Gameplay Video

I like the 'pop' that the ghosts make

Where’d this come from?

The idea for this game from three places:

First, I worked through the Book of Shaders last month. While messing around porting a shader to Godot I realized I could pretty easily create a spotlight effect by modulating the alpha of an all-black foreground texture. I was so thrilled at how easy it was that decided to make a game that revolved around the technique.

Second, I played Bases Loaded and was delighted by the game. It’s super simple but puts its focus (both art-wise and gameplay-wise) in just the right spot and so it feels and looks and plays great. It’s juicy without feeling overly juiced in the way that a lot of jam games I see on twitter are. I found it inspirational! And what better to do with something inspirational than clone it?

it looks so goooood!

Third, while implementing upgrades in the game last week I found myself googling things like “types of lights.” Which lead me to the Ikea webpage. Which lead me to the idea of setting this game in an Ikea. As always, I became much more excited about the game after coming up with an enjoyable theme.

Is the gameplay in this game…good?

It’s ok. I enjoyed playing it a few times. But there are some problems.

The core mechanic isn’t that good

For one - the core mechanic isn’t as fun as I expected. A friend of mine said “it’s just frustrating to get hit by an enemy I don’t see even when I know that’s the point” and I think that’s right. That’s ok! Sometimes an idea doesn’t work out, and it’s really not a big deal when a game just takes two weeks. I might have been able to help this with more interesting mechanics, which leads me to…

It’s in a weird spot complexity-wise

Bases Loaded works in part because it’s so simple - more complex games in this genre work in part because of their depth (Brotato) or meta progression (Vampire Survivors).

SFCS gives you very little control over your sources of light (you can only aim one thing!) and doesn’t offer enough depth or breadth of choice to fully engage your brain. At the same time, the core mechanic hides enough information from you that you can’t just vibe with your brain off. It’s in a weird spot.

be honest, did you have any idea Sid made this game between Pirates! and Railroad Tycoon?

This vaguely reminds me of the “Covert Action rule” that I’ve heard Soren Johnson mention a few times on Designer Notes, which is Sid Meier’s idea that Covert Action wasn’t a great game because it smushed two games together and that those games fought with each other (instead of the game clearly being “action with a little management” or vice-versa). Sid’s advice is “pick one game” - maybe the advice here is “pick one level of complexity.”

I’m not sure I actually wanted to make the game

XP gain and enemy health and your health and weapon power and enemy AI and enemy spawn rates all impact each other. I haven’t (yet!) figured out how to approach a tangled problem like that in a systematic way. And so my approach here was mostly “tweak the numbers that seemed the most wrong until things felt better than before.” I ran into this problem with Sisyphus and, learning from that, avoided major tweaking till the game was almost done. But I still needed to tweak it.

And…I didn’t really want to tweak the numbers? My heart just wasn’t in it. I’m sure some of that is that I was sick of working on the game - I just wanted to ship something. But I think plenty of it was that I simply wasn’t that interested in making this game.

I enjoyed making the goofy art for SFCS. I loved writing the flavor text and delighted in coming up with the theme. But when it came to actually making a survivors clone my heart just wasn’t in it.

itch has like 100 of these games

And frankly, that makes total sense! I’m happiest when I’m making something that feels exciting and new, when I’m being goofy and irreverent, or when I’m making myself laugh. I’m less excited about tweaking numbers until they’re just right, and frankly I don’t have a lot to say about the survivors-like genre that a million other folks haven’t already tried to say.

In the future I’ll try to save my limited patience for polishing for a game or genre that I’ve got a little more excitement for.

Wrapping up

I hope this post doesn’t sound too negative! I enjoyed making SFCS and I think art and juice wise it’s a big step forward for me in terms of making a visually consistent game. It’s exciting to feel how much I’ve grown in those spaces and how quickly I can whip up a tween that will make something feel more alive. And I’m proud of the end result here.

But I’ve spent the last week thinking about my next game, and I’m much more excited for that. I’m proud of myself for finishing SFCS - and I’m grateful that it put me in touch with what I actually want to build next.

I’ll be back soon with a game about typing deranged political fundraising emails.