Ninja Launch: Postmortem

It's been a while since I submitted this game and saw the reviews, and I wanted to write a short post-mortem for this game jam entry. This was the second game jam I had done this year (and the third one altogether) and I was fairly pleased with the results. This was leaps and bounds better than my last jam game Necromancer Duel, especially since people said they enjoyed Ninja Launch. For reference on how this game progressed, here was the first entry in my journal when the jam started:

OK, the Minijam 49 started.
Theme: Ninja
Limitation: No Combat
Idea: Ninja Golf.
Rules: You are trying to get your Ninja from point A to point B. There is gravity, but you have to smack your Ninja to make him move or bounce around the level, like in Golf or Pool. I'll make a few levels that you progress through.

I spent the first night making a game that was very much like golf. You would hit the ninja with a pool stick and he would fly off and bounce around like a golf ball. It was terrible. Mini-golf doesn't work well in a platformer with gravity.

I spent a lot of time improving the movement after the realization that golf wasn't the best fit. I changed it so that instead of hitting the ninja you would just click and he would jump towards the cursor. This worked well. After getting the movement down I was able to create enough levels to flesh out the game.

The only obstacles in the game are spikes and walls. This was kind of boring and didn't give the player much urgency in moving through the levels. I added a timer to add some urgency to the game. In retrospect, I think that the timer wasn't the best idea. I watched some others play the game and the last couple of levels became near impossible to do with the time limit. One thing I would have changed about this game would be to do a shot clock instead of a timer, so that you still have a sense of urgency but it isn't so hard.

There were some other annoying bugs. For example, if you jumped near the spikes you would hit them. I should have set it up so that you'd only hit spikes if you land on them, so that you can still land close to them and make another jump without being penalized.

Gravity was an unexpected issue. I added gravity to the game. When you click the ninja jumps towards the cursor, but gravity will make him hit the wall slightly below the cursor. I feel like this was a simple and straight-forward mechanic, but it made people really frustrated. I heard one person angrily say "well this game has a bug because the ninja isn't jumping where I want!" I think people understand gravity, and that gravity was being applied, but they were upset that they had to account for it, and felt like that was a gameplay issue.

In all, I'd say that this was a good jam game. I came up with the idea, art, and levels myself during the jam and coded it all in about a 48 hour window. I wish I had time to add sound, even basic sound, but I was so stressed by the end that I couldn't finish it. If I had more time I would add sound, replace the timer with a shot-clock and add some moving obstacles to make things more interesting.

That's all. Thanks for reading and follow me on twitter

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