I made my first web game - what now?

In this post-mortem I want to talk about what happened, what I learned, what I would change next time and what will happen to 'Red Running Hood' in the future.

The Jam

This game was developed because I really wanted to participate in a game jam for the first time. I did try it once already back in 2017 with a team of 3, but we ended up not working a lot on our title - finishing with an unsatisfying entry. The idea to join was rather spontaneous  this time. I looked up what jams start on friday and there was one about to start in 2 hours. I joined their discord, greeted everyone and was ready to join the 'Manasoup Game Jam'.

Before the theme was announced, I knew I wanted to make a runner game. I've been developing a lot of projects already and I have started to gain confidence in my ability to determine what I can do in a specific time frame.The jam would only last 48 hours, but I knew I’d not be there on the second day AND wanted to sleep like a normal human being - so I effectively could only work on the game for about less than 15 hours.

Runner Games are great when working on a small time budget, as developing them is really straight forward. The fact that in this game jam it was allowed to reuse code made everything just that much simpler. I still had my eventhandler, my self-written text box system and my other help functions from my main project ‘ComCreatures’ that I could import. Admittedly I needed to fix a lot of bugs and errors that came up when trying to implement them, but still far faster than anything I would’ve tried to make from square one.

So I was pretty happy about my progression-speed code wise, but I really struggled with my workflow on the sprites. I think my character animations are good, but I really lack confidence and know-how in spriting tile sets and environment. It took me uncomfortably long to sprite the ground texture - hours of undo and redo until I got it barely feeling right.

After overall struggling back and forth and finally coming up with the catch on the runner genre, which is throwing a mushroom forward that you need to dodge in order to attack the wolf, I looked at the game and was really happy with what I created. But another problem was ahead.

The thing is, when people play games from a game jam in order to vote, they don't go into it with a lot of time. Oftentimes it’s a really spontane decision without really any bond to the game.

So if there's anything to dislike in the first couple of seconds, there is a huge chance that the game will not be played. That not only applies to the gameplay, but the UX of where to get the game. I’m talking about downloads - people hate downloads. Understandable, really. I don’t like them either. But I didn’t have any way to create a web version, as I was using “Game Maker 2.x Desktop Version”, meaning I could only export to Windows, Mac and Ubuntu. The feature for exporting to HTML costs 90 bucks.

Now what idiot would pay 90 bucks in order to be able to create a web version for a game jam that has no financial rewards for winning … ? - Me. I would. In fact, I did. I just think that it makes sense and I hope that I get more out of that web version than to just use it for the game jam. Actually, I already did: When creating my asset packs, I will now make a web demo that shows all the sprites in a cool manner. For example, I created a gun pack and made a demo for shooting said pixel guns. Take a look here.

And let me tell you, seeing my game on the web was a wonderful feeling. Especially because I developed it one-button-only, meaning you could ALSO play it on your mobile phone - which also worked great. And seeing the views, interactions and amount of plays - I definitely  got confirmation that my decision to export to the web was the right one and I think it really was a deciding factor.

What I learned

  • Web Versions are great for free games and jam games
  • I need to get a better workflow for creating tile set assets and textures
  • Making a REALLY small but polished game felt really great
  • Creating a game with one-button-only in mind is great for mobile accessibility

What would I change

  • I would prepare more for the next jam and plan ahead, having had less time than I could’ve made me miss the chance to see what could have been
  • I would probably record the whole session of creating the game next time, I learned the importance of online marketing and you can always scratch the video afterwards if you dislike it and don’t want to upload it
  • Work as a team. Working in a jam solo was really interesting, but I don’t think it really sums up what game jams are about. I’d love to get a partner in crime for my next event

What will happen to ‘RED RUNNING HOOD’

Red Running Hood is not a game that will be played in 2 weeks or anything beyond. It’s a one-run game that you try to win, but don’t play again, if you have won - only if you lost. There is no higher motive than winning once by beating the wolf, but I think trying to fix that would be too much and call for a complete rebuild of the idea, so it will stay as is. The game is not editable until the game jam is over - but as soon as I can,  I’ll iterate on what’s there and try to extend accessibility.

That means that I will introduce more localization, fix apparent bugs, make the tutorial sequence explain the mechanic better and introduce options like audio gain. Some people may be surprised, when I say “apparent bugs”, as most haven’t encountered it. But if you click really fast through the textboxes in the intro scene, some weird stuff happens and the character walks slowly to the right - forever. If you want to help localize the game, feel free to get in contact with me.

The game has been a great project and it will proudly stay in my collections of things that I have created.

Manasoup Game Jam has been a wonderful event and I couldn’t be any happier with the feedback I have received so far. They really did a splendid job of managing the game jam.

Thanks for reading, cheers!

- greenpixels_

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