Super Clew Land Postmortem
I’ve participated before in Ludum Dare, but Super Clew Land is my first experience entering the three day Jam or working with Shaun Inman and Matt Grimm. After this roller coaster weekend, I know I’ll be doing both again.
A week before Ludum Dare, I asked Shaun if he wanted to make a Jam game. He was interested, but concerned how we’d break up responsibilities. Shaun and I are do-it-all guys, so we didn’t know of a good way to split the work. We decided to sleep on it. (Which actually meant not making a decision until the last minute.)
We met up on Skype an hour before the Jam to finalize plans and workflow. Before splitting responsibilities we’d wait to hear the theme. Shaun had worked with Matt before and we sent him a Twitter DM in hopes he’d join us.
At 9pm EST we received the theme: Evolution. We came up with a dozen bizarre ideas including a colored vine puzzle game that the player would grow through to proceed. After four hours of brainstorming both of us were wearing thin. We almost slept on it (again), but finally chose the idea we’d spent the most time fleshing out: an evolving Metroidvanian puzzle double-game.
Imagine a split-screen or Nintendo DS double view. Players would encounter a platforming world above and unlock new abilities in a top-down gene sorting game below. Even as we shrunk the gene sorting into a HUD minigame, the idea seemed ambitious for 72 hours.
To make the creation manageable, we made a last minute framework switch. Shaun and I were both eager to try out Futile, a new 2D Unity framework. But the scope of our idea required tile map support. Rather than trying to roll our own for Futile, we chose a framework more familiar: Flixel.
We also (finally) decided on the responsibility split. Shaun would design and I would develop, but we’d switch things up as needed. We heard back from Matt too. He would do music and sound. 8-bit Voltron was formed.
Shaun came up with our hero’s name, Clew, and designed four of his evolutionary forms before heading to bed. It wasn’t as late for me in California, so I spent my last four hours awake setting up platforming physics and a TMX level loader.
I woke up to find over a dozen animations in our shared Dropbox folder.
Hizzah! Clew was real.
I started building the “Protein Puck” minigame as Shaun drew food and enemies. Shaun and I communicated almost entirely through FaceTime on our iPads. (He found it useful during a previous collaboration.) This made it easy to bounce new ideas around while working. By using our iPads as dedicated video devices, we never had to manage a floating iChat window. It was so helpful we left the stream open throughout the entire jam.
By the end of the day we had most of the character animations done, a pretty-much-working minigame and an fun retro soundtrack from Matt.
All three of us live in different timeszones, but by the second day this seemed like a plus:
Working with a dev in another timezone is awesome. Go to bed with an idea, wake up to a working implementation. Could get used to this.
As Shaun finished up animations and wrote the Flixel animation timing, I started implementing the player, food and enemies. Halfway through the day Shaun switched to code and implemented autotiling to make world building faster. About this time I started adding Matt’s sound effects.
When the autotiling was ready, Shaun started building the world in Tiled. The pieces were coming together, but a mountain of polish remained. As the day grew long we came to an unspoken understanding: there would be no sleep tonight.
Day 3 (I think)
While the sun rose, I squeezed in a few good playtest sessions. Shaun programmed the enemy pathing behavior and then kicked level design into high gear. Matt had to leave for his day job, but was able to write a few final sound effects in his off hours.
Nearing the end of the Jam, we we’re all exhausted. At some point I took a shower to try to clear my head. Picking the game’s name took near an hour, but this was mainly due to our exhaustion. In the last thirty minutes we added a title, an ending, and Matt’s final piece of music. And….submit!
We’re all thrilled with what we pulled off in three days. Shaun broke down Super Clew Land by the numbers:
3 guys, 72 hours, ~3k lines of code, ~128 frames of animation (100+ for Clew alone!), ~4 minutes of music, ~120 screens
Working with Matt and Shaun was a blast. Each Ludum Dare I’ve participated in has been more rewarding (and exhausting) than the last. I’m not sure I can stop now.
(And we haven’t. For the last three weeks we’ve been building an enhanced “Directors’ Cut” of SCL, but that’s for another post.)
If you haven’t checked out Super Clew Land yet, what are you waiting for? Go play it now!