Threediopolis post-mortem

Well, I’m satisfied with the experience.

My goal when I enter the competition is to place well enough so that I enjoy all the games ahead of mine. I did this year, and that is very cool. That’s just the competitive aspect. I also want to try to test at least two competitors’ games, becauseI have to admit, I get a kick out of seeing notes that the game has been well tested. Of course, that isn’t all me, but it is a neat feeling. I enjoyed helping put the final polish for Leadlight and it’s still fun now. part of the fun for me is being able to see that someone’s game is not perfect yet, but a few sensible suggestions may help them to do stuff I hadn’t really imagined. It’s sort of relaxes me to go ahead and make my own mistakes, and it also reminds me of what I need to do in the big picture to make a game likable and robust.

For 3d, I obviously needed a lot of intelligent testers who would have varying degrees of comfort in this sort of game. I think I did a pretty good job of that, but maybe one more semi-hostile tester would’ve knocked things out. Everyone had good suggestions, though. Some of the suggestions, I didn’t see how to act on it until it was too late, or almost too late–but that’s my fault, and the fault of my timing. They found a lot. I forget when I looked back and realized the game was much bigger and more complex than when it started, but I know their suggestions had a lot to do with it. It seemed like just adding one thing here or there based on what they have to say added up. One tester, Wade Clarke, offered to do cover art and in fact did a great job of whipping it up in the last week. It even gave me some ideas for game text.

The authors’ forum was a lot of fun. I’m not sure what I can release from there-- there was some really nice creative writing that branch off from just reviewing or discussing our own games. Simon Christiansen wrote a hostile review of his own game, and I think several of us found it cathartic to add to the thread. It wasn’t to rip any reviewers but rather to write out the sort of review nobody has said yet, but you might be scared of it or you might wonder if someone could say something that ridiculous. I think it is a wonderful exercise in trying to see what is wrong with your game, and at the same time, not worrying too much about off the wall reviews. I think I have little to nothing to complain about, from the reviews I saw. I’m also grateful to the reviewers who pointed out stuff I saw and/or took time to discuss the game with me. That is always a bit awkward, because it can feel like lobbying for a score, but on the other hand, I want to say a specific thank you before I forget.

But what of Threediopolis itself?

I think it started back in June of last year. I had started Shuffling Around, and I was just trying all sorts of weird stuff with Perl and so forth, and I figured, what would happen if I tried

words with only the six directional letters?

I didn’t think there were enough, so I threw looking and waiting into the mix, which was something I reversed later, because that was just too silly and complex. I needed to keep it simple.

It’s amazing how this simple idea forced me to do a lot of things to keep the game fair. And I really wanted to. I thought it would be a throwaway game to publish after last year’s competition, and so I submitted it privately in the author forum. It had a lot more work to do than I thought.

I worked at it off and on, but other stuff kept coming up. Eventually someone who wanted to participate in the competition asked me if I had anything, and I thought, what the heck, I was sort of on the fence whether or not to send this game in, and that pushed me over. This was back in July. it seemed like every week or two I would come up with a small tweak to make the game better, or at least less obscure.

Still, I really felt like I was in second gear, I figured I could always just sort of write up a walk-through and it would not be hard. That was sort of a disaster, at least for the first draft. I was trying to combine some sort of mathematical rigor with an informal writing style, and it totally changed. Thus I am really, really glad that the competition now has updates.

But I thought it was really in second gear for a lot of the time I spend program does, and that is where some early reviews really came in handy. I totally backtracked after PMing Adam Myers that a status bar full of your tasks would be too much. I sent down with Emily short basic screen effects, and actually, it was a lot less painful than I thought. I had a few regressions with an update, but fortunately, they were reversible. just having that dialogue helped, but I have to think, if I had pushed myself to say this would have been useful, I would have been able to find it. I had a vague idea that it was probably annoying for a player to continually press X, but I just didn’t see a way around it. The kicker was that I hate seeing other games and extensions that used deep status lines, and I never really poked into the code. So this was an oversight that song reviews had me correct it immediately, and I was grateful for that. If it meant a pointer to off, that is not really a big deal. It motivated me to do something and discover something.

Other reviews have other things to say, too, and I also received a nice e-mail from someone who pointed out an additional friend. Then I read another review on here (The Xenographer) who pointed out that as friends, who were allegedly there to make the party more exciting, really had nothing interesting to say when you actually greeted them. At this point, I realized that I had focused too much on the technical stuff, and I think it’s safe to say I saw what I expected to. That the game was just technical, and I had better not try too much cute stuff. But in this case, it would’ve added something, and I was glad to be able to sneak that into a later update.

Yet for all this, I think I can honestly say that I didn’t just throw the responsibility on the reviewers. I just had a feeling I had some blind spots that would be tricky to shed light on. I’m disappointed I didn’t find some of the things people suggested, but on the other hand, I learned a whole lot about design and planning from all this that I will take to my next game.

So what’s next?

There will be a post-comp release. I just managed to create a couple of cheap devices that I felt sure should exist, but I wasn’t sure where or how to create them. They are in the post-release beta, which will be linked below.

The guy at 514 has them, and they’re an availableometer and an adrift-a-tron. you may guess what their functions are, and you only get one of them, but I think they can both be quite useful and eliminate a lot of busy work. I’m not even sure which one is more powerful, but I was pleased to have thought of them both. If somebody found the game too much of a struggle, maybe these will make it easier. Maybe they’ll make it too easy.

I think one of the big organizational mistakes I made, though, was not creating an issue repository until October 4 or so. Yup. Because this game is sort of started on a whim, and it was a while before I decided to enter it in IFComp. having that sort of issue repository allows you to throw an idea out there and let it sit and not forget about it. Having to juggle things in my head is what causes some of my worst bugs, and I just didn’t think to formalize the game as a project. I was sure there was just one more silly thing to fix or add. But I seems to keep finding stuff, and it became tough to keep track. So I think something like bitbucket is worthwhile even for small projects. You just don’t know what sort of ideas might pop up that will let you tune the game some more. In fact, if you want to write a good game, you will probably want to make sure that you get some of these weird ideas that you need time to think out. I wish I had taken more nodes so that my repository would have more for you all to look at. However, I want to provide the link below so you can see the range of ideas that popped up.

I encourage other authors to establish issue repositories, because it’s interesting to see–especially if there is source code and change tracking involved. So much for a programmer to learn.

Warning: spoilers!

Currently open: … tatus=open

All issues: … lis/issues

Potentially unstable post-comp beta:

Source code:

I’ll be posting the source to IFDB/the IF archive as well along with a more formal Beta call. But until then, I hope people find this interesting.

I am out of word games at the moment. If I write again for the Comp, I want to have something with a serious story, or at least enough of a narrative to push the player along for more than intellectual curiosity or ‘gotta get them all.’

Just a note: your issues links don’t work [emote]:([/emote]

Thanks! And thanks for your PM help, too.

I missed a sub-setting. I’ll remember it in the future.