Barroom Brawl post mortem

When I saw CMGs post mortem for 3 Card Trick, it made me want to talk about Barroom Brawl and how I approached Veeder comp.

Veeder comp was announced months before the deadline, but I had no plans for making a game. Three weeks before the competition deadline (and after the submission deadline), I was trying to brainstorm game concepts that hadn’t shown up very much in IF.

I thought, “You never really see groups of characters fighting each other in a fighting game; it’s usually one player vs a couple of bad guys, like kerkerkruip.” So I got really excited and decided to make a smash brothers type game. And then it hit me: this would be great for Veeder Comp. A big, randomized fighting game seemed right up his alley.

I decided to make it a western because it’s an underrepresented genre, and because I had just played an Apollo 18 album game about a recurring barfight.

I asked euphoria chat if I should include female fighters in an 1800’s barfight, and they unanimously agreed, so I made the four characters.

I realized that Ryan would probably be okay with unbalanced game mechanics as long as it was fun, so I had the freedom to experiment. In a regular como, this wouldn’t fly, but this was a one judge comp. Smash brothers had about 2 basic attacks per character and directional smashes, so I made two basic attacks (kick and punch) and a smash for each direction.

I gave everyone a health and anger meter. Kicks did more damage, but punches increased in strength with anger. I knew that some people would dislike explicit listing of the stats, but I figured Ryan would appreciate it if I included them in a lampshaded way as numerical tattoos and so on.

I quickly realized that the actual game would be tedious, and I knew that Ryan would experiment with diagonal directions eventually, so I decided to make the diagonal directions game-winning smash moves that were lengthy and bizarre. The true winning move was the least used direction, “IN”.

All smashes were based on the directions. North uses frozen magic, south kicks someone ‘below the belt’. All smashes had random targets to reflect the madness of smash brothers.

Finally the game had become a mishmash, so I identified the dominant them of “Living a life trapped in tedium and pointless violence and longing to escape”, and rewrote the rest of the game, including the italic messages you get before dying and the ending you get if you defeat the ‘boss’, El Pollo Diablo.

Some things that I only did because it was veeder comp:

  1. Having the main question be pointless, with no reward for completing it.
  2. Having the best parts of the game hidden in non standard directions, knowing he’d find them.
  3. Not balancing attacks.

But the overall concept and genre I had independently of the comp. In a many-judges setting, I probably would have spent more time on the fighting mechanics and ultimately created a boring game. This company was a great opportunity.

It’s never too late for a good postmortem! Especially one that reminds me to look at what was a comp likely more humor-oriented than most.

I think it’s really valuable to have that spur to ask what you can simplify. I know a lot of things, I say, I could simplify this if I wanted to. It can be at least as hard work as just banging out code…and the biggest drawback is seeing it and wondering why you didn’t do things that way in the first place and feeling a bit stupid.

I’ve had lists, formal and informal, of things to simplify, and the odd thing is–I’m able to find things, with enough time.