backlog to publish was both a Timelapse and Post-Mortem of the game’s development. However, with members of our team exchanging countries for a extensive period of time, to master’s degrees and exams, between other issues and tons of Fortnite, we kept pushing it back.

That’s exactly what we’re here to fix today. After a seven month delay (!), we’re here to finally post the finished Jazzy Beats Timelapse & Post-Mortem for the world to see. We decided to finish both of them, as even if the game is already past its prime, we believe both timelapse and post-mortem are an amazing tool of retrospect and that there are lessons to learn regardless of how long it has been since we released the game. That being said, let us give way for both! ?

Timelapse

Similar to our previous Petty Puny Planet Timelapse, I once again used Chronolapse to chronicle the game’s development. This time around, however, the program was set to take a screenshot every 30 seconds rather than every minute to make the flow of the development seem less abrupt at times when programs are suddenly switched.

The reason for screenshots instead of video is that having OBS recording the whole action, even with a moderate computer, still takes a considerable toll on the CPU which causes slowdowns when using the Unity editor and considerable increases compiling times. For someone that’s constantly returning to the editor after the slight change in code, that’s a considerable stack of delays over-time. Screenshots also allow me to revise them and much easily cut sections where I get AFK or leave a window open for extensive periods of time (as I am performing stuff on the other monitor) without requiring a bulky video editor.

Once again, the timelapse is only about the game’s development and you’ll mostly be seeing programming scripts starting to compose themselves on screen while the Unity scene starts taking shape and assets are imported. It’s still on the backlog for more members of the team to start making some of these time-lapses more regularly. 

It’s still hilarious for us how Lavasama was the very first thing added to the game. The jump in progress between the first and second day is also really noticeable.

Post-Mortem

Jazzy Beats is an idol-themed beat-em-up game where you indirectly have to defeat your rival idol by fighting against her fans, converting them into your own. Each idol’s fans will walk towards the rival and proceed to attack them, as they attempt to knock them out.

The player, taking the role of jazz-oriented idol Jazzchan (Jazzy), can use punches, kicks, a ranged trumpet attack and an area-of-effect saxophone special to convert fans of her opponent rival, Bluessom, into their own fans. Some of these actions have cooldowns, but they can be used in conjunction to create and increase the player’s combo. The highest combo the player has obtained, together with the time it took them to defeat their rival are displayed in the end results.

However, the player’s rival has similar techniques and attacks at her disposal and will eventually convert the player’s fans back to her side again. Both idols will need to keep converting each other’s fans until one of them gets knocked out.

The game’s development team was composed by three members of the Whales And Games team which had previously worked together on the multiple updates of our Ludum Dare 36 entry, Colossorama. The game’s development and gameplay programming was handled by Jorge, while all of the game’s artistic design, direction and graphic assets were handled by Moski. Finally, but not least, Robin was in-charge of composing all of the game’s audio, from the different tracks in the game’s soundtrack, to the multiple sound effects and their variations.

Tools Used

We once again decided to stick with the tools we use during our day-to-day game development. The game’s development was done using the Unity engine with C# as the programming language, where we used a more inheritance-focused programming structure this time around. Art was created and designed using Krita, a free and open-source digital painting program, which allowed for quickly sketching and coloring the multiple sprites used. Finally, the Music was originally intended to be composed using Cubase, but due to setup problems with the program prior to the jam, the composer instead used their back-up digital audio workstation, Bitwig Studio together with their MIDI controller, which paired-up perfectly with their game jam composing workflow.r

However, in contrast to the workflows of previous events, all the team members had access to the Git repository of the game hosted on BitBucket and had the knowledge of Unity necessary to aid on the implementation of their assets directly on the game’s engine. More details on that on the following sections.

Game Idea and Design

When we look back at the development process of Petty Puny Planet, our Ludum Dare 38 game, one of our personal highlights was how efficient it was to handle the game’s development and design. This efficiency came as a result of having a well-defined game idea, design and vision shortly after the theme was announced, which allowed us to know exactly what we had to do in order to turn the idea into reality.

As a result, we once again decided to stick with a similar starting workflow for this edition of the jam. Once the theme was announced (The more you have, the worse it is…) each of the team members brainstormed several ideas and concepts on their own which were then pitched between all the members. During this concept discussion process, the idea of creating an idol game where you had to attract fans, with setting inspirations from The World Ends With YouLove Live! and the japanese idol industry, struck as the highlight between all of the ideas, although we weren’t able to settle with a solid and enjoyable idea for the gameplay immediately.

After some further discussion in regards to the concept, the idea of adapting the lava lamp inside-joke from the community into an idol character lead to the necessary inspiration to further refine the game’s concept. During this additional discussion, we decided to add mechanics from the beat-em-up genre to the concept, inspired by the likeness of River City Ransom and Skullgirls, only instead of engaging in a direct beat-em-up with the rival idol, you’d instead do it with their fans. This eventually lead to what would be called the indirect beat-em-up design of the game as called by players.

The idol theming of the game, together with the inspiration from multiple and varied sources gave us a flexible concept to work with, which, combined with inspiration from real-life locations such as the districts of Shibuya and Akihabarafrom Tokyo, allowed us to create the unique world and concept that is Jazzy Beats, appropriately titled after the protagonist’s name, Jazzchan and the main action of the game, beating-up. One thing we missed however, was that Jazzy Beats is actually the name of an existing music genre, which lead to some SEO confusion.

The Best Parts of Development

Shared Team Workflow

As mentioned previously in the Tools Used section, the biggest contrast in our workflow as a team in this edition, when compared to our previous projects, was that everyone had access to the project’s repository at all times. In addition to it, both artist and audio composer had newly obtained knowledge of the Unity engine that allowed them to handle the importing and setup of their assets into the game on their own. This allowed for the artist to handle the setup of the graphic assets and animations on the game himself, meanwhile the audio composer handled the setup of audio sources and making sure that the audio was leveled correctly.

On previous events, the programmer would be the one in-charge of importing and wiring-in all of the assets, from the graphics to the audio, which ended up consuming a great chunk of programming time. This not only allowed for the the programmer to invest more time in handling other programming tasks that needed to be taken care off, but also allowed for both of the other members to make sure their aspects of the game were just as they envisioned.

Versatile Structure and Fast Iteration

Described thoroughly in an earlier programming insight, in addition to the shared workflow, another aspect that helped accelerate the game’s development was the versatile structure of the project, especially when it came to object-oriented programming. Likewise to our previous Ludum Dares, one of our main concerns in-regards to the game’s technical design was making sure that content could be easily adapted and iterated upon easily during the game’s development. Adopting an inheritance-focused programming structure helped us make this goal much more accessible.v

In addition, the versatile game’s structure also allowed us to tweak values, cool-downs, and artificial-intelligence parameters on the fly, helping us when balance the game and making sure that Bluessom (the AI controlled character) felt as powerful and skilled as the player. It also helped with the team’s shared workflow, as, while programming tasks were in-development, other team members were able to tweak gameplay values to assure they felt right and balanced.

Multiple Inspirations and Unexplored Genre

Having inspirations from materials of different genres and backgrounds allowed us to handle the game’s concept and mechanics in an unorthodox way, fetching different aspects from each of the inspirations with the intention of creating an unexplored concept with its unique identity. These inspirations affected all of the game’s aspects from the mechanics, to the art and the music, and eventually lead the game to become what we now call an Indirect Beat-em-up.

We originally concerned in regards on how we would make the Indirect beat-em-up gameplay feel solid and fair for the player, mostly due to the fans being automated and controlled by AI. Nonetheless, we feel like we struck an acceptable balance between experimenting with this new concept (together with its setting, art and audio design) and making everything computer-controlled not hinder the player’s experience nor mitigating the beat-em-up genre itself.

What Experience and Feedback Taught Us

Brainstorm and Starting Out

Immediately after the theme was announced, we started brainstorming several ideas and concepts, hoping to plan for a game different from games we had developed before. However, while brainstorming, we kept forcing innovation and differentiation which lead us to spend most of the early hours of the event discussing possible concepts in circles and rejecting ‘standardized’ ideas.

Eventually, we arrived at the final concept, and although the brainstorming process didn’t consume as much time as one of our earlier Ludum Dare games, limiting brainstorming and not-overthinking the concept can help the games development process moving forward faster, something that helped in Petty Puny Planet, one of our previous Ludum Dare games.

Most of the issues starting out however, happened during the first day when we were still converting the concept into actual game mechanics. Since we were still setting up assets and discussing potential gameplay features, there were certain moments where some of the team members were confused about exactly what to work on next, which lead to some early motivational and time losses. By the second day, however, the game’s development accelerated massively, almost to double speed, which quickly restored the team’s spirits and helped prove the game’s vision.

Un-fleshed and Unbalanced Mechanics

While we believe that we have struck a decent balance on making Bluessom behave like the player, there were certain design decisions regarding Jazzy’s abilities that ended up shaping several player’s play-styles in a way that we would rather have avoided.

The most notable example of this case comes from the Ultimate Sax Drop ability, which automatically converts all the fans in an area around the player into their own fans. While we originally thought of making this ability charge by having the player perform combos, we decided to keep is a time-based ability expecting it’d be enough of a constraint players to only use it occasionally. However, since enemies continuously swarm up to attack the player, most players ended up avoiding direct-combat in late game as to play it safe, and instead solely relayed on waiting for the Sax Drop ability to recharge, using it when surrounded by Bluessom fans, and then repeating the process. This lead to a passive play-style that wasn’t exactly of our intention, as we wanted players to remain engaged on active combat from start to finish.

Another case of a mechanic that was left unbalanced was Jazzy’s ranged trumpet attack, which was intended to give the player crowd-control by performing attacks at a distance in case enemies would become crowded. Unfortunately, as we tweaked the values to avoid the ability becoming too powerful, we accidentally made it unreliable, making it strikingly slow to recharge and too small to help in any crowd control.

Going forward, we’d like to implement play-testing in our game jamming routine, as to allow to get some early feedback in-regards to the overall gameplay of the game and help us to better realize what aspects need to be tweaked on and off. We also want to take more risks regarding design decisions, as it was originally the case with the Ultimate Sax Dropability.

Closing Remarks

Despite all the issues with the games balancing, Jazzy Beats is still our-best running Ludum Dare game to date, setting us a new record in the amount of feedback and ratings we have received in a single entry. We consider it our most unique-looking and ambitious game made in a game jam so far, and even if it didn’t have as much content as some of our previous games, it’s still one we are really proud off.

Therefore, before completely closing off this post-mortem, here are some closing remarks regarding the game’s development, which we suggest taking into consideration as lessons for those looking to participate in future game jams and which we will also be reflecting on ourselves:

  • If you’re joining in with a team, allow them to learn and experiment with the tools before the jam period. If other team members, aside from the programmer, also learn to implement their part of the content in-engine, you’ll be not only saving a great amount of time to the programmer, but also allowing those team members to improve their part of the game.
  • Try to make the game’s values (such as health variables, cool-down timers, etc.) and aspects quickly tweak-able in the editor you’re using. This, paired with the previous suggestion, allows other team members to also contribute in balancing and tweaking the gameplay without being code-dependant.
  • Draw the best from a multitude of inspirations and understand how they can improve your game’s design and aesthetics, turning it into something unique. The reason why our game looks different is solely thanks to the inspirations it was based off, and distilling what made them great in the first place. Jazzy Beats doesn’t shy away from the fact it art’s style is inspired in The World Ends With You.
  • Take risks regarding gameplay decisions, and get people to play-test your game as you develop it. This will help ensure and help you get a notion if certain aspects of your gameplay are balanced or not and if they require tweaking that might not be apparent to the game’s team.
  • Cut-corners where necessary, especially in art, where assets can be reused and re-purposed to allow the artist to dedicate more time in creating other assets that can be beneficial to the game. Re-purposing assets doesn’t necessarily down-play them either, as you can still perform changes to them to create even more variation, and some changes in color can be beneficial in other ways, as it was the case with Jazzy Beats’ enemies.
  • If you’re a programmer, experiment with making the game’s code-base more oriented towards reuse and expandability, especially if you’re working with object-oriented programming languages, even during the jam’s period. Practices such as Inheritance and State Management can give you a workbench to quickly upgrade and re-use already existing functionality without the need to re-write or copy code from one class to another. It also has the added benefit of making each element of the game contained on its own.
  • Sometimes, some extra little care in the game’s and material presentation can go a long way. Some of the players have remarked how the title screen animation, interface and even the game’s itch.io page were enough to create them a very strong first-impression.
  • Jazzy is clearly the better idol, and Bluessom is clearly pass her stage time. On the other news, would you like to get Jazzy’s amazing new fan-kit?

What Can We Improve On?

While we would like to continue our work into developing an expansion or an update for Jazzy Beats, at the moment we can’t be sure when or if we will be able to get around to it. However, given the opportunity, some of the changes we would implement, together with some player feedback would be as following:

  • Improve Jazzy’s abilities and tweak them to motivate and reward players to keep up their aggressive and active play-style all through the game, always making sure that they are converting and dodging fans around.
  • Increase the game’s tempo and potentially introduce more music-themed mechanics into combat.
  • Expand the fan-cast with more unique fans that would spice up the streets with unique behaviours and characteristics. Maybe have a healer fan that heals an idol over time, or a fan that attacks slower, but is able to double damage each idol?
  • Add-in a potential versus mode, where each player would each control their own idol and compete to have the largest amount of fans on their side attempting to defeat the other player.

Jazzy Beats was a wonderful Ludum Dare experience, and we would love to keep up the streak. We are really fond of the universe we have created for the game (including the multitude of characters and backstory that we have discussed between ourselves that isn’t shown in the game) and seeing the feedback and comments come into the submission always reminds us why we enjoy dedicating time and ourselves in game development and participating in Ludum Dare. This was also our best event commenting on other jammer’s games and giving feedback yet, and we expect to keep it up on future editions of the event in which we participate!

That’s our most complete (and longest) post-mortem yet! It was quite troublesome to finally get it done, but we’re glad that we had the chance to finally take something out of our long backlog. If you gave a read through it all, thank you a lot for reading!

Our team at Whales And Games is finally starting to tackle some bigger projects and finally complete several items we left pending around for a while and everyone is really excited and looking forward for it. If you didn’t get the chance to play our previous Ludum Dare game, Wizsnooks, now would be your best opportunity to do it! ? If you’d like to keep up with our game development chronicles, we also have our very own Discord server! We’d love to see you there and join up with us for some Fortnite. We’ll be starting with some server activities and extra project development soon!

For everyone that will be participating in the upcoming Ludum Dare, we wish you a whale of a time and that you take the most out of it! We won’t be participating as a team for the upcoming edition, but some of our team members will be joining the jam on their own and will be looking around for teams. Keep an eye out for their entries! ?

Wizsnooks – The Wizardly World of Postmortening

It’s time for the final sprint for Ludum Dare! It’s the last week, and people are going full-throttle commenting and rating! There are a lot of games with less than 20 ratings that deserve some more attention, so be sure to keep contributing to the community! Lots of people here have worked hard to make it through the crunch!

As for Wizsnooks, our loot-frenzy pool action game, we got a post-mortem ready for you. It took a bit longer than anticipated, but we’re still glad that we get to share this with you!

Wizsnooks is a roguelike loot pool hybrid where you clear tables with different layouts by defeating all of the enemies present on it. Enemies are defeated by attacking them with your white-ball, Snooks, or by pushing them against one of the lava-filled holes spread across the table. Once all the enemies are defeated on a table, the game will randomly pick the next one, filled with all new enemy balls to defeat.

When an enemy is defeated, the player is awarded a random piece of equipment of varying rarity which alters Snooksdefense and attacking stats, making it progressively easier to defeat more and harder enemies. Equipment can also be dischanted as to heal some of Snooks health and inventory prioritization is a must. However, no amount of equipment will save Snooks if they fall into a lava-filled hole!

Although we kept our same team formation (one programmer, one artist and one composer) for this Ludum Dare, this time-around, the team was mostly composed of members which have recently joined our team at Whales And Games , with the exception of Moski, returning as the game’s artist. Kroltan, which had previously participated with Moski on the creation of JouleThief: Charge Your Phone joined as the team’s programmer, and Robin, which had participated with us on previous Ludum Dare entries, such as Colossorama and Jazzy Beats returned as the game’s sole audio composer.

Tools Used

Wizsnooks was developed with a mix and match of programs which we normally use during our daily game development workflows, along with our vision and sweat. Some of these tools, as well as some of the plugins for each respective tool, that we used include the following:

Game Idea and Design

Because of timezones and availability, not everyone on the team was present at the announcement of the theme. Shortly after the theme was announced, some members got into brainstorming, then one left and another came to further discuss more ideas.It wasn’t until about 12 hours after the theme’s announcement that the game’s concept of “Snooker but with roguelike elements and loot” finally materialized with everyone agreeing on it.

With pool mechanics in mind, the programmer was able to make snookers, enemies, and even random level progression (which some people have mistaken as procedurally generated levels). The musician delivered some of his best tracks to date, and the art was among the most cartoonish the artist has done. The team played to their best strengths and in the end, we were all satisfied with what Wizsnooks became.

The Best Parts of Development

Scope of the Project

The idea of Snooker+Action+Roguelike was accepted almost immediately by the whole team. It was initially created with themes of pool mixed with a medieval setting (which, later in development, was shifted to sorcery). Because of it, we were able to quickly debate about what to add, what to remove, and which direction to take the game to. Many ideas included bosses and enemies taking turns to attack, but we ended up heading on a direction on which skill and inventory management were more important than hoping to survive being thrown into a hole without the player’s input.

The project had it all. A core gameplay loop, attacking and healing mechanics, inventory, enemies, and many levels. Discussing a plan, grounding the possible ideas and dismissing those that would need a lot of tweaking or playtesting.Having a direction made it possible to polish the game, make it as little confusing as we could, and still manage to have a wide arrangement of loot and levels.

Labor Structure, Division and Cooperation

Our core team was composed of 3 people, with a few special mentions of a few others that assisted us with feedback, help with code and moral support. Because of the tools used, the group was able to stay communicated with each other, update the project almost seamlessly and discuss changes and directions. Overall, we all had something to do almost all the time.

Because some of us had the knowledge to work with Unity at the same time, towards the end of the jam, we were making many levels at the same time. While the artist kept preparing stuff for UI and the title screen, the musician was able to import weapon and helmet assets, which allowed to double the loot. Finally, the programmer was able to improve the overall gameplay of the game.

What Experience and Feedback Taught Us

The Physics Could Be Improved

Wizsnooks was made with Unity’s recently added tiling system, which allowed us to create a multitude of maps in little time. However, one of its core problems was that the game’s physics ended up not working as intended. Balls would lose a lot of momentum when touching each other, bounce in weird directions or bounce back when hitting a wall, displaying a weird feeling of friction at times, making it hard to tell where something will end before you hit the cue ball.

Likewise, we should also have given the players the ability to preview how their shot would behave, allowing them to navigate around much easier.

The Camera Shouldn’t Be an Obstacle

With so many levels, there should be a way to be able to look around before hitting the ball. Otherwise, when starting a new level, the player would need to do small hits to avoid hitting a dragon orb accidentally or falling into a lava pit by shooting somewhere without having knowledge of the level’s layout. A common suggestion we got through feedback was to allow the player to look around the map before taking a shot.

Closing Remarks. What Can We Improve On?

It’s been a fantastic experience to work as a team again this Ludum Dare. With Wizsnooks, we adhered to a simple idea and increased it with concepts that were within our grasp, which allowed us to deliver a polished and fun experience (sans a few rough edges) which is what Whales And Games always strives for when creating new projects.

Like many projects in the Ludum Dare, we’d love to see some post-jam enhanced edition of sorts. Pending availability of the team, we’ve discussed things that we’d like to add to Wizsnooks, a lot of which is based on the feedback we’ve gotten from the comments. Some of the changes that we’d make include:

  • Tweaks to the behavior of physics, intending to have something more realistic and intuitive.
  • A common complaint with the game were the odd physics of hitting a ball into a wall only for it to go in an unexpected direction.
  • Add more visibility to the game, since early runs involved people either taking leap-of-faith shots or doing smaller ones to avoid accidentally going into a lava pit or dying when crashing with a dragon.
  • Encouraging trying to take as few shots as possible, possibly by giving a maximum number of shots or giving an extra reward when finishing under a par.
  • More additions like extra levels, items and enemies are a given, but we could consider adding extra obstacles, objects, power ups and the like to add more to the “Wizard” theme.

What’s Next?

Going forward, The Whales And Games team is planning on touching up some of our projects that we have previously shown around (such as on our Twitter wall). Since it’s a growing team, some of the members want to work on updating Wizsnooks, while others want to throw a few surprises in the coming months. There would be some extra touches here and there, and hopefully a few releases. We also want to start interacting more with players and better incorporate fan-feedback into our workflow. If you’d like to join us in this process, feel free to say ‘Hi!’ through our Discord server!


Making the post-mortem was an eye opener for us, and we hope that you can find this insightful as well. Doing an hybrid of snooker and roguelike was something that we couldn’t have even dreamed before the gamejam, and seeing it exist is just amazing. The team is proud of the project we made this time around and about the effort of not only us, but those that supported us from start to finish.

If you’re interested in checking it out, Wizsnooks, could welcome some last minute ratings. It’s been fantastic to once again participate with incredibly talented people at the Ludum Dare, and we’re hoping to stick around for some more in the future. We’ll be crossing fingers and hoping to see you all around! Cheers! ?