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Team S.T.E.A.L.T.H. – Postmortem

My entry to Ludum Dare 33 is Team S.T.E.A.L.T.H. Prior to the jam, I had been playing a lot of the Metal Gear series, and that made me want to create a stealth game. My original idea was very complex, and was essentially “Metal Gear (2), but turn-based”. I had plans for so many weapons, tools, obstacles, and enemies. I had a save format and level format designed. I had the HUD drawn. I had an idea with a huge scope. I have no idea what I was thinking.

The Original Idea

As I mentioned, my entry was heavily inspired by the Metal Gear series, though my original idea was even more heavily inspired by the series. Since I started thinking about my plans before Ludum Dare started, by the time half an hour had passed, I had a strong, fleshed-out idea.

The game would be turn-based, and involve collecting a certain amount of intel on each level. The player would have a certain number of move points, which would dictate how far they can move each turn. They would be able to plan things out and perform actions like shooting or equipping items on their turn, after which the enemies would move. There would be plenty of guards to avoid, as well as things like cameras and infra-red lasers. Items such as empty magazines could distract guards, and thermal goggles would reveal mines and laser beams. The levels would mostly be large, ecouraging use of the radar to see enemy and intel positions.

My original idea also included stat tracking. Enemies killed, enemies dispatched non-lethally, turns taken, and a lot more would all be recorded and have a small effect on the story.

Here’s the first and second versions of the hud, created one right after the other.

uiv1uiv2

Here’s part of my early design document listing what I had planned.

Weapons:
-Taser
-Tranquilizer Pistol
-Pistol
-SMG
-Empty Magazine
-Grenade
-Smoke Grenade
-Mine
-Sleeping Gas Mine
-Sleep Syringe
-Key Cards (Removed after each level)

Equipment:
-Cardboard Box
-Mine Disarm Tool
-ThermalGlasses (make infrared beams visible and display heat sources)
-Medicine (heals player)
-Chocolate (Allows more movement)

Enemies/Obstacles:
-Guard (can have pistol, smg, or shotgun, always has knife)
-Armored Guard (can have shotgun or assault rifle, always has knife)
-Grenadier Guard (armored, can have rpg or grenade launcher, always has grenades)
-Camera
-Gun Camera
-Flying Mobile Drone
-Flying Mobile Gun Drone
-Infrared Lasers

That’s quite a lot of content and quite a large scope.  So what actually made it into the game?

screen2Not much.

The Game

There were two major moments when I knew I needed to make major changes to my original idea. The first came early on Saturday (about 18 hours into the competition). I looked at my list of items and weapons and knew I couldn’t add all or even most of them. By this point, I had already decided to stick with the two enemies I had created, a guard and a drone.

I figured that since one was an organic threat and the other was a machine threat, I could simplify combat into two attacks. One type of bullet would deal with the guard, and the other would deal with the drone. Using the wrong type of bullet would simply alert the enemy and they would chase and attack the player.

early4

It wasn’t until a few hours later that I began to implement the combat. At this point, I still had much to do, including music/sfx, adding more levels, adding the story, making the title screen, and a lot of other small things. Also, I would not be able to work on the game at all on Sunday until the afternoon, which would leave me with 8 hours until the competition ended.

I had the assets for bullets and buttons created. With only a few hours left in the day, I knew that if implementing combat didn’t go very well, I would likely have to cut it entirely. It didn’t go very well.

I cut combat entirely, which was the second major change I made. This also meant that the only possible fail state I could have given the current state of the game was to make getting spotted mean instant failure.

As I finished up the game and added more levels, I realized that these last two changes were actually beneficial to the game as a whole. There was no way I was going to execute my original idea, and having basic but superfluous combat would likely detract from the game entirely. And so, the game turned into much more of a puzzle game than I originally thought.

I finished the title screen and story, and added more levels on Sunday.  To keep things simple, levels would all be the size of the game screen, and no larger. I polished up a few things and submitted with 30 minutes left (not counting the dedicated submission hour). In the end, the final product was approximately 99% different that what I planned going into the weekend.

screen1

What Went Right

  • I had a clear idea of what I wanted to do.
  • I planned how I would use each of the themes in the final round.
  • I knew my tools.
  • I got something playable quickly.
  • Some of the changes I made massively benefited the game.
  • I finished a game.
  • I had fun. :)

What Went Wrong

  • I massively, massively overscoped my original idea.
  • Because of this, I had to make several changes throughout the weekend.
  • Because of this, I ended up undoing or not using some of my work, which wasted time.
  • I had trouble getting pathfinding working correctly at first, which lead to delays in progress.
  • There are a few minor bugs left in the game.

In The End

I’m very happy with my game. The gameplay is simple yet fun. Most people seem to like puzzle games. The game still has the spirit of what I intended. The radar works and looks cool, so I’m extremely proud of that. The “ending” is sort-of outside the game, and is somewhat open to interpretation by the player.

If you haven’t played it, you can find the game here on the Ludum Dare website. If you made a game for LD33, be sure to vote and tell me what you think!