Darwin Gator post-mortem (overdue)
I think making a game is always a great learning experience, yet not writing a post-mortem after a game makes that learning experience less effective.
I’ve made Darwin Gator a few months ago, but I’ll try to remember its development process. So without further ado let us talk about:
Originally, the game was made for a GameJam which asked to combine a lot of random themes, along with a gamejam about monsters, a gamejam about destruction… well yeah. This game was a mess in terms of ideas, because it was entered in many many gamejams. But after leaving it for a while, I decided to work more on it. For some reason, I was motivated to take this game to the next level in terms of quality, so this game actually ended up very different from the original gamejam entries.
- The graphics
It’s mostly my friend Sophie who encouraged me to improve the graphics of this game by an order of magnitude. I think everything grew from there, because at that time there was only one stage, with bricks. As I drew the extra layer of plants on top of the bricks, the game looked not just more beautiful, but it also started to have some artistic style. To further the graphics, I made a total of three stages. One is the first stage in the forest, second stage is the ice world, and the third stage is the underwater world. Each having its own art style and music.
- The penguin missions
One of the biggest addition of Darwin Gator is the mini-games. I decided that every 5 or 6 levels there will be an unlocked game, in which the gameplay has nothing to do with the main levels’ gameplay. The first mini-games is a bit like Flappy Bird, the second one is a guessing game, the third one a snowboarding game (which was also released as a standalone game called King of the Slope), and the last one is the secret insanely difficult boss. To unlock the mini-games, you had to visit a penguin at each level. The penguin itself was just a way to unlock the mini-game, but he also has a different dialog every time you meet him. Eventually, I found that the dialog of the penguin made for a more compelling story than the story of the game itself! The story of the game is completely forgettable: Collect all the worms to save the world yadiyada… But the story with the penguin actually became very interesting: First the penguin loses his job, then his girlfriend has a baby, and the first mini-game is to rescue that baby, then he tries to sell icecream… It’s too bad that the penguin missions are not easily accessible, because I think some people will miss that part, which I find to be the most interesting. But hey, that’s how I decided to design the game.
- The problems
One of the biggest challenge of the game is the control. I insisted that the game has to be playable by pressing just one button, but it turns out to be more problematic than I expected. A character controllable with one button, is really not that pleasant to control. One problem is that I kept testing the game over and over, and thus learned controlling Darwin Gator with great precision by doing lots of practice. When I released the game, I really thought the character’s control was easy, but it seems quite a few people had issues with the controls. When I asked my friend to test it, it turns out the controls were so hard to use, that even the second or third level was too difficult to pass.
The game wasn’t as popular as I hoped it could be but it was satisfying as a game. While it’s hard to control, I found it fun to play it myself. I guess I wished it could do better because of how much time I’ve spent working on it. Yet it game me somehow a new perspective on my game development journey. I now feel that there is some level of quality that I should try to reach when making games. I was always used to pump out quick games for participating into gamejams, but now I’m trying to always have a main game on which I spend a lot of time and effort, one that I can really polish and make it look good.
You can play Darwin Gartor here.