Level 5: Postmortem of a game

SGrunner last gif

So it’s been some time since the last update. The last time I posted, I was working on a platformer that I was calling “scapegoat”, but as it turns out, it’s really just not the sort of game that I like making. I’ve made the decision then to just stop working on this game, and move on. It’s useful to think about what I liked and didn’t like about the game, though.

I wanted basically to make an endless runner – one thing about endless runners that I don’t like is that in order for endless runners to work, you have to die somehow at the end. And that feels terrible! Take for example, temple run – you steal the macguffin (again??) and are chased by monkeys and get ripped from limb to limb (again.). And then you do it again? How does that work?

One endless runner that I did like was basically a re-skin of Jetpack Joyride, except that instead of Barry stealing a jetpack, flying through the lab and getting sniped off the jetpack in the evil scientist’s lab (either by catching a face full of laser or eating a missle or getting zapped) and faceplanting dramatically, your witch was in a race, and after faceplanting dramatically, got up and flashed you the victory sign. And got up and went at it again. For some reason, that really changed the whole tone of the game – it wasn’t some nihilist act of suicidal lemminging over and over again, but was working towards a goal of some sort – getting the highest number in a race.

My goal for scapegoat then was to make the endless runner make sense. The theme would be that your player was the scapegoat for a manical bank robber. You would be summoned to the scene of the crime by your “boss”, ostensibly for some cockaninnie reason, and would be stuck running from the police who assumed that you were the one who pulled off the bank robbery. Everything would then flow from there.

What I liked doing:
Tuning the jump. That was really interesting, getting a certain feel for the jump that I really liked.
Making the physics objects. Barrels that fly when knocked into, animating the sprites, so on. That was fun! Setting up a stack of barrels to plow into was fun too.

What I hated doing:
Basically what caused me to stop working on this game – level design. I realise that I kinda hate level design. All that positioning of platforms, making sure that there’s some flow, some challenge, some way of arranging the platforms that make sense, all of that is seriously what I’m not interested in doing. Huh! Another issue might be that it’s supposed to be an endless runner, so all of the sequences ought make sense in any order. That’s hard! Also, the platforms are one level of obstacle, whereas the police which were going to catch you was another level of obstacle, and neither of them on their own gave any level of challenge.

I think this was a design issue rather than anything else – consider Jetpack Joyride’s design, where there’s only one main obstacle – the electricy zaps, and occasionally there are missles and lasers that provide alternate challenges, but keeping in mind that if there weren’t any missles or lasers, the electricy zaps would provide sufficient challenge for an interesting game all by themselves.

In the end, I guess I guess I hate storytelling, kind of. I had a premise for the game, but that was just a one off thing. The continuing “story” of curated experiences that I would supposedly provide to the player, though, that.. I can’t seem to do. That’s good to know, I guess. In any future game, I’ll know not to make level design or storytelling part of the core design of my game. For all the ragging I did on random level design… It looks like I’m going to go down that path. 😉

I’m working on another new game at the moment, having new knowledge of my own abilities and preferences. Hopefully, I’ll be able to stick with this one a bit longer! =D If you want to try out what Scapegoat ended up as though, well, I’ve complied it and here it is. It’s basically just an exercise in programming at this point, but hey, since we’re here. 😉

5 thoughts on “Level 5: Postmortem of a game

  1. Andy McAdam


    I just came across your blog by Googling “hobby games development”. I myself develop games in my spare time. I started many years ago on the Amiga using AMOS, then later moved onto BlitzBasic on the PC and am now using Basic4Android for Android phones. I’ve released a series of youtube videos showing how to write Flappy Bird and am now just finishing off a space invaders clone.

    I just wanted to say hello, one hobby developer to another. And good luck with your projects! I don’t have any unity experience myself as I prefer to try to use code based languages, but I like what you’re doing so far. I’ll be following your blog!


    1. natchua Post author

      Well! I do believe you are my first non-spam commenter (probably) so hi! Your stuff looks very interesting too – good luck with your projects as well!

      1. Andy McAdam

        I can totally say I’m not a spammer 🙂 I have a lot of spam comments on my blog I have to get rid of. They’re always trying to get people to go to their site where they just want to sell something. I do sell one thing on my site, but it’s just to pay my domain fees really.
        If you play android games, maybe you’d like to try my current work in progress version of space invaders? here’s the link: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/8673694/my%20games/SpaceInvaders-Test.apk

  2. Michael

    Just found your site. Wanted to say keep up the good work, eventually you will find a game you truly want to finish and it will be worth it. I am also a small game maker myself, normally just making small random projects to force myself to learn how to do things a different way. So far I have entered one LudumDare and have a few games I posted for One Game A Month. Keep up the good work.


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