Space Lord rising

I made a game.

It's called Space Lord. I've been working on it since March, on and off, and now it's finally out. Originally it was a game jam game I made last December for Ludum Dare 25, with Pat Kemp (knivel) and Teo Acosta, the same guys who made The Love Letter with me, plus another artist friend Jim Burner.

The theme was YOU ARE THE VILLAIN and once again, knivel came up with a great little concept that eventually turned into the final Space Lord that we all know and love.

Or something like that.

Play it! Don't give up right away, there's a bit of a twist. ;)

At the beginning of this year I decided to go for the #OneGameAMonth challenge. I was doing fine for the first few months, but it all broke down with Space Lord. After all the success of The Love Letter, I wanted to take all my other old game jam games and polish them up too. So I thought I'd start with Space Lord, since it seemed to be the most promising, and the closest to being really finished. Sure, it was. But it took me way more than a month to finish it, and I fought until the very end to keep to my one-game-a-month commitment, but ultimately, I failed. And it was very painful to finally reach that point.

For the first month or two, I was really getting into it, working on Space Lord whenever I could, staying up too late and getting sleep-deprived in return. I got pretty burned out after a month or two of that, and just wanted the project to be over. But I refused to give it up, or to release a game that I know I could improve upon, so I kept going. But I worked on it much more sporadically after that point. I went for long periods of time without working on any creative projects, and started feeling listless and stagnant, which made it even harder to get back into it. But whenever I did, I felt better. Making stuff makes me happy. That's just the way it works for me.

So, eventually, four months after I started, I finished. More than anything, this was a design challenge for me. I've gotten to the point where I can code these little Flixel games without too much trouble, but game design is still really hard. By that I mean the process of taking an interesting concept with a lot of rough edges and turning it into something actually fun and accessible to a decent number of people. It's even harder when you're the one coding everything, because you feel the pain of every potential design change that has you undoing a bunch of your hard work or creating a bunch more for yourself.

For Space Lord, one example was going from real-time to turn-based gameplay. I knew the game went way too fast for anyone to tell what was going on, but it still took a fair amount of willpower to actually choose to invest the effort into making it turn-based. This is another reason why it really helps to have good collaborators to work with - knivel didn't end up joining forces for the Space Lord redesign, but he was there to bounce ideas off of and help strengthen my resolve to do what I knew was right.

So, the game is on Kongregate. That was really disappointing, actually - it got only a couple hundred plays, a few comments, and a rating less than any of my other games on the site, even the really old ones. Then it sank without a trace. Ouch.

Then I put it on Newgrounds, without much optimism. It was received a bit better there, as is typical in comparing the two portals. But no momentum. I was prepared to give up on the portals and see if I could get some people to blog and tweet about it, as I think the game is quite interesting to write about, even if the players haven't been particularly excited. :p

But then it was featured on the front page of Newgrounds! And suddenly there are dozens of comments, and thousands of views. Yay? :) It's interesting what people are suggesting in the comments - there are actually people who want the game to be longer, and just want more - more space, more ships, powerups to place. Definitely a fair number of complaints about the AI. Yeah, I know, it's really simple. :p And some people who perhaps don't get it at all.

In case you're wondering, Space Lord is a level design puzzle game. Possibly the only one of its kind I've seen so far. You are the game designer. The AI player gives you a fun rating and trashes your game when it's not fun enough. It doesn't really hold your hand or structure your experience because I wanted it to feel more like the experience of actually designing a game. :p

And if you "beat" the game (if the "player" beats the game) then you can submit your design to the Hall of Fame, where other people can play it, as the player ship. More on that later. ;) But in any case, it's been fun seeing the designs that people come up with.

I might even say it's been worth it.

Of course it's been worth it! :) This is what I'm doing, polishing up my old game jam games, working on my game design skill, trying to eventually get up to the point where I can make games for education and social change and actually succeed.

I've already started polishing up my next one. Hopefully it will go a little quicker this time. ;)


Brent said...

Hey man, I got your email and tried the game. It's pretty great - I'm sure you've already thought of this but it would work really well on a touchscreen.

My comment: It seems a little more confusing than it should be to restart after you die. I found it difficult to figure out where to click in order to start the game again rather than go off to play someone else's game.

axcho said...

Thanks! Yeah, I've definitely thought about putting it on mobile - that's part of the reason the screen resolution is 320x480. Unfortunately, I don't think I could automatically port the high score system to mobile, and the game isn't good enough to really justify the time it would take redo it. Would be cool though.

I agree that it is tricky to restart. I will admit my failure as a UI designer. :p Now that the great burning eye of the interwebs has passed over the game, never to return, I have no motivation to actually change it, but I will hopefully have learned my lesson for the next game. :) Thanks for the feedback.